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Curtis Givens: Staying with ‘It’

Curtis Givens – president and CEO of CGI Entertainment – has been grinding in the promotions business since high school.
 Carlee McCullough

Curtis Givens – president and CEO of CGI Entertainment – has been grinding in the promotions business since high school. As the owner of Level II Nightclub and the Silver Spoon Restaurant, his promotions include clubs, restaurants, people and events.

Givens has his finger on the pulse of what the people want to experience at a party or event. From Puff Daddy to Lisa Raye, he manages to bring the most sought after celebrities to his affairs. But don’t think he is all party, because he is definitely taking care of business, employing more than 40 people, including DJs, bartenders, security, and waiters and waitresses.

This week, our series on “The art of being a promoter” features Givens who has shown that not only does he have staying power, he has that “it factor.”

Carlee McCullough: How did you get into the promoter arena?

 Curtis Givens

Curtis Givens: In 1996, during my 12th grade year in high school, I put together a house party because I wanted to get leather seats for my little white truck to go to the prom.

CM: Who were your biggest inspirations?

CG: Fred Jones in Memphis and Mark Barnes in DC.

CM: Can you give me the highlight of your career as a promoter?

CG: I have two highlights. The first was in 1999. I had a party at the Cook Convention Center on Good Friday with no radio promotions or advertisement. I only had word of mouth and over 2,500 people. Then in 2001 I brought Puff Daddy to town.

CM: Over the course of your career, can you tell us about some of your favorite shows you have promoted?

CG: Nelly, R. Kelly, the Puffy Party and the White and Black Party.

CM: What skills and attributes are necessary to be a successful promoter?

CG: You must have good social skills and learn to stay within your budget.

CM: Has the industry changed over the years? If so how?

CG: Drastically. You have a lot of different ways to promote a show such as social media. It used to be just radio and television. But now you have email, Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace.

CM: What are the positives and negatives of being a promoter?

CG: The positives would be having a successful event, which entails being profitable and having a happy customer with a smile on his or her face. The negative side is dealing with egos.

CM: What is the key to your success?

CG: My supporters have been standing with me since 1996. They are the fuel to the fire. They make me stay creative.

CM: What is the key to getting over lost business?

CG: You have to keep on going. Someone said, “The only time you fail is when you quit.” So we never quit.

CM: What is the biggest hurdle in landing new business?

CG: People may have heard something negative and we have to convince them otherwise.

CM: What has been the best advice you received along the way in growing your business?

CG: Stay humble and save your money.

CM: How can a young promoter finance their initial event?

CG: You have to be a hustler in a good way. I used to cut hair and cut grass to raise money. If you have to work 50 or 60 hours a week to make extra money that’s what you have to do. That is the only way unless someone is going to give you something.

CM: In addition to shows and the club, you promote the “Can I Live Weekend.” How did this event come about?

CG: I wanted to start another weekend similar to Fred’s Southern Heritage Classic but on a much smaller scale. I wanted to give the city of Memphis something to do for the summer.

CM: What’s next on the horizon?

CG: I have a record label called the CGI Music Group. I enjoy music so I started the label. I have two artists, OG Boo Dirty and King Astar. Being in the nightclub business, you fall in love with music and I also saw the amount that I pay the artists to come to the club. So I thought it would be another profitable business.

CM: How do you give back to the community?

CG: During the “Can I Live Weekend” we do a school supply drive, lock in, and a picnic.

CM: Any closing remarks?

CG: I want thank everyone for their continued support and invite them to come out to our events.

(For more information about Curtis Givens, visit www.cgientertainment.com or twitter/Curtis_givens.)

(Please send your questions to Carlee McCullough, Esq., Contract Compliance Officer, City of Memphis-Office of Contract Compliance, 125 N. Main St., Suite 546, Memphis, TN 38103 or e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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