Miami Beach is a town marked by transience. Bars and restaurants open and shutter. Luxury condos rise onto the skyline, then fall into foreclosure. Tourists cycle through. Transplants get sucked in, overdose, and move back home.
Perhaps most mercurial of all is the city's famous nightlife scene. Glamorous clubs and lounges boom, make millions, then fade into anonymity, taking with them hordes of dancers, bartenders, promoters and hangers-on. Nothing ever stays put.
But rules like these always have exceptions. One such anomaly is Shaun Gold, a promoter who has not only managed to stay relevant on Miami's nightlife scene for the last 12 years, but has turned promoting into a full-time, diversified profession. Gold will be the first to tell you that in an industry where promoters last less than a year, and clubs shutter in 18 months, that practically makes him a dinosaur.
A decade after starting out on the local college circuit, Gold now works for the hottest club on Miami Beach and lectures about nightclub management at local universities. Oh, and he's published a bestselling e-novel about his experiences.
In his self-published e-book, Promoter Mind, Hustler Heart, released last month, Gold tackles the inevitable question: how, exactly, does one stay successful in an industry characterized by fickle tastes and allegiances, driven by excess, and dependent on the whims of wealthy tourists and socialites?
The answer, it turns out, isn't that surprising: hard work, consistency, responsibility, returning calls, and being professional. But, Gold says, shockingly few promoters are willing to fill these basic requirements.
"People don't realize it's a lot of work," says Gold. "People think they can show up at midnight, party all night, have a VIP table, take pictures on social media. But that's not the job. To make a profitable party, you do all the work during the day. We wake up early. It's normal office hours."
Nightclubs use promoters as walking advertisements. Promoters are tasked with attracting (usually female) guests, who then make the club appear desirable, and draw (generally male) paying customers, who will cough up an entrance fee and also buy alcohol. Some promoters are paid by the head; others get commission from bar sales; others are on a set contract. They can make anywhere from $100 to $2000 a night. For confidentiality reasons, Gold would not divulge his payment arrangements.
In his book, Gold describes his ascent from the lowly position of promoting college parties and handing out flyers, to his current gig with LIV, one of the hottest nightclubs in the world. He concentrates in particular on the challenges of making a profession out of something most consider a side gig or temporary job: there are no internships, no professional associations, and no "nightlife" major.
Clocking in at just over 100 pages, the book is a quick read, sprinkled with a mix of autobiographical details and practical tips (get your messaging right; promote tirelessly; honor your word; don't burn bridges; don't throw out the first offer; be flexible but persistent). Gold's advice is hardly revolutionary, yet the qualities he describes are surprisingly hard to come by in an industry with a constantly revolving door and a shady reputation.
According to Steve Lewis, the "Nightlife King" of New York City who now works as a nightclub designer and nightlife blogger, most promoters last less than a year. Many move on to "back of the house" operations, while others exit the scene entirely. At 12 years and counting, Lewis calls Gold the "Galapagos turtle" of the club scene.
Lewis attributes success on the promoter circuit to being "sharp, streetwise, dollar wise" and having a "certain charisma that never turns off." He says that promoters must carve out a "nightclub persona." Everyone's persona is different: Lewis says his is akin to "Rick from Casablanca," while Gold's is more subdued.
"He comes off as an accessible, smart and honest guy," Lewis says of Gold. "He is always respectful and is always a good listener and he has street chops."
While these traits have helped Gold maintain a solid roster of contacts over the years, he says the scene has changed dramatically over the last decade. The proliferation of social media has altered the game -- no need to pick up the phone when you can send a Facebook blast to 3,000 people -- though not as much as one would expect. While mass messaging has cut down on some of the legwork, Gold says, relying solely on this strategy results in a low conversion rate, and can fatigue contacts.
More transformational is the popularization of Electronic Dance Music (EDM), which has led to a DJ-driven nightclub culture.
"We're in an era right now where EDM is king, and all of these DJs are doing massive festivals," Gold says. "The scene used to be more celebrity driven. It used to be that you go [to clubs] to be seen and be cool, but now you go where your DJ goes."
This shift has resulted in a boon for Las Vegas nightclubs like XS and Hakkasan, which hold the world's most popular DJs on residency contracts and can rake in close to 100 million dollars a year. It's also emblematic of the separation between the nightlife styles of different cities.
Vegas clubs are larger, have bigger budgets for DJs, and hold more bottle service tables, explains Las Vegas VIP host Ytai Abougzir. This in turn brings more clients (mostly from out of town), and higher profits. By contrast, New York clubs are smaller and cater to regulars, making them more dependent on the local scene, Lewis says.
These differences translate into different skill sets for promoters. According to Lewis, Miami's reputation as a tourist destination means that "to make it in Miami, a promoter type must network into travelers willing to spend big bucks."
Notwithstanding, Gold pointed out that Miami clubs like LIV have concentrated their efforts on booking celebrity DJs, following the Vegas trend.
While nightclub promotion remains Gold's primary occupation, he's spent the last several years branching out, including into the unlikely world of academia. In 2008, Gold was invited to guest lecture about nightclub promotion at the University of Miami. The lecture was a hit and turned into a series of gigs, followed by a recurring lecture slot at a Florida International University class called Nightclub Management. Gold says the unusual pairing makes sense: he is teaching basic business skills like entrepreneurship and marketing, but through the lens of nightlife.
Gold also plans to continue dabbling in writing. He says that Promoter Mind, Hustler Heart, which he wrote to contribute to industry's (meager) base of professional literature, is just the first of several books he plans to release; the next will be a humorous tell-all of his crazy experiences on the Miami club scene.
After 12 years as a promoter, Gold describes himself as "one of the dinosaurs" -- he estimates that less than two dozen professionals in the entire industry have been at it as long as he has. But, Gold says he has no plans to step away any time soon.
"My advice is, if you can quit at something, then quit," he says. "But if you can't quit it, then that's the job for you. I love what I do."
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