Draw. Draw is the magic word. When you’re booking shows, most venues want to know how much draw you have. Your draw is your ace card when it comes to negotiating with venues. It can also be used as leverage to get better deals and better accommodations. With a good draw you can get the shows you want, when you want them and how you want them.
A good draw is based on a combination of a solid fan base and very good marketing. Sometimes, even when you don’t have a solid fan base, you can still get a good draw if your marketing is effective. I have personally drawn 20+ in first time cities using the methods I am about to share.
In this post, I will focus mainly on the marketing and promotions side of things. So, here is my list of 15 promotion tactics to get people out to your show:
This should be your very first line of action when promoting a show. This is free marketing. All you have to do is type in the details and click send. It’s one of the easiest and simplest things you can do. If I plan it out well in advance, I try to send two e-mails, one three weeks in advance of the show date sharing the information and why they should come, and the second e-mail a few days before the event sharing even more incentives on why they should come.
2. A physical mailing list.
This idea is a bit out of the ordinary when it comes to independent artists. We don’t seem to use this option much, and since that’s the case it would be a great way to stand out. This idea can be a bit costly, but you can use the list more than once and you can print and send as many as you want based on how many names you purchased. I like to use InfoUSA to get my lists. The last time I did this, the total cost was $150. Two-thirds of that was for the purchase of the list. Remember, once you buy the list, it’s yours and can be used multiple times. Create some postcards promoting your show, get them printed, and mail them off. The printing and mailing cost me $50, but it could have been cheaper if I had given myself enough lead time to get it done. (Printing can be cheaper if you have the time to get quotes and can afford to wait on longer economy production times.)
3. Ask Super Fans to invite their friends.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We have not because we ask not.
4. Try Bring-A-Friend or Group incentives.
This works well if you’re selling tickets to your show. Incentivize people who are planning on coming to bring a buddy along with them by offering discounted tickets to groups of two or more. It’s a win-win for you and them. They get discounts and you get more tickets sold and more seats filled.
5. Post your events on online calendars.
In any given city, there are usually several online calendars that allow you to post your events for free. Don’t forget to do this. People are constantly looking for things to do and they typically go to online calendars to help them make their choice.
6. Place promo CDs at the venue.
Do you have any sample CDs that you use for giveaways? These would be a great way to promote an upcoming show. See if you can set up a small display of about 20 CDs at the venue where you will be performing. Set these out a couple weeks in advance of your show. Make sure to attach a flyer to the CDs featuring an attractive image of you, an intriguing description of your music, and the details of the show. Also add a sticker saying, “FREE CD.” They will move like hotcakes.
7. Record a YouTube video message/commercial.
This can be a slide show, lyric video, or a recording of you giving a personal message about the show, or a combination of all three. Be sure to include photos and snippets of live performances. It also helps to have people giving live testimonials of what it’s like to see you perform. Don’t forget to add a link for more information in the video as well as in the description box. Make the video high energy and up-beat. Post this on your channel, your other social media sites, in your e-mails and everywhere you can think of. Also, if you have the budget, you may be able to activate a small ad campaign on YouTube targeting people in your area. Be very selective by choosing audiences with the same interests as those in your target market.
8. Make it an event. Give them a reason to come.
This one will need a little creativity. These days, people are bombarded with invites to shows especially on social media. The sheer volume of invites becomes overwhelming and your show is just another one in a long list of them. The best thing you can do is make your event stand out by doing something different. Make your show not just a show, but an event that people will want to come to. Some ideas would be an Amy Winehouse Tribute, where you do mostly songs by Amy Winehouse, an Album Release, a clothing swap show, a Halloween Show, a Benefit Show, or a Pink Sweater Showdown. If you have songs related to a certain theme like “ghosts” for instance, you can invite all the local paranormal, metaphysical, medium, ghost interest groups to join you in celebrating ghosts. The possibilities are endless.
9. Advertising on Facebook.
Boost your posts about your show specifically to the people located in that city. Also, you can create an ad campaign targeting the location, age demographics, as well as special interests. Have Facebook serve your ads to your specific target market. Write compelling text and add attractive photos of you or your band. Use the ad to drive hits to a special landing page you created on your website specifically about the show (more on this below). You can spend as little as $10 or as much as $50. The amount of money you set for your budget directly relates to the amount of people you reach.
10. Do some street team activities.
Find out if there is a similar act coming to your city a couple weeks in advance of your show. Hang out on the street before and/or after their show and hand out your flyers or promo CDs inviting people to your show.
11. Set up a committee.
If you have supportive family, friends, or super fans in the area your show will be, organize a few of them into a committee. Pick them wisely. Not everyone can be on this committee because they will need to have a wide network of people, be tech savvy, and willing to volunteer simply because they support you. Also, the people you select need to have different sets of friends so that they won’t be tapping into the same pool when they do their promoting. Tell them how many people you need to come to the show in order for it to be successful. Give them perks for being on the committee such as free tickets, merchandise, free lunch, etc. Give them jobs to do such as personally inviting 10 (or more) people to the Facebook event. Have them send an e-mail invitation with the show flyer to 20 of their friends. Have them sell tickets for you. Have them share your post statuses regarding the show on their social media sites. Give them flyers to hand out at their jobs. The key is getting them to take ownership of the project so that they will help promote the show with enthusiasm.
12. Book an opening act.
See if you can find an opening act that would be a good fit for your music and that would help bring in people. They must already have a significant amount of fans in order for this to work. Think outside the box and consider acts that are not musical such as magicians, poets, and comedians.
13. Get media attention and generate buzz.
Write a press release and send it to the media. This would need to be done three months in advance for print and 1-2 months in advance for online media. See if you can get an interview on online radio or college radio stations. Maybe you can incorporate a contest with free tickets or VIP access to the show. If you don’t have media contacts and are not big enough to engage the media angle, think about what kind of organic buzz you can generate. Can you run a special contest on your social media pages? What about hosting a city-wide survey on some controversial topic and announcing the results on stage?
14. See if the venue will let you sponsor novelty items with your message.
Depending on the venue, you may be able to place novelty items there to help promote your show. For example, if your show is at a coffee shop, one idea is to print up some customized coffee sleeves with your picture or name and an invitation to the show. Some other ideas are napkins, koozies, matches and coasters. The napkin below cost as little as $30 for 100.
15. Create a landing page just for the event on your website.
Every where you promote the show online, add a link that takes them to your website. Create a special landing page for the show where you include your YouTube commercial, other (great) live footage videos, extra details about the show and any other goodies you can think of. Also include some type of email capture mechanism. You can say something like, “Let us know you’re coming, and we’ll send you a FREE GIFT.” Have them give you their e-mail address. That way even if they don’t come, you at least have their e-mail address for your list. Having a special landing page is important because it gives you control over the information you share, you have the ability to capture names and e-mails, plus (with google analytics) it can give you insights to how well your marketing efforts are doing.
16. Bonus: Invite Meet-up Groups
What are your interests? Have you written songs about them? Find out if there are meet-up groups who also have the same interests. Meet-up.com has thousands of groups featuring meet-ups with every interest known to man. Use the search feature on their website to search for groups with a specific topic. In tip #8, I mentioned this in brief but I really want to expound on utilizing Meet-up.com as a promotional resource. I personally use this as a way to promote my shows and it works very well. It helps if you can find a common ground with the group and pitch your event with a special invitation to each specific group.
The best part about promoting a show is that the promotion activities you do are great advertising and exposure for future ventures. The people who who see your posters, get your mailings or see your YouTube commercials may not all come to your show, but you have touched them all with your brand and message. The next time they see your marketing, they will recognize your name. That’s how marketing works, it’s all in the repetition. That’s why we see the same commercial over and over again. Repetition.
I have utilized a variation of every last one of these ideas as part of my marketing mix when promoting shows and it works. If you haven’t tried some of these yet, give it a try when you promote your next show and see how it works.