Kierra Leggett | Editor-in-Chief
Four years ago when Raymond and Stephanie Johnson watched their son Chase leave home to attend college at N.C. State as a business administration major, they knew that he would develop an entrepreneurial spirit. Like most practical parents, they also knew he would attend his fair share of parties. However, what the Johnson’s didn’t anticipate was their son laughing his way to the bank— at least not with earnings made from hosting parties with his promotion team, Sway Entertainment.
Very prevalent on social media site Twitter (some might describe this as an understatement) the members of Sway Entertainment are all students at N.C. State who host and promote parties as a way to earn extra cash. “A lot of times people will ask us, ‘what is party promoting?’ or ‘what do party promoters do?’ I don’t want to just say promoting parties…but it’s exactly what it sounds like,” said Johnson.
The only party promotion team at N.C. State, Sway is not the only group in the area. Minor Crisis, Next Level and First Class all host parties in neighboring cities. Sway however does not view these promotion teams as a threat to their market. “Most of the other groups have graduated so they don’t have the younger market,” said Johnson.
A senior set to graduate in May, Johnson first began leisurely hosting parties during his freshman year, when he lived in University Towers, with roommates John “Jay” Lewis, Justin Ferguson, Aaron Wise and Ryan Wilson. The quintuplet referred to themselves as “G5” because they were all from Greensboro, N.C.
“Freshman year my roommates and I would invite people over, turn the lights off and play music over speakers from about 10 p.m. until 2 a.m.,” said Johnson. “University Towers is wild and we used to pack it out.”
Though profit is now a major point of consideration, when the G5 crew began hosting parties in 2009 it was all about having a good time. “We hosted parties [then] because we felt like it,” said Johnson. “People go to parties because they’re bored, we knew if we were bored, other people were too.”
Quickly outgrowing the dorm room party scene, G5 hosted “The Takeover,” its first fee-entry party in October 2011, with AASAC organization, Collegiate 100. The price for the party’s Talley Ballroom venue was $2,500 and maximum capacity was 825 people. Tickets for The Takeover were five dollars for women and $10 for men. Thanks to the public relations skills of G5 and Collegiate 100, the party sold out, and according to Johnson “was a very large success.”
Following the success of The Takeover, G5 decided to expand its marketing power by merging with other students on campus who hosted parties, thus creating Sway Entertainment.
Ironically, Sway hosted its first party on the last day of class during the fall 2011 semester, at Champion’s Bar located in the Mission Valley Shopping Center. A bar frequented by a primarily Caucasian crowd, the cost of renting out the Champion’s Bar venue was nearly one third of that of Talley Ballroom. Also, there were fewer rules to comply with at Champion’s. “[Champion’s] was a bit of a struggling business so they were looking to make money. They didn’t know how black parties worked or what to expect, but everything went well at the first party,” said Johnson, “we made a fair amount of money.”
While the idea of party promoters and party promotion often carries a negative connotation, Johnson and the members of Sway Entertainment try to disassociate themselves from this stigma. “We try and stay away from that [association],” said Johnson. “There may be more money in appealing to ratchet crowds, but our motto is ‘It’s not a party, it’s an experience.’ If you have a bad experience you’re not going to want to come back.”
Typically planning its parties around major events such as Homecoming and big basketball or football games, Sway also tries to plan parties during spans without any events.
Like any business, advertising and marketing plays a major role in it success, which is why Sway is always looking to add members to its promotion team. “We are always trying to reach larger markets and we do this by adding people to our promotion team,” said Johnson.
Though there are many people affiliated with Sway, not everyone walks away with a cash profit. “The people who put money into the party, they are Sway. Then there’s the promotion team, they get into our parties for free and also get to enjoy the camaraderie,” said Johnson.
As a part of the promotion team, Sway affiliates are expected to tweet, text, and draw patrons to Sway parties through word of mouth. “Promoting our parties is really just common sense,” said Johnson. “We all have Twitter. We all have Facebook. We all have friends. That’s how we promote our events.”
Some social media users don’t particularly care for the online promotion tactics of Sway and other party promoters. Christian Faucette, a junior majoring in International Studies said, “I am annoyed by party promoters all the time because nine times out of ten I’m not going to the parties. I am mostly annoyed by party promoters because if people want to go to a party, they already know about it.”
“We try not to [spam users] but at times we can be overzealous,” said Johnson. “If we do notice a promoter getting caught up, we’ll text him and be like ‘you’re doing too much.”
Admittedly overzealous, the members of Sway Entertainment are professionals on the nights of their parties as it is very important to them that they do not mix business with pleasure. “Regardless of age, we have a no drinking policy for Sway members at our parties,” said Johnson. “We might dance once or twice, but we’re not out turning up. If anything, we’re up walking around making sure there are no issues at the door.”
Though many attempt to discredit the viability and lucrativeness of the party promoting business, Johnson is quick to support that it is. “People look at it as just hanging out but, it’s a job. The same way people go and work, we do too. There are plenty of times that I have had to come back in town because we are having a party. It’s a good job, but it’s still a job.”
senior set to graduate in May, Johnson first began leisurely hosting parties during his freshman year, when he lived in University Towers, with roommates John “Jay”