158 November/December 2013 |
BETHESDA MAGAZINE interview
The first concert you wanted to promote was at Hoover
Middle School in Potomac, wasn’t it?
My junior high school principal wouldn’t let me do my
show. But he said, “You know, I think you’re going to
make a million dollars someday ’cause you’re so full of
shit.” I think it was meant in a good way…as a huckster,
a promoter in a pure sense. The P. T. Barnum sense. I am
not a liar and actually take a lot of pride in telling people
the truth, which does get me in trouble sometimes.
Were you in bands as a kid?
Just little nothing bands that played parties and things—
no real big ventures.
You sometimes get to play drums on stage with the
bands you book. That must be a perk to your job.
They so seldom let me. If I think I’m going to be
playing drums with someone soon, I start boning up. I
played ever since I was a kid. I love playing. If I’m able
to get someone to let me [play with them], that’s a pretty
How did you get into music promotion?
Well, my goal was to be a disc jockey, and I was a disc
jockey at WHFS when I was in high school. I hung around
the station and just figured out [how to do it]. They were
in this whole Robert Palmer/Little Feat groove. I was, too,
By Roger Catlin
LIVE from Bethesda
From a sharply modern but by no means ostentatious
home along a leafy suburban street in Bethesda, Seth Hurwitz
makes deals throughout the day, booking acts over the phone to
play the region’s most thriving venues—from D.C.’s famed 9: 30
Club, the most successful live music club of its size in the world,
to Merriweather Post Pavilion, The Music Center at Strathmore,
the U Street Music Hall, DAR Constitution Hall, the Patriot Center
and the Verizon Center. In the last 33 years, he has booked more
than 13,000 shows, according to his company, I.M.P., which takes
its name from the Lesley Gore song “It’s My Party.”
Since his earliest days booking acts while attending Winston
Churchill High School in Potomac and working as a teen DJ at
WHFS, Hurwitz has been up against an old boys’ club of con-
cert promotion now largely consolidated into the mammoth
Live Nation. He has battled the behemoth in court—taking on
its restrictive tour package policies as well as public funding for
its Fillmore franchise in Silver Spring. Mostly, though, he has bat-
tled the organization in the public arena by packing in audiences
nightly at Merriweather and the 9: 30 Club, recently named by
Rolling Stone as the No. 1 club in the nation after repeatedly win-
ning similar accolades from Billboard and Pollstar.
When the co-founder and CEO of I.M.P. isn’t on the phone, he
sometimes turns to a drum set next to his desk. Built like a football player at age 54, he has played on stage with the Foo Fighters and other groups.
On a recent Saturday morning, as his three college-age sons
head to Merriweather to work a show by the popular group fun.,
Hurwitz fields calls on a constantly ringing phone (including one
from Eagles manager Irving Azoff). In between, he talks with us
about the business, the music he has brought to the region and
the nature of success.