Hi Angei! For those who don’t know you please tell us a little about yourself and your promoting career thus far?
I’ve always been a person who liked to have parties, ever since I was a teenager really. I come from an Egyptian/Lebanese background where hosting guests and having parties is a very important part of our culture. Hosting parties is something I’ve been brought up around so naturally doing parties of my own fell into place.
How did it all begin?
I used to have a nice corporate job that was comfortable and had good pay. After painfully being made redundant, I had a friend who introduced me to something called ‘Drum and Bass’. I attended a few gigs here and there in 2009 but it wasn’t until 2011 where I started to go to regular gigs at Chinese Laundry. Not before long, I was hooked on the genre. People even made fun of me, saying I lived at Laundry (it’s almost true).
I would notice other promoters there and I thought they were the coolest people ever -standing up there on stage getting to talk to big internationals. It looked like a pretty glamorous job!
So what made you realise that you wanted to get into promoting?
I didn’t know what to do with myself once I had been made redundant. I’ve never really had any discernable talent, but I’ve always been known to be good at talking to people and building strong relationships. I also have a resourceful mind – I might not always be the right person for the job, but I bet I know someone who can!
Anyway, one day I saw an ad come up for the street team at Laundry and decided to give it my best shot.
How did the interview go?
To be honest, I was really scared. I searched the internet to try and find out popular questions asked in interviews for promoters, I didn’t know what to wear and I almost got so worked up that I didn’t go to the interview!
So the interview happened and they didn’t even ask me any of the questions I pre-prepared for. Turns out I pretty much had the job already because I went to the club so much (pro tip).
And what are some of the highlights of your promoting career been so far?
Sometimes things happen so quickly you don’t realise how you got to where you are. So far the biggest highlight for me was being handed over the reins of a Drum and Bass promotion company by the name of Bass Drop. Through them I get to put on my own gigs and meet so many talented people that I love and respect.
Nice! How did that come about?
I met Bass Drop honcho, Pete Mac once and I offered that if he ever needed any help with parties to just let me know.
Not before long I was already postering Sydney’s Inner West at 4am in the morning, and selling hard copies of tickets to his gigs. Seeing as all my best friends were promoters too, we all chipped in and helped out at a variety of his gigs, including Andy C and the Hospitality tour. He noticed my dedication and appointed me as head promoter.
Pete was a man with growing family commitments and could no longer afford to invest the same amount of time into parties as he once could. He didn’t want Bass Drop to end either, so he gave me the honour of keeping it going.
You entered the promoting game without any formal higher education training in event management. What are your thoughts on education for success in this avenue of the music industry?
Lately I’ve seen a lot of graduates really struggle to get a job in the field that they’ve studied. I think it’s good to get to study and learn but I don’t think it should be the only thing you rely on. Experience is super important and throwing yourself in the deep end helps you to gain the ropes quickly.
Event management is always evolving and requires a lot of spontaneous problem-solving and thinking outside of the box, and personally I feel that learning that through experience is the better option.
So what do you feel are the merits of a formal education?
It does help you think differently and can strengthen your portfolio by getting you to grips with the theory i.e. law, accounting, music history. It’s also a very good way to make contacts, as a lot of teachers at these facilities know industry heads, and it’s important to tap into that. Regardless, you still have to try and create your own opportunities.
So for someone looking to get into the industry, would you recommend they seek out a course in event management or just jump in and get experience right away?
I’d say just dive right in and get experience. Signing up to a course can cost a lot of money – I think it’s good to see if you like it first. Spending the time and money on a degree, only to later realise you don’t like it would be a complete waste of effort.
Considering Australia is halfway around the world for many producers, does the logistics of it all become frustrating? Do you ever have artists not wanting to play in Australia simply because of how far away it is? Visa issues must be a nightmare too!
There are lots of DJs and producers who are scared of flying so sadly they won’t ever come to Australia! Fortunately, I haven’t had to deal with visa issues or anything like that but the recent Hospitality gig at Laundry was a little crazy for me and the first time I had to deal with tricky logistics.
Hospitality was meant to be a Garden Party but the storms in Sydney were pretty unforgiving, so the decision was made 2 hours prior to the show that it was going to have to be moved indoors. This meant I had to try and get more DJs as the 2nd room would have to be opened. I called around frantically trying to see who was available.
Also, the main acts had to play on the same day again in Perth so as soon as they played their set they had to get in the car and be driven to the airport straight away. It was a public holiday so there weren’t many places open, making it a nightmare to even find food for the internationals. We ended up sourcing some sushi and I had to pack it in take away containers so the DJs could eat it on the way back to the airport. Not very glamorous in the end but it was crucial that all of them got on their flights ASAP.
As a promoter, you may sometimes have to promote gigs that you aren’t a big fan of. What advice would you give to promoters who only want to promote the music they like?
I guess it all depends on the individual, and why you’re promoting. I work for a nightclub that plays many styles of music, so to do my job properly I have to promote it all. If promoting is just your hobby, it is possible to solely promote music you like, or find an event/venue that only plays what you like.
I’d have to stress that it’s really important to not be closed-minded. When I’m promoting a night I generally research all the DJs and I have been pleasantly surprised and often found something new I like.
Another thing you want to avoid is becoming stale. Exposure to different things helps you take that knowledge and put it into the things you love. Go out to different events, and venues across all mediums – plays, musicals, scientific talks or whatever! Naturally, we get bored of seeing the same thing over and over again so if you’re not exposing yourself to a variety of things then your own gigs will also suffer.
You get to meet and greet with big name international DJs and interact with them on a personal level. This becomes a normal part of the job, but does the feeling of being star-struck ever fade when you meet a musician you’re a big fan of?
I still slightly get star-struck when I meet DJs who have changed my world and have never previously met before. I don’t think it’s because they’re famous though, it’s more because they mean so much to me on a deeper level.
Music is such a personal thing, and many of these artists get you through some of the best and worst times of your life. When you actually meet them and talk to them, in the back of my mind I’m always thinking, “Oh my God, I love you so much” whilst doing my best to retain composure.
What would you say is the biggest perk of being a promoter?
That feeling you get when people are talking about your gigs months after they’ve happened. Meeting high profile people who I respect is great too, but most of all – the biggest perk is being able to give back to a community that has changed my life and getting to experience music that has stayed with me forever.
What is the one biggest challenge of being a promoter?
When you’re a promoter you don’t really have set hours that you work, it’s not like a 9-5 job. Sometimes it feels like you’re on the clock 24/7 selling tickets, speaking to people, organising guestlists, looking after artists. If you don’t allocate time to eat, sleep and have a break it will end up affecting your work-life balance negatively. It’s really important to try and look after yourself mentally and physically, because the late nights and high-stress need to be managed.
What’s your final piece of advice for budding promoters looking to get their foot in the door?
Be passionate about what you do. There aren’t any set rules on how to do things, but there is room for you to give it a personal touch. Always remember that you’re dealing with people, so your people skills will make you or break you.
Take the time to do your research – even though you’re paying an artist to play at your gig the professional relationship shouldn’t just end there. Try your best to maintain healthy relationships!