I’m going to try really hard not to make this column a commercial for SSS Promotions so please bear with me if it seems like a shameless plug. I just got done promoting my first “big boy” show with Rusted Root this weekend. I’ve never done anything like that before, so suffice to say I was more than a bit nervous.
Thankfully with a lot of hard work and some great people showing me the ropes over the past couple of months, the show went off without a hitch, and we ended up drawing over 1,000 people to SSS Promotions very first rock show ever. The best compliment that I think I was paid came from one of the engineers, who at the end of the show complimented me on how smoothly things went. I then told him that it was my first show ever, and he thought I was just being a smart-ass. When the sound guy confirmed my statement, the engineer just laughed and shook his head. If guys who have been doing it for 20 years couldn’t tell that I had no clue what I was doing: Mission accomplished.
“Fake it till ya make it.” – A buddy of mine who manages a bar in Pittsburgh told me that a few years ago when I was still struggling to find work for my band, Walk of Shame. He was alluding more to the need to be able to bullshit venues into booking us than somehow convincing national artists to work with my company – but the point rings true. I’m coming up on my 4th anniversary with WoS, and it’s both awesome and humbling to see where I was 4 years ago compared to now.
I do good business. You can make money with me. You don’t have to like me. You don’t have to like working with me. If you like money, you’ll do business with me.
I give a lot of credit to professional wrestling for my success as a promoter with no actual experience in promoting. I’ve worked enough places to know what works, and what does not work when it comes to putting on a show. The actual “performance” is secondary: It’s all about the hype, the packaging – it’s style over substance. In talking to some of my wrestling friends lately it seems that thing have not changed that much in the past decade.
The professional wrestling business is the perfect bastard child of carnival working grifters and talented performers. There are TONS of parallels:
There are 1,000 shitty bands out there trying to “make it”, just like there are 1,000 shitty wrestlers in jean-shorts trying to be the next John Cena.
You want to talk about ego? You know how every parent thinks their kid is the best? Try dealing with bands or wrestlers who feel they are getting screwed or passed over when another band or wrestler gets a better spot on a show.
Haters gonna hate. It’s a lot of people in the industry talking shit to a lot of other people in the industry.
There are 1,000 shitty “promoters” out there taking advantage of young wrestlers and young bands alike just trying to get some experience and exposure.
That last one is probably the revelation that I had this past weekend. There are music “promoters” who think by printing out some tickets and opening the doors to a dive bar that they are going to be successful. There are a lot of wrestling “promoters” who set up a ring and print out some tickets that think that just because 100 rednecks find the venue that they have somehow been successful. What I learned is that there is a BIG difference between the people who make it IN THIS BUSINESS (said in my HHH voice) and those who will be doing the same thing a decade later.
We all know them. We have all seen them. The band playing the same dive bar for a decade talking about how they are going to make it. We’ve all seen the local wrestler who has been putting on the same basic match to the same 100 fans for a decade who thinks the WWE is going to call him tomorrow.
And then – We see a few bands make it. We see a few wrestlers that we used to wrestle with leave, and end up on TNA, or the WWE. “Hey man, I remember when Kings of Leon opened for US maaaaaaaaaaaaaan.”
…Then we hate.
My buddy just got signed to a WWE developmental deal. I was there for literally his first match ever like 13 years ago. I was driving Samu (former WWE Tag Champ, and a great mentor to me in the wrestling business) to a show that we were both booked on in the Cleveland, Ohio area. This scrawny kid was staying in the hotel room next to me, and we talked a bit. He was going by the gimmick “The Wifebeater” at the time (which actually caused some national controversy a couple of years later). Long story short, the workers ended up “hazing” the kid after the show. They taped him down to a picnic table outside the hotel, and took turns laying some chops in on him. Samu was the finale, busting the kid’s chest open with a few 350-pound Samoan chops. That ‘kid’ is Chris Hero, AkA one of “The Kings of Wrestling” in Ring of Honor and now AkA, WWE developmental wrestler “Kassius Ohno”. After busting his ass for 13 years, he paid his dues, and made it.
My point is this: No “promoter” got him where he needed to get. Chris got HIMSELF over. Chris made something happen for HIMSELF. Hulk Hogan used to be hated by a lot of the other wrestlers in the back because he was getting a lot more money than they were. He famously said, “Everyone cuts their own deal, brother” – meaning hey, don’t get pissed off at ME for negotiating a better deal than you.
Wrestlers and musicians are generally not smart businessmen. It’s not a lack of talent that holds them back, it’s a lack of brains.
I think about running some wrestling shows. When I say run, I mean actually run, promote, market, advertise, and organize. I haven’t seen an indy fed really successfully do that outside of the old ECW, and now Ring of Honor a bit. There are a lot of really talented wrestlers in the Western PA area who are wrestling in the same building with the same guys for the same crappy pay every month, and that’s not their full potential at all. When was the last time you saw actual flyers out for a wrestling show? Heard a commercial on the radio? Saw a spot on TV?
So once again, thank you pro wrestling for giving me an early course on dealing with shady promoters, and understanding how to work in a business that is designed to make money off of the people with actual talent who are out there performing. I feel bad the the bar has dropped so low that the talent getting paid at all is considered to be some sort of event on par with seeing a unicorn – but that’s where the bar is right now. If wrestlers weren’t generally stupid people, they’d know how to command a better payday. If promoters weren’t generally lazy extortionists living off of the hard work of others, there would be more money to go around.
I mean, my FIRST show as a promoter just sold out over 1,000 tickets sold at $20-$25 a pop. I think we’ve got some upside here.
I’ve been on all sides now. I’ve been the wrestler, I’ve been the guy in a band. I’ve been the booker of a wrestling show, I’ve been the promoter of a concert. I like having perspective from every angle. I think it helps me do better business. My advice to the guys who right now are busting their asses and hearing negative things from other musicians, or wrestlers – fuck em. Do YOUR thing. When you have moved on, they’ll STILL be talking about you, and how much better they are than you, and how you didn’t earn your spot, and how you “got lucky”, and how it’s all politics, and how life just isn’t fair.
But they’ll be doing it from the same shitty indy show that they were on 10 years ago. They’ll be doing it from the same smoke-filled dive bar that you guys played together back in 2005.
Where will YOU be?