There's no use putting on a show if there isn't anybody there to watch you play. A simple status update on Facebook or Twitter isn't enough to draw in the crowds, neither is having your gig dates displayed on the event organizer's website. Neither of these will help you sell out a show.
The truth is, venues usually don't promote every show they have lined up. The reason? Simply because they have too many going on. In fact, they expect promoters and the bands they book to bring their own crowds to the venue. This means if you want a good sized audience at your next gig, you need to work for it.
With that in mind, let's look at how you can sell out your next gig in 10 steps!
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1. Don't Gig Too Much
One thing you'll want to avoid is playing the same areas too often. If you play the same venue every week, what's going to make people come down? They know they can see you any time, so they're a lot less likely to get excited about it and show up.
So how often should you be playing each area? I suggest around every four to six months nationally, and six to twelve weeks locally. This'll give people time to get excited about seeing you next. We talk more about not gigging too much in this guide.
2. Hire A Street Team To Promote Your Show
You may have heard the saying ‘more hands make lighter work', and this really is the case here. If you have five or more people promoting your gigs, you'll get the word out there a lot more than if you was to do all the promotion yourself.
Whenever I had a big gig going on, I'd get fans to put up posters, hand out flyers, and generally let people know about the gig. In exchange, not only would I get them into the gig free (and allow them backstage), I'd also take them out for something to eat or a warm drink on those cold nights flyering.
The great thing was that these street teams were loyal, so they'd have no problem taking some flyers and giving them out in their place of study, their work, or wherever they had access to. The more targeted promotion that you do, the more likely you'll sell out your show.
3. Create A Promotional Video
A good idea is to create a video specifically to promote that show. In it you can include clips of music videos from other people also playing the gig, and get them to promote it as well when complete.
You want to make this video of a high quality, and make it look like something worth attending. If you or the other musicians don't have good quality videos already out there, you may instead want to make a picture video syncing with some of your audio. This can also do the job reasonably well.
4. Give Your Gig A Name
Ok, so here's a big tip. Instead of having it just another gig with a few acts playing the stage, you'll want to give your gig a name. This not only makes it easier to promote and stay in people's mind's, but it also changes people's impression about the night. It'll appear more as an event, rather than just a random show a few people have put on. This is what you want.
You can then turn that event into a brand you become known for, and over time build up a loyal following who comes out to each of these events.
5. Make A Poster And Other Promotional Material
Posters can be a great way to get the word out there about your event, so you should get one made up. Editor's note, you can find some good quality designers for a reasonable price on Odesk. If you have the budget, you can print up some of these posters, get the other acts playing on the night to sign them, then give them away as prizes for people who perform certain actions. For example, signing up to your mailing list.
As well as putting these posters up in places you target audience will be, you should also have a digital version which you can share on people's Facebook pages, put them on t-shirts, share on Instagram and the like. The more places you share it around, the more likely people will see it. And if they see it, there's a chance they'll take notice and come to your show.
6. Don't Only Sell Tickets At The Door
Not selling tickets in advance is a big mistake. Think about it, when was the last time you bought an advance ticket then didn't show up? It's not a very common occurrence is it? On the other hand, I'm sure you've planned to go to another gig, yet pulled out last minute simply because you wasn't feeling 100% in the mood. If you had bought that ticket in advance though, chances are you would have gone!
So sell advance tickets, and increase the chances that you'll get more people turning up on the day.
7. Have Competitions
Run various contests for promo efforts and advance ticket purchases. For one show, I gave out to advance ticket holders goodie bags containing a poster, stickers and other random fun nick-nacks from each band. It might be good to give the bags out after the show, though, as people are leaving – biggest complaint was that they had to hold onto the bag the entire night. Also, run contests on Facebook or Twitter to encourage people to share the Show Video and Show Poster. On the Facebook Event you can explain the contest like “Share this Event (or Video) on your Timeline, invite all your friends to this Event and then write MISSION ACCOMPLISHED on this Event's wall. Everyone who does this will be thrown into a drawing to win a Tshirt and Poster at the show.” Then on stage at the show announce the winner.
8. Include Other Buzzing Bands
Maybe you got 50 people out to your last show, Pink Shoes got 30 to their last show, White Grey got 70 and Tombcat got 25. If there's no overlap, that's 175 that will most likely get out to this show (because it's an Event). Those in the local music scene will also love to see 4 buzzing bands on one bill together. Get together bands who are good and buzzing. If they aren't buzzing yet, well, get bands who are hard working and who will work just as hard as you on promo. Don't bring on a band unless they are willing to follow the promo necessities.
9. Contact Local Media
Because this show is now an Event, you have the ammunition to get local media's attention. If none of the bands could get more than just a mention in your local newspaper, bringing them together for this talked about event will get the paper to write about it.
10. Get a Sponsor
Find a local company, brand, newspaper or radio station that will get behind the event. This is a partnership for the evening. What the Sponsor gets is being associated with a hot event and getting included in all promo and in return, what you get can be anything from airtime, ad space in the newspaper, a write up on their (high traffic) website, alcohol, cash, printing and on and on. The best show-specific partnership deals with trades, not cash. We got a wine company to sponsor the Unknown Order show and they printed all of the full-color posters (some 400 to be put up around the city), donated a case of wine per band (which was nearly finished during the show – glad I didn't perform last!), an ad in the weekly variety newspaper, some air time and other promo. This show sold out 10 minutes after the doors opened with 200 people turned away.
Once you sell out an established, well-respected venue in your hometown, everyone will start to take notice. Then, take your enterprise on the road!
Have you had success with your shows? Any unique promo techniques you've used? What worked and what didn't? Share them in the comments!