Event Promotion: A Great No-Capital-Required Business

I stood by the door in awe, watching the giant line of people waiting to buy tickets to a nationally recognized comedy club. It seemed like the line would never end, as one person after another handed over cash to see the show.

Now, this may not seem like a reason to be in awe. After all, there is certainly no shortage of popular shows with long lines of anxious viewers. But I had a good reason be blown away. You see, I was going to receive money for each person who entered the club that night. And I was going to collect that cash despite the fact that:

It wasn’t my club.

I didn’t work there.

I hadn’t invested more than $50!

All I did was promote an event at an already-established venue – in this case, a comedy event at a comedy club. But there are many other events that use the same business formula, including (but certainly not limited to):

musical performances

sporting events

festivals (arts, crafts, hobbies)

theatrical events

Here’s the deal I’d made with the comedy club: I would provide the entertainment for a middle-of-the-week show (when the club was usually closed and not producing income). The club would receive all the money from food and beverage sales … and I would get all the door money (the admission charge).

About 250 people showed up for this particular event. And, at a measly $5 a pop for admission, I netted $1,200 for the night. If your event could sell tickets for a higher price, you could make considerably more.

The entertainment that I provided cost me nothing. It was easy to find fledgling comics who wanted to perform at such a great club. I let each one know that he or she had to bring at least 10 paying audience members to get their stage time. So, with very little work, I had entertainment that was going to bring its own paying audience. And, boy did they!

It was a win-win for everyone. The club was filled on a dead night, the comics got a chance to perform, the audience had a great time … and I made a tidy profit with no financial risk.

As I noted before, it’s possible to make great money immediately – not to mention give yourself tremendous opportunity for growth – with many other types of events.

Take Jack Spencer who, in 1982, decided to start promoting rock concerts … even though he didn’t know much about it. Using a little common sense, he was able to stage his first concert with a relatively unknown entertainer by the name of Stevie Ray Vaughn. He booked the talent, made a deal with a venue, and promoted the event through word of mouth. Though he made a measly $950 that night, today, he makes big bucks as a well-established national promoter.

Steve Lount got started in the event-promotion business because he loves comedy and he never wanted a “proper” nine-to-five job. While attending a comedy club show, he came up with the idea of promoting his own – and has been doing it successfully in Bristol, England for the past 12 years. He says, “I love the idea of putting on shows for the public. It’s the whole thing of booking the acts, marketing the shows, setting up the event. I get a constant buzz from doing it and I never get bored.”

Here are the basic steps for starting your own event-promotion business:

1. Choose the type of event that you’d like to promote and make sure it’s commercially viable. The best way to judge commercial viability is to choose something that other people promote on a regular basis. For example, I knew a local comedy show could attract an audience, because shows like that are put on all over the country every week. (On the other hand, you don’t hear of too many frog-racing nights …)

2. Find a venue that will work with you on a profit participation basis.

3. Secure the talent or the attraction.

4. Use flyers, bulletin boards, word of mouth, the Internet, etc. to promote the event.

5. Be at the site during the event and manage all of the logistics: controlling the cash collection at the door, making sure the entertainment arrrives and is on stage when scheduled, and immediately resolving any customer complaints (such as seating issues).

If you find that you’re successful with smaller events, you can start to book larger events.

In 2004, the concert business alone brought in over 2.8 BILLION DOLLARS from tours in North America. And that didn’t include opportunities in live theater, comedy, sports, various competitions, arts and crafts, etc.

Look, during that first event of mine, I made $1,200. And although $1,200 isn’t a fortune, it was … in a way. Because it gave me a template for making $12,000 next time, $120,000 the time after that, and possibly even $1.2 million in the future.

In the event-promotion business, it takes the same skills and inside knowledge to make $1.2 million as it does to make $1,200. Once you know the ropes, there’s no limit to the profits you can make. And the kicker is … you get to do it by being involved in something you love.


a promoter of the people for the people and by the people and my magic lies in my people ties. I’m a promoter of America. I’m American people. You know what I mean? So therefore, uh, do not send for who the bell tolls ’cause the bell tolls for thee.” – Don King

[Ed. Note: Paul Lawrence, a regular contributor to ETR, is a produced screenwriter, direct-mail copywriter, and business author. He is also the creator of the Quick and Easy Microbusiness System, ETR’s program for starting a business for under $100.]