CL Music Issue 2010: How to break out of your comfort zone and become a better promoter

Talent Incubators

Promoters need to evolve into talent incubators — nurturers of the Next Big Thing. Working with bands that draw makes business sense in the short term; building a stable of developing talent could lead to more income down the line. Also, a more established act takes more money, and the bulk of promoters don't have money. It's as simple as that. Don't buy talent. Grow your own.

High Tech, High Touch

Location-based incentives, SMS broadcasting, QR codes and creating consumable content are all ways to branch out and expand your reach and income. The following are some technology tools that can help you differentiate and evolve beyond passive marketing methods.

Phones, Phones, Phones

Phones are the only devices people constantly carry, always acknowledge and are willing to die for. (How many times have you almost hit someone while texting and driving?) Making sure your message gets through to a phone is the new holy grail. Using location-based sites like Foursquare, promoters can engage people in rewarding ways. Same goes for SMS broadcasting. While people hate mass text messages, they don't mind if there is something in it for them. Don't just blast "Biggest Party of the Year! $10 to get in. Come on out!" Use the opportunity to make it worth concertgoers' while. Work out drink deals or a VIP area for them and use loyalty incentives, like "bring a friend and get a free drink" or "repeat customer discounts." Get familiar with what's available and get creative.

QR Codes

Another way to cut through to smartphones is using a QR code. QR codes are "smart barcodes" that allow smartphones to interact with the object attached to the code. Try this: Go to Kaywa (, associate your website with a QR code, and start putting it on your posters and flyers. Now anyone with a QR code reader will be able to point, scan and consume your content.


What's the most popular content source on the Web? YouTube. And what is YouTube full of? Videos! If the average person spends 15 minutes on YouTube every day, not using it to expand your reach is foolish. A good HD camera is cheap these days (GoPro Hero is a great one), and anyone with Windows Movie Maker can edit video. Get lots of footage of the fun, don't incriminate anyone and put out some content. Also, producing quality live band footage is a good way to help promote your acts and make some money in DVD sales and downloads.

Try a few things and see what works for you, but try everything you can. Marketing has become more and more challenging and requires way more tech skills and content savvy than ever before.

Ivan Peña is the bassist with Rise of Saturn and a marketer with over a decade's worth of experience in the music business and promotions. He currently works for a tech startup and moonlights as the CEO of Mohawk Bomb Records.

Promoters have a comfort zone, and breaking out of it isn't easy. Adopting novel technology and trying new things has a price, but with some research, promoters can increase their effectiveness and build long-term success.

Many promoters rely on low-return activities like handbills and posters, which have their place but are simply not enough in today's oversaturated entertainment landscape. There's too much competition for attention (movies, sporting events, TV shows, parties), and the response rate is low. Social networks have become the new low-hanging fruit, but they, too, are ineffective if your reach doesn't grow.

Posters are passive, flyers are thrown away and people ignore Facebook invites. While I know some promoters do have success with these, it's not because of the method, but the brands they've established. Promoters must become brands — trusted sources of quality that both venues and patrons respond to favorably. By adopting new ways to promote quality content and increase loyalty among your patrons, you stand to build a stronger brand than the "paper-based" promoter.


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