“You know that Disney thing where it all started with a mouse… well in this case, it all started with some rats. Honestly we just did one show at a time, and when the bands needed to play bigger places, well…we did them in bigger places. Then they needed to play in REALLY big places. So we did them in REALLY big places. And it just kind of unfolded like that. Never a plan.”
– Seth Hurwitz, chairman of I.M.P. and co-owner of the 9:30 Club
I.M.P. is an independent concert promotion and production company that puts on shows for 500 to 50,000 fans at a time. The company started small — small enough to fit into a kid’s bedroom.
As a kid, all Seth Hurwitz wanted to do was put on shows. He tried to produce a concert in junior high, but he was told he was too young. So he waited – but not for long. The first show he produced took place in his high school. Also while in high school he landed his dream job – DJ at the alternative radio station WHFS.
Though not especially interested in his grades, Seth struck up a friendship with one of his teachers, Rich Heinecke. Seth and Rich bonded over their shared love of music and decided to book shows wherever they could. Seth worked out of his bedroom in his parents’ home, and together with Rich, launched I.M.P.
After high school Seth landed a gig booking movies at D.C.’s Ontario Theatre in exchange for an exclusivity booking concerts at the venue. The first I.M.P. Presents show booked was The Cramps, May 29, 1980. The $7 ticket included the chance to see the D.C. premiere of “The Punk Rock Movie,” a film featuring Sex Pistols, Clash, and many others (The Cramps ended up canceling, but the show went on with Ted Rubinowitz replacing them on the bill).
The Fleshtones were the very first act I.M.P. booked at the 200-capacity 9:30 Club. That was in 1981, when the club was less than a year old and located at 9:30 F Street. After six years of booking there, Seth and Rich bought the beloved, yet financially bleeding club from its founders, Dody DiSanto and Jon Bowers. In 1996, I.M.P. moved the club to the 1200 capacity WUST Radio Music Hall, which was also a gospel radio station — and before that, a jazz club owned in part by Duke Ellington. Today this Washington, D.C. venue is the most attended club of its size in the world.
In the 36 years since I.M.P. opened its (bedroom) doors, it has presented more than 15,000 events, hosting millions of music fans. Some of the highlights include:
Lollapalooza – promoted every year it was a touring festival (1991 to 1996).
Merriweather Post Pavilion – took over operations and programming beginning 2004 and is ongoing today.
Virgin Festival – launched the U.S. festival, produced and promoted each year it existed (from 2006-2013).
Lincoln Theatre – began operating, programming and promoting starting 2013 and ongoing.
In addition, I.M.P. produces and promotes shows at other D.C.-area venues, including RFK Stadium, The Verizon Center, Echostage, Eagle Bank Arena, DAR Constitutional Hall, The National Mall, U Street Music Hall, the Music Center at Strathmore, and in Baltimore, The Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric and The Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.
Next up… A new 6000-capacity concert hall which will open at the southwest waterfront in Washington, D.C., in 2017 — and the dramatic renovation of Merriweather Post Pavilion.