The big night has arrived. You’re at the venue with decoration and sound check completed. Your opening DJ is ready to go, the bar staff are all set, and one of your crew is at the front door with the completed guestlist. Think you can just kick back and wait for your set? Think again.
One of the biggest mistakes amateur promoters make (especially ones who are also DJs) is they do not take an active role in the evening outside of their DJ set. They’ll hang with friends, get drunk, play their set, and then wonder later why they don’t see repeat turnout from patrons.
You have to be a host
Whether or not you are playing that night, throwing an event isn’t just about DJs playing and people being there. You’re making a community in your little space. These are both your current fans and your new fans. These people came out for you as a DJ or something you’re offering as a promoter. The worst thing you can do is to act like they don’t matter.
Learn to mingle and be sociable. For some it’s easy, but for others it’s not. When it’s early in the night and you see a small group show up, walk up and say hello, thank them for coming, and if you see them as valued to your event, but them a round of drinks with the drink tickets you probably have. In the past my buddies and I would take any free drink tickets we’re given and generally use them to buy groups of pretty women a round. Part of it was the hope of more socialising and maybe getting a number, but a lot of it was making them feel special enough that they stay and return to future events.
Like it or not, pretty women sell events, and it’s amazing how many guys will come to venues and music they hate as long as there’s a lot of hot single women in there.
When an event is underway, three more marketing tasks are still going on:
- Marketing your brand – The success of the night and the positive opinion from patrons will strengthen your brand both as a DJ and promotion company
- Marketing future events – If you have an event tomorrow night, next week, or even next month, this is where you push that. If people like your event, they’ll come for more
- Collecting marketing materials – You have a room full of people. This is where you collect emails, connect with new fans, take photos, and get stuff you can use to market future events
You should take photos. Doesn’t matter if you have a professional with a DSLR or everyone is just snapping with smartphone cameras; every good photo of your ideal crowd is gold when you use that to market future events.
I’ll always see if a promoter is doing well by their photos. Packed room shots showing a good mix of men and women, hot girls who aren’t part of the staff, fun groups, etc… that’s success. A “sausagefest”, too many photos of the gogo dancers or bartenders and few of the patrons, no room shots… I’ll see the event as a failure.
Designate someone to take photos. Tell them to get photos of the room when it’s packed, interesting folks, fun groups, hot girls, cute couples, the DJs, and so on. You also take photos. Just when you’re mingling, pull out the smartphone or whatever you have and take a photo. A good habit is to also have cheap business cards printed with your company name and web address. Give them to patrons so they can go see their photos later.
I also still think promoters should use live blogging. So three aspiring models are at your event and you bought them a round. Ask to take their photo and immediately post it on Facebook. Show everyone you have the party that night, and thus those at home will think “man, I need to go to that!”. A posted packed room shot also will do a lot.
You should put flyers to future events on the tables and bar so patrons can come in and inadvertently see what else you do. Just check with the owner to make sure it’s not too much of a violation in his eyes. You pushing other venues in his venue (even for different nights) might still appear to be a conflict of interest to him.
Have someone offer flyers of your other events to people as they leave. Especially later in the night, you want them to leave with something in their hands in the sim hope they’ll come to that event.
The name of this game is to make use of the gathering to build to something bigger. If your night closes early, try to set up with a later event to be the go-to. So your night ends at 1 or 2am, see if anyone in the 3, 4, or 5am spots will offer your patrons free cover or discounted admission to their event. This does work wonders and will make for an even better experience for your patrons.
Handling problems like a professional
You know what they say about those best-laid plans. Stuff happens, things go bad, and you have to be ready for anything. I’ll share here some of those mishaps on my part.
Unexpected guests want comp admission
It’s the usual story. Someone comes up claiming to know someone else and thinks he/she should not pay cover. Usually they claim to know the bartender or the owner, someone not in your crew. They’re not on the list either.
You should try to get an idea of any guests the staff and owner want, but also bear in mind you’re going to have to comp some folks like this. However, you should take it as a per-case basis. If you’ve spent $5,000 on a big headliner and then some girl and her two guy friends show up claiming to know the owner, say no. If they owner comes up and vouches, tell him you spent $5,000 on the headliner and need to recoup the costs. A professional will then hand you the money. An amateur will make a stink.
Now if it’s a normal night without much overhead, then judge it based on who this is and what value they serve. If things are not too full, comp them. It’s more bodies inside. If it’s a bunch of hot women, definitely comp them. You should also do what’s known as “club courtesy”. So a bartender from another club shows up with a paycheck stub or business card with his name on it, comp him. You never know when this person is going to later hook you up promoting his venue, or comp you when you want to go there.
A DJ doesn’t show up
I’ve been in this scenario. Sometimes it’s a valid reason, other times it’s just the guy didn’t show up nor bother to call. Even if you’re not playing that night, bring with you your headphones and some music in case you have to fill in a set.
It’s a good idea to put notices around the club (back of restroom door, even on the front door) explaining briefly that the DJ won’t be playing and why.
DJs show up and try to blag their way into the booth
When you get into promoting, expect DJs from all over showing up pretending they want to be your best friend. The worst are those who show up with music and beg to get some time to play a short set, or they see someone didn’t show up and thus push to get into the booth.
It’s your judgement call, but I would never let someone you don’t know play at your event. Take their demo and contact info, but do not let them just go on. You never know what this guy will play. So you let him on while the crowd is on a good vibe, and he starts playing hard deep dubstep, and the floor clears. He’s fist-pumping with his buddy while your crowd is finishing their rounds and leaving. Look at the damage that’s been done.
I said before you can’t be the nice guy all the time. You’re the boss and this is your business. You say who gets on and who doesn’t… even if that guy is your friend. On the other hand, if you see benefit, like this guy is a known-name around town, then do it. Take advantage of his popularity.
Drunks / fighters / troublemakers
Sometimes you get this. It’s unavoidable. Usually the venue’s security will handle this, but sometimes you have to step in. You could be throwing an event at a venue that doesn’t have security, or it’s your friend who got hammered and is acting irrationally.
Stay calm and don’t be confrontational until you need to. Most drunks and troublemakers will calm down when a calm voice is given. Tell them firmly they’re out of control and this isn’t happening in your event. Ask them nicely to leave. If they don’t then escort them out with security.
This one is more aimed at when you’re throwing a non-club event, like a rave. Things are in full swing, you know some folks inside are getting sorted, then a police car pulls up. They’re asking what’s going on and you’re getting scared. Be calm and respectful. Most police aren’t in the mood to do the hard work. They’ll even let a party happen as long as there isn’t complaints from neighbours. Never talk to them as if you hate them or conflict with them. They are the authority, and can easily toss you in jail if they feel the need. Most of the time they’ll simply say something like not to let intoxicated folk drive home, and to keep it contained.
A crowd of folks smoking and screaming outside with a few drunks puking will make the cops tell you to call it a night. A contained event with only the bible-belt old lady two blocks over making a stink won’t garner the need for a raid.
I’ve had many occasions where police showed up, and nothing happened to the event because I was sober, calm, rational, and especially respectful. Even one rave that got out of hand I merely received “I think you guys should call it a night”, which more or less meant if they came back in an hour and event is still going, they’ll put me in jail. That’s what respect will give you. Even in the Second Summer of Love, the authorities only started to raid events when the complaints became too many. In the early days they actually helped guide traffic and keep things orderly and contained.
The only other foreseeable problems can come internally. It could be the door person who ditches their shift to flirt with a girl or something, or the crew member who gets trashed when he should be working. Those occurrences simply are best handled internally. Fire them and move on.
The party is done, things went well, and you might have even made some money. Now isn’t the time to lose that momentum. Tune in for the final chapter of this series as I’ll show you what you should do after the event in order to build on your success.
Check out the other parts in this series:
- How To Promote Events & Throw Your Own Parties: Part 1
- How To Promote Events & Throw Your Own Parties: Part 2
- How To Promote Events & Throw Your Own Parties: Part 3
- How To Promote Events & Throw Your Own Parties: Part 4
- How To Promote Events & Throw Your Own Parties: Part 6
Have you got any advice for how to handle the night when you’re promoting an event? Got any hilarious or nightmare stories ot share with us? We’d love to hear what you’ve got to say in the comments.