A Steady Source of Side Income


In this troubled economy, almost everyone can use the security that a side business can bring. I’ve been involved in a low-capital side business for years, and it has been a steady source of additional income for me. It’s something you, too, should consider getting into. I’m talking about the event promotion business.

People spend money on entertainment even in tough times, which makes this a truly recession-proof venture. In fact, according to a Times Ascent article, “It has been observed that during a recession, spending on entertainment actually increases.” In my experience, this has been true – perhaps because people are more in need of an “escape.”

This past October, I produced the third annual International Sketch Comedy Competition. It was held at the world-famous Laugh Factory on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. Sketch comedy groups traveled from around the country to compete.

We had a great crowd. I split the $20-per-person admission charge 50-50 with the club, so I went home with a quick thousand dollars. Even better, I recorded the event, and I expect to make as much as $250,000 by distributing the video. Because I had a celebrity host for the event (Barry Williams, who played Greg Brady on The Brady Bunch), there is a good retail market for it.

But I’m not the only person who’s making steady cash by producing and promoting various types of events. One friend of mine, “Ellen,” started out with little martial arts tournaments at clubs. Now, she fills arenas with thousands of seats on a regular basis. “Eddie” makes a nice living putting on karaoke nights around town. The venues pay him $300 to appear for a few hours with his karaoke machine. Then there’s “Jessica.” Aspiring screenwriters pay her a few hundred dollars to attend a two-hour session where they can “pitch” their scripts to film producers. Jessica’s been running these events for years. She rents a hotel ballroom, and has no trouble getting the producers to attend (without compensation) because they’re always interested in fresh ideas.

It requires almost no capital to get started in the event promotion business. It can bring in $500 to $2,000 in a single night. Plus, if you want to expand, there is plenty of room to grow.

Another advantage to this business is that there is such a wide variety of events that you can promote. Concerts and sports events, of course – however, there are many other options.

For instance, if you’re knowledgeable about wine, you could organize wine and cheese tastings. Besides making some money on the admissions, you’d have the potential for additional profits on back-end sales of wines, cheeses, books, wine lovers’ tools, and other related products. If you’re a classic car enthusiast, you could promote an auto show. If you have financial expertise, you could hold wealth-building seminars.

You get the idea.

Keeping Your Costs Low With Joint Ventures

As a newcomer to event promoting, you want to start small. Don’t try to promote a major event at a large theater, stadium, etc. Unless you have some excellent connections, the only way to make something like that happen is to risk a lot of capital.

Instead, one of the simplest ways to get started is to form a joint venture with a small venue. Think of pubs, comedy clubs, dance halls – places that rely on some form of entertainment to bring in customers. Most of these venues have one or more slow nights during the week that they would love to turn into a moneymaker.

In return for promoting an event that brings in a crowd, your joint venture partner will happily pay you a fee or a percentage of the “door” (the admission fees you intend to charge). I’ve promoted amateur comedy club shows where I was paid $1,200 for a few hours of work. I’ve also promoted special ballroom dances where I was paid $500 for two hours. This kind of money may not pay all your bills, but it can be some very nice extra income. Plus, as I said, if you find that you really like the business, you can turn it into a very profitable full-time career.

To secure a joint venture deal with a local venue, follow these steps:

Step 1: Choose an Event to Promote

Start by considering the possibilities in fields where you have some experience. Jessica – who promotes the scriptwriters’ events – has worked in the movie business. I spent several years as a stand-up comic before I produced my first comedy event. But experience isn’t always necessary. Keep in mind that Ellen had zero experience in martial arts when she got started.

Once you’ve come up with an idea that interests you, try to attend a similar event that’s being put on by someone else. You’ll learn more from that than anything else. If you go to an event and you see 200 people there who each paid 20 bucks, you know you have the potential to make a reasonable profit doing the same thing.

Step 2: Identify Possible Venue Partners

Make a list of all the venues that could be joint venture partners for the event you’d like to promote. If you’re a “regular” at any of these places, that gets your foot in the door. It’s even better if you know someone in management.

The first year I promoted the International Sketch Comedy Championships, I had to start from square one. My first criterion for a venue was location. I knew that to give the event prestige, it had to happen in Hollywood, Beverly Hills, or Los Angeles. My second criterion was size. In order to make a decent profit, I knew I needed a place that could seat between 100 and 300 people. By establishing those two parameters, I narrowed down my search.

Step 3: Create a Proposal

When you present your offer to the venue owner or manager, you’re going to want to do it with a formal proposal that lays out all the specifics. You might, for example, offer to promote a concert by a popular local band at a skating rink for 50 percent of the “door” on one of their slow nights.

Step 4: Contact the Venues

Pick up the phone and call the first venue on your list. Ask to speak to the manager or owner. When you explain that you’re calling to talk about promoting an event, you shouldn’t have much trouble getting through to the right person.

You don’t need to be a great salesperson to present your proposal. If they’re not interested in it, move on to the next venue on your list.

It’s all a matter of finding a place that’s not only a good match for your event concept but also, at that particular moment, happens to be looking for a way to build up business.

Step 5: Market the Event

The marketing plan you draw up will, of course, depend upon the nature of the event itself. But here are some ideas to get you started.

• Send press releases to local newspapers and TV/radio stations. I once promoted a ballroom dance event that got a great write-up. My phone didn’t stop ringing, and the event was completely sold out. I actually had to sell “standing room only” tickets.

• See if you can get the venue to promote your event to their customers by putting up signs and mentioning it in their ads.

• Encourage the participants in the event to help you draw a crowd by getting their friends and family to come.

• Don’t forget to place notices in the “Things to Do” sections of local publications.

Remember – even when times are tough, people still need to get out once in a while and have fun. That makes promoting events a great business that can thrive in any economy. And doing a joint venture with an appropriate venue can put you in business with little to no capital… almost instantly.

[Ed. Note: Paul Lawrence has started over a dozen profitable enterprises, specializing in low-capital small businesses. For more easy-to-follow information on how to start your own event promotion business, learn about Paul’s event promotion program here.

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