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July 15, 2010

What do promoters do, anyway?

heidi klotzmanThe recent passing of renown local event promoter Mark Baltimore got me thinking about the often unseen role promoters play in the nightlife world.

"Promoter" is a fancy word for party planner. Promoters put together special events -- like THE (midnight sun) SITUATION -- and hopefully a lot of people show up to them.

Bars and clubs hire promoters to bring in business. They'll pay a promoter a certain amount of money, either up front or from the night's take, and in turn, the promoter will guarantee a certain amount of foot traffic. 

For example, Heidi Klotzman of HeidnSeek Entertainment (pictured), books nights at Red Maple. She hires DJs, sends out event invites and makes sure the parties are a success.

When I hung out with Heidi a few weeks ago on a Saturday night, she was holding court at her table in the back patio like a mafia don, and people were constantly coming over to pay their respect. Ah, the power of promoters ...

Before he passed away this year, Mark Baltimore was one of the city's biggest promoters. Heidi's pretty big, too. So are the JetSetMafia. Those are the guys who were booking those controversial parties at Milan.

Live music venues often have their own in-house promoters, also called booking agents. These promoters will contact band management and hammer out deals for shows. Typically, a club will also contract freelance booking agents to bring in the occasional show here and there.

Don Wehner, of Up Front Promotions, is one of the region's more notable concert promoters. He books a lot of hip-hop and R&B -- acts such as Erykah Badu, who recently played Pier Six Pavilion. Heidi's father, Richard, also used to be a big time concert promoter.

While you see promoters mostly at clubs and live music venues, bars sometimes use promoters to help boost business. As you might imagine, the best promoters build up reputations and connections over time, based on previous successes with certain club owners.

More and more, mega clubs are hiring as many promoters as they can get their hands on, and divvying up their capacities. Remember Palma, the ill-fated downtown club? If memory serves, they were recruiting as many promoters as possible, and putting each of them in charge of 100-200 spots per event.

If there are any local promoters who want to add to this/help clarify some more, be my guest. Same goes for any bar or club owners who want to weigh in.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Colby Ware)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:01 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music


Sam you did a decent job describing what promoters do. I've been promoting parties with SchoolYardEntertainment for the last 6 years, most notably every last Sunday at Red Maple. One overlooked aspect of being a promoter is that they sometimes help build the brand and image of certain venues and clubs by having influence on guests, crowd control, themes, atmosphere etc. I could type for days about promoting parties but I thought I'd add that little tidbit.

@Quintel-how do most promoters get paid? I understand if there is a cover charge but what if there isn't one? Percentage of sales? 5%-10%? I thought I heard one time that the promoters took the proceeds from bottle service which would be a good deal. Just wondering. Are there promoters in Fed Hill, Canton, or Fells Point? Or just in Midtown area?

It depends on the deal/relationship. Percentage of the door/bar or a flat fee, e.g. $300 a night to bring the party to my establishment- maybe alot more with a bar minimum in place.

promoters with followings have more hand in the negotiations than average or new jack promoters.

The biggest disappointment of a promoter is a callous/[dirt]bag clubs or owners. You charge $20 for the party and they refuse to put toilet paper in the ladies room or "run out" of rum for the advertsied special. Or worst demand that their employees command the door and after 300 patrons come in they hand you $100 bucks and say "it was a slow night".

The absolute worst is after you build a club they dismiss you and try to maintain your following without compensating you.

Ahh the beauty of the business.

@Tif- who do you think the best promoter(s) in the area are?

@Jason, honestly I couldn't say. My party is a seperate niche or genre so although I may stick my head in to many a promoted event- it's just that. In this city I think there are either OK promoters or bad promoters. I like free stuff so the best promoters are the ones who can garner sponsership from a major label whether it be alcohol or any other merchandise and DC/NY/LA seem to be the only folks that truly take advantage of sponsorship. In Bmore a promoter will try to sell loose cigarettes out of the 30 cartons the tobacco company gave them to give out for free.

But in reality I don't party anymore so I have no clue.

What do promoters really do?
A lot more than the misconceptions might lead us to believe.

Sam, thanks for paying some attention to Baltimore's field of public event planning and promotion. It's clear that you did a lot of research to create a good overview of what we do, however we are much more integral to the success of events than just hiring DJ's, promoting and driving traffic to venues- and much more important to the city as a whole. There are many aspects of what a good promoter contributes that are often overlooked by the press, party-goers and even other professionals in the industry.

We, or at least I, am a business owner, first and foremost. HeidnSeek Entertainment, LLC is a special event firm, specializing in event coordination, marketing & consulting, and an online entertainment guide catering to 30,000+ subscribers, composed of Maryland's young professionals. We do not just throw parties at night. We do not just throw events at clubs. We offer options at fine restaurants, advertise multiple charity functions, daytime events for our clients on our weekly newsletter and host networking events for young professionals. We have held concept events with corporate, non-nightlife brands and have also organized and directed private special events held at halls and residences. HeidnSeek is a social lifestyle brand that is being developed into a multi-layered platform. This is not an easy field. And we're talking promotion at an entry level- clubs, lounges, bars, dining. Not high capacity concerts etc. It is however fortunate to be able to in a sense, navigate your own destiny as a business owner. There are varying levels of "promoters," what they do, how they do it, and what they seek to accomplish. "Promoting" events to me is a stepping stone and a building block in a much larger picture, that hopefully holds a meaningful future in national marketing, media and production. I strive for excellence and have a long way to go. I was blessed to have very loving, supportive and talented parents who showed me the value of entertainment at an early age. Events bring people together in a way that few other things can. I started because I wanted to be a part of that process. Thanks for shouting out Dad. He was one of the original trailblazers in national concert touring decades ago, which is such an inspiration. And Mr. Wehner, who worked for him early in his career, has also done great things, along with independent field leaders such as Seth Hurwitz, Paul Manna and Dirk Himebaugh.

Enough about that.
Some of the tasks any dedicated event promoter / planner does:

Like with any small business, handle all start up measures including but not limited to, incorporating, identifying a brand and mission and working with banks, accountants and lawyers to set up accounts, record keeping, insurance and funding, if applicable. While building a database of target demographic, communicate with them via newsletter, website and other networking channels- which must be created and then updated regularly. Make relationships with leaders, vendors and sponsors in the field. Conceive concepts, a unique style, and a niche of clientele for events that will separate from competition. Materialize concepts by negotiating deals with host venues. Configure, manage and then execute all event logistics. Hire staff to work events (could be talent, design & print professionals, cashier, security, photographers, videographers, street team, and more) Treat guests as any business treats clients by being available to address questions and concerns as needed. Build a track record and reputation in the field. etc...

Hope that helps clarify a couple things. You can always email me questions/suggestions at Thanks again for your interest, Sam. It is not often that people ask, care or seek to understand what goes on behind the scenes. And I want to send my respect and support out to other local promotional companies such as my friends & colleagues at Steez, Tax Lo, JetSet, Goodlife, PTP, Pm, RMR, Red Door, Exposure, Events for Good People, Flywire, KIS, Dejuan, E Omari, Diwee, Mark Baltimore RIP, SHE, Bellezza and all others. Together, we have a following of well over a hundred thousand people. That's power that should be used wisely and positively. We all have different clientele and images, but we all work very hard and all love to help people enjoy at least some of their lives, when much of their time is filled with worry and work. And a thanks to all the venues that invite us to enhance their places of business. So, support your friends that do promotion. Without them, there would be far fewer events and talent to enjoy locally- and Baltimore deserves a vibrant social life. When our venues are well-attended, it contributes to the local economy and encourages people to invest in more and better concepts here in Baltimore.

Lastly, the Mafia Don comment was very funny, Sam. (Complete antithesis of me and what I aim to project, but funny.) I don't see friends or clients who come over to say hello in that way, as I'm pretty down to earth. But hey, I guess there's a lot worse things than being called a boss:)

Peace and Blessings to all.
-Heidi L. Klotzman CEO/Founder HeidnSeek Entertainment, LLC. ~

What are promoters? Well, depends.
Ill try to sum this up as short as possible.
We are people who like showing others a good time and we are also people just trying to make a buck. There are some who just got started and are new at it and then you have the ones who don't know anything else. We live to see people have fun with what we create from nothing. Believe me, we arent Getting rich from it but it makes us happy to see others having fun because of our creativeness. Promoter, event planner, what ever you want to call us, its simple. We are people who like to create an amazing party and hope you love it so much you keep coming back for more. Hope to see you at my parties. B) Bobby Goodlife

Has one of my colleagues would say.... "WE WORK SO THE CITY CAN PLAY"

As a sometime patron when I visit home - what is Baltimore promoters' obsession with "white parties"?! Even in the dead of winter?!? That has to be the most laziest, dated, and uncreative theme ever...

Ps: Shoutout to Fortune 5Fifty, DChase, The Union, Phil Crump, SchoolYard, and T&J promotions, also. Didn't mean to forget anyone.

I'd like to give a shoutout to shoutouts.

GOODLIFEYBOYS.COM ! Thats all I really need to say. As far as I am concerned they are the cream of the crop when it comes to promoters. Timmy and Brian are real people and put there heart's and sole's into making sure there partys are the best. If you have not been to one of there partys get on there site now and check them out. Thanks for reading;)

I'll add another one just for you, BaltimoreGal:) Shoutout to Tracye Stafford, a serious promotional player, a female I look up to, who has brought Baltimore many a concert.

hmmm. Heidi, don't know you but you seem to be shouting out a few pretty cool and diverse promoters. Feeling that. Need to me you one day.....

Hi Sam,
Very good piece, on what has been of late, a controversial subject.

At the Milan liquor board hearing, the term “promoter,” was used like an expletive. This summer I have also seen the term “D-Bag Promoters” used rather liberally.

In my semi-humble opinion, promoters are one of the few things keeping a lot of clubs, bars and restaurants doors open. Most local venues can’t afford to pay a sales person to attract business. Most general managers are way too busy with operations.

When I was in my 20’s, there was a hopping bar night available EVERY night of the week. Now, with the recession, social drinking responsibility and the comfort of social media, it’s not easy to get people out of the house.

A promoter’s job is seven days a week 10-16 hours a day, putting together events that will get people off the couch, away from the computer and into Baltimore. And every Monday, it starts all over again.

The networks of promoters in Baltimore are among the best people I will ever know. It’s been said that your only true friends are the ones that you would call when your car broke down on a rainy Monday night.

Me, I’m calling Rob and Bobby who gave me my start, the GLB or Heidi… but never on a Saturday night!

Much respect,

Chairman of the US chapter of the IMMF Steve Garven brought to our attention that parasite, chancer non-promoters are still at their lamentable game in the UK and have moved onto bigger scams namely live music festivals!

Read more on this here:

Very cool article! I'm late to the "party", get it, party?


I wonder how bands could utilize and learn from what the promoters do to get more numbers to their gigs? I've read what Heidi wrote and I'm trying to make some parallels with being in a band situation and putting on the gig. It's seems to me that bands could do a lot more than do a facebook event and show up at the gig.

BTW, I was at Don Wehner's place back in the 80's. He's got a virtual rock history museum in his basement!!! He even showed me the original Rutles Promo Kit!!!!! The RUTLES!!!!

Trent Sprenkle

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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