Promoters must pay to play

Whether it’s plastered on a bulletin board, littered on the sidewalk or tucked in the door or window of your car, it is easy to spot a postcard-sized flier promoting an organization’s weekend event or party.

The fliers are common – especially at Florida A&M University.

But the ink and paper constitute only a fraction of the cost campus organizations pay in order to turn a night out into a profitable venture.

The average student may think he or she spends a lot of money when preparing to go to a club.

Buying an outfit or new shoes, washing a car and getting a buzz off of pre-club drinks may take a chunk out of a budget, but the very flier tucked in countless car doors with a picture of Melyssa Ford or Beyoncé Knowles can cost an organization anywhere from $250 to $500, depending on the size, cut and number of fliers requested, said Seymour Townsend, owner of Showtime Promotions.

Carlton Perry, manager of Perry’s Lounge, said he rents his venue out to party hosts for $500 to $600 for a weeknight and $1,000 to $1,500 for the weekend.

“How much you can make varies,” Perry said. “A student can make up to $3,000 to $5,000 for one party.”

But Perry said that money is made on admission since the club retains the profits from the bar. The party thrower is also responsible for paying for the disc jockey and security.

 Townsend said security can be costly, but it might be the cheapest of all the planning expenses.

Tallahassee police officers and outside security are paid $25-$30 an hour, and inside security, such as club bouncers, are paid anything from $10-$15 an hour. By these figures, four police officers and six bouncers could cost up to $1,050.

Townsend said campus organizations can spend nearly $10,000 to throw a party, but they stand to make much more.

S.O.S. Productions owner Alexander Hanna said he got into the business because it seemed interesting, and he noticed the lack of fun and exciting parties to attend.

S.O.S. throws about two parties a semester, Hanna said. The parties usually have a theme.

“We usually use clubhouses that you can rent out, something like the ones they use for banquets,” Hanna said.

But the company, which has shelled out only $700 for its most expensive party, makes between $800 and $1,200 an outing.

Hanna said, “Even though it is kind of a house party atmosphere, we usually pack out because we only charge for admission and afterward drinks are free.”

Popular nightspot The Moon, which hosts everything from parties to live concerts, has a capacity of 1,500 guests, according to a memorandum from Scott Carswell, president of Moon Management Inc.

On all but Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, an organization can secure the venue and security for up to $3,200. This price does not include extras such as set design and theme decorations. With the DJ and fliers, not to mention radio promotion, costs could top out at $6,000.

If the organization was able to invite 1,200 partiers at $7-a-head, it would stand to make a $2,400 profit in one night.

“They make mad money,” said Brandon Johnson, a junior civil engineering student from Quincy. “Do the math. If you invite 2,000 people somewhere at $10 a head, you’re making duckets.”

Townsend agrees but said large profits aren’t guaranteed.

“It all depends on the turnout. An organization can make as a little as $500 or $10,000 or more.”

So, it is no surprise that while organizations spend a large chunk of funding on the venue, a large part of expenses go toward the fliers passed out on “The Set” or in front of the library.

Since the success of any event depends on the turnout, organizations also make sure people know about the event electronically by inviting people through student-friendly Web sites like Facebook or more broadly on MySpace.

Facebook fliers are free. Millions of students are registered on the site, and it offers a free RSVP service that allows an organization to get a rough estimate of how many people will show up.

Throwing parties is a risky business, but when done properly and at the right time, the rewards can be lucrative.