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A Day in the Life of a Promoter

Promoters develop marketing strategies for events ranging from rock concerts to international chess tournaments. Event promoters work with television, radio, special-events coordinators, ticket sellers, reviewers, bulk mailers, and local merchants to market a product. The profession is project based, so those who want predictable hours and a steady workload should look elsewhere. Promoters view working long hours as a benefit: “When you’re working, you’re working all the time. When you’re not, you pretty much make up your own schedule,” is how one respondent described the roller coaster. Promoters work on a team on which people with different skills-artistic, financial, copywriting, and statistics-come together to produce a seamlessly integrated strategy. This helter-skelter mix can turn into a clash of egos, ideas, and concepts. As one respondent said, “if you have to step on someone, do it.” You’ll be recognized for your good ideas as well as your bad ones. In few other careers is such a premium placed on creative thinking. Traditional advertising and marketing strategies can often prove too expensive or utilize too diffuse a medium for the standard entertainment event. “You have to be able to think inexpensively. Try pretending your budget was just cut in half and you have to reach the same number of people,” wrote one veteran promoter. A successful promoter has an unlimited imagination that outmatches the most limited budget. “Tenacity,” wrote one person surveyed, “is what separated the sharks from the chum (chopped-up fish guts).” Attention to detail is also important. A great promoter will bend over backwards for both the paying guests and the talent. Going the extra mile in hospitality for your act is a crucial part of keeping them coming back in the future. Promoting is like gambling-a high-risk, high-return industry where it is amazingly easy to lose your shirt through one poor decision. People bond while scrambling to find inexpensive media outlets, dashing to events that only moments before were mere ideas, and running to coordinate all the details, but the relationship means nothing if the project is unsuccessful. A promoter cannot afford to be associated with a failed marketing strategy. The fall from grace can be swift and merciless, and many people who have endorsed failures or passed on enormously lucrative projects have quickly found themselves seeking work in other professions.

Paying Your Dues

It takes a particular type of person to become a promoter-confidence and flamboyance help immeasurably. No undergraduate degree is required to enter this occupation, and rightly so-no undergraduate degree would properly prepare you for it. Understanding demographics, business, and publicity is important, but the two most valuable traits mentioned by our respondents are creativity and an ability to be in touch with your audience. Promoters need listening and organizational skills, charm, and style. In many cases the difference between a financial bloodbath and a smash hit is solely the ability of the promoter, so the pressure is high and rapid career swings are not unusual. Most concert promoters start out in college, where they can establish contacts with talent buyers and bands who come to play at the school. Booking agents are the most important contacts for promoters. An act can always find another promoter, so establishing and maintaining solid relationships with talent and agents is of utmost importance. Advertising or promotional personnel may go on to start their own businesses with as few as one or two steady clients. Shops tend to be small (65 percent of offices employ fewer than 25 people), and advancement occurs in short, intense flurries. The hours can be long and the future uncertain, but the field can be financially rewarding for those few who achieve star status.

Present and Future

P.T. Barnum and Babe Ruth were two larger-than-life figures who promoted themselves into mythhood. In order to get people to pay attention to them, they had to build an image, make outrageous claims, or provide something unique, exciting, and exotic. The legacy of these fabulous marketers can be seen in companies like Coca-Colaª and celebrity promoters like Don King, who use the media to promote their products and events. The entertainment industry is expected to grow by around 20 percent over the next ten years. As the number of events that requires promotional skills increases, the job market for promoters will expand. The scale of events, however, will be much smaller. Those with extensive knowledge of statistics, the Internet, and demographics have a bright future.

Quality of Life

PRESENT AND FUTURE

Two years is a significant amount of time in the life of a promoter. A number of projects have gone from idea to completion, a number have stalled or failed somewhere during the process, and some never went any farther than the memo they rode in on. Promoters have experience researching, modeling, examining demographics, conducting focus groups, doing interviews, making phone contacts, traveling, and pitching ideas. The ability to successfully pitch ideas is very important to those considering a future in this profession.

FIVE YEARS OUT

Sixty percent of those who began in the field have departed for other professions or returned to school. The hours get longer, the pay increases, the perquisites increase even more, and the opportunity for significant responsibility emerges for those with solid credentials. The farther up the ladder in this industry one wants to go, the more cutthroat it gets. Many promoters, even the best, suffer burn-out.

TEN YEARS OUT

Ten years in the entertainment marketing industry can be a lifetime. Those who’ve worked at a variety of agencies either start their own firms or consolidate their strength at the top of their current one. Another 10 percent leave for high-paying jobs in other fields. Client satisfaction is the telling point for whether the promoter, at this point, will continue to be successful or will decline. Some who specialize in certain types of entertainment marketing-sports events, concerts, or movies-can fall victim to the cyclical nature of public opinion. Those who’ve ridden the elevator up during the boom period of one specialty area may find themselves in a helpless freefall if that field flops. Every state has at least one large promoter and several smaller, specialized promoters with long histories and talent that is in demand, so this field can be very difficult to break into. Those who rise to the top are not always the most pleasant or the easiest to work with, and they rarely take kindly to ambitious young competitors. Watch your back!