Promoters: the Unsung Heroes of the Music World

Tanyel Gumushan /
Aug 8, 2017 / Music

Prior to, during, and after a night of entertainment, you probably never considered the people who checked your ticket, poured your drink, paid the rent of the venue, the license holder. Nor the person who looked after lights, sound, kept you safe as security, or made the Facebook post that tempted you in.

You remember the artist. The person or people who just poured their passion out on a stage for your entertainment. But without any of the people aforementioned, you wouldn’t have had a second of it. For most, nightlife is a hobby. For many, nightlife is a way of life. One that is constantly trying to shield itself against the hungry monster that is gentrification, council greed, money eaters, and sensitive eared residents.

Somebody who you probably won’t recognise, amongst the crowd of sweaty bodied individuals zoning out for the weekend, is the promoter. The individual or team who put on the show and intricately crafted every element of it to achieve a very specific outcome. Sometimes they provide staff to work the event in the venue they’ve hired, sometimes they’re in house, or sometimes they sit stamping your hand on entrance themselves. The job description of “putting on a show”, is as broad as it is long. There are no guidelines, but there is a lot of negotiation.

Promoters are quite willing to take the risks that they feel they need to, in order to get the music that they believe in heard. The masterminds behind Secretsundaze, a clubbing duo based in Shoreditch openly admit to throwing illegal parties on rooftops during their starting years in the early 2000s. That is something that the authorities would never let slip now. Others have recalled finishing one of their nights at an ATM to cover a loss on a sold out show. Promoters take a risk by working with a venue for they’re the ones who have responsibility to sell tickets, ensure those tickets are sold to people who aren’t going to cause trouble, and to make enough money from those tickets to cover costs.

The relationship between venue and promoters has to be tight and most of all, harmonious. It’s like a seesaw that balances in the middle. If one person gets off and ends up on the floor, so does the other, landing with a thud. Yet with near 40% of grassroots venues closing in the past ten years, relationships are being forced to end and promoters have fewer places to work. Consequently, the fight for stage time between up-and-coming artists is getting tougher.

Once upon a time there was seemingly endless choice for venues across the UK, that could cater to the weird and wonderful. For each niche, there was a safe roof for that music to be enjoyed. Promoters, usually small collectives who aim to raise profiles and ensure that artists are paid fairly and play safely, each have a passion for something in particular, usually in a particular part of the country. They take the time and effort to know their scene and know their audience, better than anybody else only to deliver what those people want, when they want it. As slots become more limited, it’s another risk with whoever they book. It’s a deal of trust. Artists have the responsibility to first show up and deliver. But also to promote too, and reach their existing fans. To do themselves a favour and plug their own music, connect with other artists and their fans, and do some good old fashion chatting.

Close Up Promotions, based down South, aim to bring the best indie/electronic emerging talent into the most intimate of venues to first create that special moment that sparks a life-long love for a band in personally catered for showcases and shows. They’re the ones who work to get bands into London, getting the wheel of live shows rolling. Founder, Sam Tucker, lives up to his company name. He doesn’t just leave the artist at the door after but gets close up and personal, focusing on creating the best set up for each individual artist to ensure it’s absorbed at its very best. It’s all about environment and making every single person comfortable, consistently maintaining that all important three way relationship; artist, promoter and venue. Everybody’s got to look after each other, right? This way, the audiences grow bigger, venues get larger and artists play in front of the people they’re supposed to.

This Feeling, a rock n roll club-night and live gig promoter, have weaved themselves into pretty much every grassroots venue in the company. Regular showcases of the best young rock-stars have created a family unit of like-minded music lovers with a ferocious liking to guitars. Their aim is to get artists familiar in their local venues, before joining the bill in other cities to reach audiences in front of all corners of the UK and onto the festival circuit. Supported by Radio X, sponsored by Jack Daniels and with their own TV series, the This Feeling family relies on their undeniable reputation for hosting the biggest parties.

Promoters are social media whizzes, have marketing heads, are smooth salesmen, suave networkers, budget experts, eagle eyed and damn right passionate about what they do. You probably didn’t notice the branding of the entire show either, yet it’s something that the promoter considers. Sometimes, they even double up as babysitters.

The work of a promoter quite simply never ends. They’re always on the look out for artists to fill slots, and venues to hold the slots, working out deals and contracts, networking with agencies and brands and brainstorming new ideas to spread the word.

Shows don’t just put themselves on, and they definitely don’t just promote themselves. Praise the promoter, the unsung heroes of the music world.

Words by Tanyel Gumushan

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