Promote-whore

JOSH DARE discovers what the clubs will do to get you through their doors.

Pull quote: “There’s been a number of people with promoters out there chasing numbers and trying to drive people like cattle into the venue"

When Studio 54 opened its doors in 1977, it quickly gained a reputation as one of the hottest clubs of New York City. With often with as many people lining up outside as were inside the club, the buzz and word-of-mouth surrounding the club was huge. Adding greatly to the overall mystique was the strict entry policy enforced by Steve Rubell, as shown in the movie 54. In its first year alone, the club raked in $7 million.

Then, of course, a few years later, Steve and co were busted for skimming approximately $2.5 million from the profits and went to jail. The club reopened while they were in jail - but without the work of Steve Rubell, the club floundered for a while before closing its doors. It just wasn’t the same without Rubell’s promotion of the club.

“Promoters are the most value tool of any club,” believes Love Machine’s marketing manager, David Green. “They’re the ones that bring the human aspect to each different night."

Promotions have obviously evolved since the Studio 54 era. SMS updates beep-beep their way onto mobiles on a weekly basis; e-flyers pop up in inboxes; and posts appear in the forums of popular dance music website inthemix.com.au. “We’ve also used Gaydar a couple of times,” says the Market’s manager John Wain, “just to test that out and see whether it works for us; or whether they’re gonna sit at home and get home delivery.”

There’s differing opinions on what promoters do for the clubs though. “My job is to make sure that the venue is full of the exact target market we’re after,” chimes Love Machine’s head promoter, Warwick. “First of all, there’s a lot of planning, a lot of thinking. And what we have done is a develop a philosophy for the night – so it’s not an ordinary night. So that we have the edge over every other club in Australia, and no other club’s got that. Our philosophy is to develop something for Melbourne that has been badly needed – that is, a haven for celebrities to go and enjoy without being hassled by the regular Saturday night crowd.”

It’s not an outlook that’s shared by all club owners. “On one hand [promoters] could be good to establish a night,” says the Market’s, John, who doesn’t use promoters, “but if thing sour, they can leave and take the crowd with them – so the venue ends up empty, as it doesn’t have a base in its own right without the promoters who encourage the crowd to go there. So at the end of the day, they can cost you money.”

As promoters are essentially a form of PR, it’s ironic they’ve suffered from a bit of bad spin in recent years. From mailing lists compiled by unscrupulously scavenging the cloak room check in, to spreading vicious rumours about competitors’ parties, or spamming the inthemix boards with endless posts, promoters have ticked off more than one punter – so management was never going to be far away.

“We’ve always had a policy that we didn’t want to force people to come to the party,” says Rawhide’s Dean Murphy. “As we’ve seen in the past, there’s been a number of people with promoters out there chasing numbers and trying to drive people like cattle into the venue. Our policy was always try to put on the best DJs in the best venue, and if the product is right and we (Bill and myself) can sell it to the people, push what we’re doing, and believe in what we’re doing, the rest will sort itself.”

But Love Machine’s Warwick thinks he may have the problem licked. “I think the best form of publicity is to be yourself and to show people the genuine article,” he says. “And for myself, it’s essential for myself and my team, which is massive now – sitting at about 25 – are the very best in Melbourne. They’ve all got high standards. I will not have anyone on the team who has got low moral fibre, and that they reflect the same values that we want to reflect on the night. And just to smile, and to be good to the people that are there.”