How To Be a Hustler In The Promotion Game

WORDS: Kalisi Luv


There is an incredible amount of preparation that goes on in order to make an unforgettable event, and exceptional promotion is one of them. British Columbia has an array of major promotion companies like Atomique, Twisted and Blueprint (to name a few) and I was lucky enough to chat with Josh Dua of Blueprint Events Victoria, DLD Productions and Shambhala Music Festival to get some of the inside scoop about what being a ‘promoter’ is all about.

Many years ago I worked as a promoter for the late Hush Night Club in Victoria BC. My job included hiring artists to play, graphic designers to create eye-catching flyers and posters, filing and submitting the appropriate paperwork, funding the show out of my own pocket and making sure the event ran smoothly. With the help of friends, all this could be effectively completed by one main promoter. However, the Electronic Music Scene has exploded since I was last slanging flyers (which have become obsolete thanks to the miracle of Facebook Events) and the game has become a great deal more competitive.

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Dua is the market representative and lead of operations for Blueprint Events in the Victoria region. He is also the owner and operator of DLD productions and works as one of the Village Stage Supervisors at Shambhala Music Festival. You can imagine a man with this resume has had a lot of experience working closely with both artists and event attendees which is the foundation of creating and promoting a successful event. For Josh, promoting an event includes everything from internet marketing using, such as Facebook or websites like Do250,  postering/flyering, selling pre-sale tickets and spreading the news via word-of-mouth. Additionally, I’ve seen promotion be successful via contests (like Instagram or Facebook ticket giveaways) or cross-promotion of events.

So, how does one get into promoting as a profession? “Go out to shows,” shared Dua, “and try to meet people. E-mail local promoters and engage more in the scene by learning something that is involved in it (i.e. making music, being a sound tech, or lighting tech, etc.). UVic has a few different event and project management courses that are notable. Audio/visual or any production knowledge is always an asset. Go to as many shows as you can, genuinely enjoy the music and people around you, the rest will happen organically.” Personally, I’ve found the BC Electronic Music Scene to be very inclusive and if you’ve got the passion and drive to get the job done, you’ll make lasting connections which help you get to where you want to be, whether it’s working for an advertising company or promoting your own shows.

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Effective promotion isn’t just about getting to know artists and enjoying your work. A substantial effort is put into planning and organization in order for things to run smoothly. One of the most difficult tasks, Dua shares, is getting people to come early as not to create a bottleneck at the door: “When everyone arrives at the same time, it creates a long line and makes it challenging to get everyone through the door before the headliner begins.” Long lines make for unhappy participants and that is not what the Blueprint Vibe is about. So, what can you do? “We make posts on the event page to encourage people to show up early and I go out into the line to remind people face-to-face.” In my personal experience, I’ve seen that some promotion companies offer cheaper door prices if you come before 11pm and post these deals and other goodies on their websites.  

Another important aspect of proficient promotion is good customer service. “Blueprint has an amazing Guest Services team. We listen to [our customers],” boasts Dua. Weaving through crowded shows also gives another, more intimate taste, of customer appreciation. “You can see it on peoples’ faces at the shows. They will personally tell us or the venue staff [their thoughts] and we take it into consideration. It’s really cool to see that many people happy, and vibing together. We also have a very strong online response when people message us on Facebook or via e-mail.”

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Financially implementing and promoting shows can be quite expensive. There are many elements that may require payment upfront such as deposits for music and visual artists, venues, and equipment rental. These costs are paid out of pocket or by the promotion company. When the show has ended, other costs are incurred such as door staff, full payment to artists, any remaining venue costs and/or audio/visual costs etc. Depending on the size and caliber of the show you may be paying thousands of dollars in production costs alone, therefore both effective promotion and accurate budgeting is key. It’s not all fun and games and sometimes promoters lose money on shows so there is a lot that goes into making sure events are profitable. For example, promoters need to make sure their ticket prices are reasonable enough for people to buy them but high enough to cover the cost of production and to earn profit. Sometimes they win, and sometimes they lose and sometimes a successful night can only be measured by the smile on guests faces.

Interested in becoming a promoter or working with Josh? Although not currently hiring, Blueprint Victoria holds paid positions for promoters, boxoffice and door staff. E-mail Josh Dua if you are interested in joining the team or learning more about future opportunities. Also, if working in promotions interests you, make sure to take a look at my previous article about Vancouver’s Twisted Productions for more information about the variety of events you may want to be involved in.

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Event promotion is hard work and is sometimes a gamble but if you play your cards right you’re in for a treat. Being a promoter allows you to be a part of something greater than yourself, to give back your to community and create lasting memories for not only yourself and your friends but hundreds of strangers. To see how Blueprint Victoria and DLD productions do it, check out Kill The Noise at Sugar Nightclub this Saturday January 28th. Pre-sales are available through the Blueprint website for $25. Make sure to get there early to avoid lineups.

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