Life of the party
College students find success in party promotion business
The Roc Boyz (from left. Dwane Duece Bruce, Tracey Trace Lavon, Damian “Dame Dolla” O’Meally and Daniel “Bubz” Harris) are one of the premier student party promoters in Buffalo.
After weeks of promotion, Sickamatic Royal T-Krew held its reggae/hip-hop party at Buffalo Live on Main Street on Nov. 16.
It was a success. Hundreds of partiers from New York City, Maryland and Buffalo were dancing to the visceral thrills of G.O.O.D. Music's "Mercy" and the anthemic cries of dancehall artist Beenie Man's "Romie." Meanwhile, John Nurse, a Daemen College graduate, was right by the admissions door as the attendees paid to get in on the fun.
It was another successful night for the Sickamatic Krew, one of the few party promotions teams in Buffalo dedicated to the college nightlife.
For years, college students have taken advantage of their demographic's desire for fun by hosting parties at various clubs. Many have failed in this business endeavor, while others have thrived in Buffalo's nightlife. Party promotions is a job that requires a delicate balance of confidence and humility, ambition and reality.
Nurse knows this more than many of his competitors as he's been in the promotion game for more than five years. He's seen many groups rise and fall in the promotions market.
"A lot of people kind of let this entertainment thing get the best of them," Nurse said. "I've seen it happen in my own group. People get a big head, pop a few bottles, take a few pictures with the glitz and glamour. But at the end of the day, you're still human. You're not better than anybody else."
Most student promotional groups are made up of what Ayodeji Lapite, a UB alumnus, calls "made men." These men have already made a name for themselves on campus. Lapite, who is one of the founders of Dreamchasers, was a member of a now-defunct entertainment group and president of the African Student Association (ASA).
Washington Darko of Dreamchasers was a member of the Black Student Union, while Dwane "Duece" Bruce of Roc Boyz Entertainment is a brother of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. They already have an advantage because they have the attention of diverse circles. Roc Boyz consist of Tracey "Trace" Young, a senior health and humans services major; Damian "Dame Dolla" O'Meally, a UB alum and rapper; Daniel "Bubz" Harris, a UB alumnus and assistant coach on UB's track and field team; and Duece.
"They're definitely heavily involved on campus," said Alisha James, a senior communication major who's familiar with the business. "A lot of them are in the POC [Student Association's People of Color Council], then you have a lot of them who are Greek Life. They already know a lot of people and have already done their networking, so I think it was a good idea to start doing that promoting."
Organizations like Dreamchasers and the Roc Boyz are groups that were built from the ground up - molded from their members' name and ambition.
The promotional groups do carry different vibes. Dreamchasers and Sickamatic are visibly self-assured, while Roc Boyz's four core members carry a silent confidence. Even though their personalities are different, the three teams were able to build their brands into respected names in the nightlife.
Roc Boyz, founded in 2008, started small. Their first party was in a Fillmore classroom near the end of that fall semester. This was an outlandish idea, but it worked as students filed into the classroom. The University Police shut down the party eventually, but this was still a memorable moment for the Roc Boyz and the party's attendees four years later.
Their stock only went up after the party. The Roc Boyz moved to doing house parties, but they ended up getting so packed that the team was forced to move its events to the clubs. They held their first club shindig at Broadway Joe's during last year's spring semester, which was also a successful event.
Now they're known as one of the top promotional groups among the college crowd.
"I like it because back in the day, there was no one helping us out," Dame Dolla said. "We had to lean on each other to do everything we've ever done. Now we get a lot of respect, people coming up to us about the parties."
While Lapite and senior health and human services and early childhood major Briamah Aminu have been in the promotions business for years under various organizations, Dreamchasers held their first club party last December entitled "Y.O.L.O." (promoters tend to name their parties after current trends) at Jamaica, N.Y. Its success only motivated the crew to push harder for bigger events this year.
The mutual respect Dreamchasers and Roc Boyz had for each other led them to host a joint event entitled "Win or Lose: We Roc With Obama" last November at Dingen's Bar & Grill in Buffalo. The party cost approximately $3,000 to hold, including fees such as renting the venue and creating flyers.
"Win or Lose" turned out to be another win for these self-made promoters. Lapite said the party had about 500 people, which is unsurprising given the months of promotion they put into this night. These nightlife aficionados flooded Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with hundreds, if not thousands, of flyers and statuses about the key event.
This guerilla method of promoting is one of their most well-known actions.
"When Hurricane Sandy was around, [in one online flyer] they have this guy in flooded waters and he's like, 'Party's still going on,'" James said. "So it ties back to how determined they are to get you to go to their party, through rain, snow, sleet, shine. They don't care. They're doing what they're supposed to do, I guess."
The Roc Boyz and Dreamchasers profited from the party, but neither would reveal that exact amount to avoid inviting students who want in on the operation just for profit. But regardless, Nurse said it's getting harder for promoters to make back massive profit because of the recent under-21 ban on Chippewa.
Now, promoters have to look elsewhere instead of hosting parties in the big venues in Downtown Buffalo.
"When you were at the Ballroom, you were making about somewhere to about $6-7,000," Nurse said. "Now you're making less than that. So now you're going to see a lot more parties, you're going to see a lot more promotions - because people got to make that bread back."
Although finding new venues is a hassle, Roc Boyz and Dreamchasers stressed the promotion business isn't strictly about money. Bruce and his team have bigger ambitions beyond the college nightlife. The team plans to own its own club when Duece and Trace graduate.
The promotional groups also take time out to support other SA clubs in their respective event. To Duece, it's only fair to the people who have supported them on the upswing.
"One hand wash the other, both wash the face," Duece said.
Aminu also noted that party promotion isn't just a business but a service to college students and Buffalo residents. Dreamchasers bring the dancehall and hip-hop scene to a city that desires it, while the Roc Boyz from Rochester are looking to represent their city well.
The service is getting harder with all the legal limitations.
"The school has its own events, but there is something missing from these events, which is why a lot of people don't go," Aminu said. "That's why people go out. In the city, we don't leave our house until 12 o'clock because the party is not over until 5 o'clock. The school throws a party, it's over at one o'clock. People want something to do. Give them something to get dressed up for. Give them something to show out - to take pictures."
The party promoters remain determined as ever to continue building their self-made business, and as the constantly packed bars and clubs suggest, there's a market that still needs to be satisfied.
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