It's easy to confuse the work of concert promoters with that of talent buyers, booking agents, concert producers, and other behind-the-scenes players in the live music business, and for good reason: there's plenty of overlap. But while a talent buyer books performers for the venue where they work and a booking agent represents performers looking to set up live shows, concert promoters aren't affiliated with a venue or an artist. Rather, they independently plan, market, and sometimes produce live concerts, including single shows, tours, festivals, and special events.
Promoters need to be as disciplined as they are passionate, able to negotiate intelligently, keep tight control over expenses, and pay careful attention to the myriad details involved in producing a live music event.
For concert promoters, every job begins with budgeting: determining the right amount of money to spend on a concert, tour, or festival in order to maximize returns. Concert promotion is at heart a numbers game, and since promoters assume all of the financial risk for the shows they put on, they have to be sure that the event will be profitable. Success hinges entirely on the promoter's music and market savvy, negotiating skills, and ability to recruit an audience. Once a budget is in place, they might secure performers, pick a venue, and negotiate contracts and fees. Then there's the matter of designing and executing a marketing strategy. Finally, the promoter works with concert/event producers—either in house or third party—to arrange travel, transportation, and lodging for the artist and crew, as well as on-site hospitality; to devise a rider (a set of requests, usually creature comforts) with the artist; and to create a production schedule for load-in, load-out, lighting, and sound. If the event is a festival, the promoter will also hire a festival director and event operations coordinators.
At its heart, concert promotion is the art of creating an audience for a show and can involve almost anything that has to do with filling seats, such as ticketing and quality control. But if that's concert promotion, then why talk about concert production and booking above? The answer is that most medium- to large-sized concert promotion companies—such as Live Nation or AEG Presents—actually do much, much more than just promotion. It's common for these companies to own and manage a number of venues where they plan, book, produce, and promote their own shows—the whole live event pipeline. In addition, some even manage their own roster of artists. While a few independent concert promoters remain who create and distribute flyers, help plan radio visits, and organize online media campaigns for shows booked and produced by someone else, concert promotion companies focus on planning and organizing events from start to finish. When people talk about concert promoters, they're often talking about employees of these companies, rather than the independent variety.
At a Glance
The concert-promotion industry is dominated by corporate behemoths like Live Nation and AEG Presents, but small, independent promoters—often operating regionally—have managed to carve out a niche. Most concert promoters start out producing or marketing events, concerts, and festivals at their college or within their local area. Some go on to become interns and assistants at concert-promotion companies, where they can advance within their departments, while others found their own independent companies or simply work as freelancers within the DIY music scene. Success as a concert promoter means having the connections and clout to book bigger acts in nicer venues. The best concert promoters have a solid reputation for creating well-attended, talked-about, and financially successful events.
Aspiring concert promoters can get experience by putting on house concerts in their home or at friend's place—handling the booking, ticketing, promotion, and even production. Entry-level jobs and internships are also available at major concert promotion companies like C3 Presents, Live Nation, AEG Presents, Bowery Presents, Another Planet Entertainment, and Jam Productions.
- Event production
- General knowledge of performing artists
- General knowledge of music venues
While a love of live music is a helpful quality for any concert promoter, it's not enough to make it in this risky and competitive business. To succeed, concert promoters must be as disciplined as they are passionate, capable of keeping tight control over expenses. They must also be highly detail-oriented, both while planning and producing live events and while sitting at the negotiation table with artists, agents, and managers.
Concert promotion is a consuming job, which requires performing business duties—usually out of an office—by day and attending shows at night and on the weekend. Concert promoters are constantly networking with other music business professionals, and constantly searching for up-and-coming artists with momentum and strong fan bases. In the lightning-speed world of social media and viral sensations, concert promoters have to be ready at all times to capitalize on changes in the music community.