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An entertainment promoter in industries like music, wrestling, and sports is an individual or organization in the business of marketing and promoting live events such as concerts/gigs, sports events, professional wrestling (wrestling events), festivals, raves, and nightclubs.
Promoters are typically hired as an independent contractor by music venues, earning an agreed-to fee or royalties (colloquially known as a "cut"). The royalty structure is often a simple percentage of admission fees (called "the door") and/or food and drink sales, but like other royalty arrangements many variations are possible such as minimums or maximums, allowances for various expenses, or limitations (e.g., only drink sales after midnight). Other promoters operate independently, renting venues for a fixed fee or under a revenue sharing arrangement with the building owner or tenant, and keeping all of the additional profits from a successful event. One common arrangement for small venues is for the promoter to earn all of the admissions fees, while the venue earns all of the food and drink revenue.
Some venues have exclusive arrangements with a single promotion company; others work with multiple promoters on a rotating schedule (one night per week, for example) or on an event-by-event basis. Promoters often work together, either as equal partners or as subcontractors to each other's events. Several promoters may work together for a large special event, e.g., a New Year's Eve party in a hotel ballroom. They may also deputize "hosts", who are essentially socially influential or desirable non-promoters who will market the events to their circle of friends in exchange for special treatment or free admission to the event.
At a minimum the event promoter manages publicity and advertising. Depending on the arrangement they may also handle security, ticket sales, Admission to an event or establishment (door policies), decorations, and booking of entertainers. Many promoters are DJs or musicians themselves, and perform at their own event.
These days, the scope of promoters have widened as bloggers and people with a large following on social media now consider themselves as promoters and charge fees for whatever kind of promotional service is required on their platform or through their efforts.
Conversely, many musicians act as de facto promoters for their own concerts, either directly or through their manager or booking company. Historically, promotion has been a cottage industry, with companies operated by one or several well-connected charismatic individuals, often working part-time. However, with the rise of corporate ownership of live entertainment assets several large companies have emerged in the field, most notably Live Nation via its acquisition (indirectly, via Clear Channel), of Bill Graham Presents. The larger companies tend to promote more traditional mainstream music in exclusive contracts with concert halls. Alternative music and events and nightclubs remain in the hands of independent promoters.
Contracts and disputes
There are often disputes over money in the promotions industry because it is largely cash business with a history of corruption and uneven recordkeeping. In addition there are many accounting complexities to manage, particularly for large events: revenue, expenses, and oversight of parking, coat checks, concession vendor sales (e.g., CDs and t-shirts), box office so-called "convenience fees", in kind trades, promotional give-away items used to lure guests (e.g., free drinks), costs for insurance, cleaning staff, and so on. One area of frequent contention are quid pro quo cross-promotions, where the promoter or some other party connected with the venue will obtain a favor (for example, a price discount) in exchange for giving a future favor to the vendor. If the existence of the scheme, or the relationship between the parties, is undisclosed this may become a form of bribery. Another opportunity for misunderstanding are the various "lists" of guests who will be admitted for free or with VIP treatment, and the "door policy" used by bouncers to decide who will be admitted and at what price. To deal with these complexities event contracts can become quite long and detailed. Whether written or not, these arrangements tend to favor the party with the greater sophistication or the more control over the production of the event. Even the most detailed, professionally written and negotiated contracts can become the subject of lawsuits over interpretation.
Because nightclubs are often associated with drug and alcohol consumption, rowdiness, and other late-night behavior, promoters may become entangled in various criminal disputes as well.
Promoters bring crowds through a variety of methods. The most direct are guerrilla marketing techniques such as plastering posters on outdoor walls, flyposting, and distributing handbills on windows of cars parked in entertainment districts. Promoters also keep mailing lists, usually email lists, of their preferred guests and their wider list of potential customers. Recently, many promoters have taken advantage of online technology such as online social networks and event listing sites to handle publicity, invitations, mailing lists, and so on. Clubs and promoters are among leaders in SMS text message advertising to their own lists as well as sponsored snippets on third-party lists for daily content to subscribers. Many fans promote events,products through their Facebook/Twitter/Myspace on their own free will.
Promoters often build a brand out of their own personalities and the parties they host, marketing the events under a consistent name, style, type of program, and social experience that downplays the branding of the venue or artist. They may develop a loyal clientele that will follow them from one location to another.
Image Promotion / VIP Hosting
In cosmopolitan cities with large affluent populations, there are upscale venues that employ the services of a special kind of promoter called an image promoter. The role of the image promoter is to bring celebrities or fashion models to high end venues and host them at a VIP table. In order to entice models and celebrities to come to the venue, the image promoter is provided with a VIP table and complementary alcohol. High end venues use the presence of models and celebrities to market their venue to an affluent clientele which may often only obtain admittance to the venue through agreeing to spend a certain amount of money on alcohol at the establishment.
- Bob Arum, boxing promoter (Top Rank)
- Eric Bischoff, former wrestling promoter (World Championship Wrestling)
- Dixie Carter, wrestling promoter and businesswoman (Total Nonstop Action Wrestling)
- Jim Cornette, former wrestling promoter (Smoky Mountain Wrestling)
- Oscar De la Hoya, boxing promoter (Golden Boy Promotions)
- Verne Gagne, former wrestling promoter (American Wrestling Association)
- Bill Graham, music promoter (Bill Graham Presents)
- David Guetta, Self Promoter for DJ music
- Stu Hart, former wrestling promoter (Stampede Wrestling)
- Chet Helms, music promoter (Family Dog Productions)
- Paul Heyman, former wrestling promoter (Extreme Championship Wrestling)
- Antonio Inoki, former wrestling promoter (New Japan Pro Wrestling)
- Don King, boxing promoter (Don King Productions)
- Vince McMahon, wrestling promoter and businessman (World Wrestling Entertainment)
- Kirk Norcross, nightclub promoter (Sugar Hut)
- Mike Quackenbush, wrestling promoter (CHIKARA)
- Brandon Ward, event promoter (AYA Entertainment)
- Michael Starkie, entertainment promoter (Starkie Entertainment Limited)
- Dana White, mixed martial arts promoter (Ultimate Fighting Championship)
- Mario Yagobi, boxing promoter (Boxing360 - New York City)
- Mike Tyson, former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world and promoter at Acquinity Sports
- Giorgio A. Tsoukalos, former bodybuilding promoter (IFBB, Mr. Olympia), who later devoted himself fully to ancient astronaut theory, publishing a magazine on the topic (Legendary Times) and serving as a consulting producer and frequent host on the History Channel and H2 series Ancient Aliens.
- Myler, Patrick (1997). A Century of Boxing Greats: Inside the Ring with the Hundred Best Boxers. Robson Books (UK) / Parkwest Publications (US). ISBN 1-86105-258-8.
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