If you know me, or know about me, you probably are aware that my next self-produced cabaret, "Duet" is on my birthday, THIS SATURDAY, April 15th, 2017 at 7:30pm. That's right, I'm celebrating another year of birth by doing what I love with a stage full of some of my closest friends. If you're free this Saturday night, come by The Stage @KHDX, across the street from Fox Theatre. Tickets are $20/piece or $40 for a ticket and concert tee package. Join us as we take the stage for a pop show you won't forget!
You also may wonder if I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off getting ready for the show in two short days, and the answer to that is a resounding YES! Being an independent musician can be a hugely fulfilling and rewarding job. The feeling of post-show- or even mid-show- elation I've felt rivals even the most passionate love affair. Yes, sometimes it's really great. However, other times it can be terrifying, stressful, and leave you sweating bullets over things like event marketing, rehearsal time, finding musicians, and much more.
Can't make it to the show? Don't worry! We're streaming the entire thing LIVE on Instagram! Tune in at 7:30pm this Saturday, April 15th and enjoy the performance from the comfort of your own home. Why not go the extra mile and rock an Official Emily Johnson Concert tee with your pajamas? Order yours today by clicking SHOP in the menu above.
Ticket sales - or the lack thereof - can be a huge source of pre-show anxiety for independent musicians. You are responsible for all aspects of production--from marketing and ticket sales to the performance itself (including hiring musicians, buying sheet music, scheduling rehearsal time, etc). Although the list of hats you wear can become overwhelming, there are a plethora of opportunities out there for local musicians marketing their own shows. Below are 21 useful tips for increasing ticket sales as an independent musician. I've used them all when promoting my own shows, and I hope you find them as useful as I have.
Do you have an idea for increasing ticket sales that you don't see included? Leave me a comment!
- Get a killer gig poster. Please guys, don't just slap together something in paint. A cheesy and/or low quality gig poster will not sell tickets. In fact, it will do the opposite. I used to bartend for a seedy music venue in college which shall remain nameless, but in which I learned many of life's lessons. That's a topic for another day, but the point is, the bands would come and go, bringing with them every variety of gig poster: the good and the ugly. In general, the nicer the gig poster the more professional the musicians. Think about that. Present your show as professional and put some thought in to the content, style, etc. of your gig poster. It should be designed in high-resolution, include all of the important details of your show, be eye catching enough to stand out in a crowd, and evoke the feeling or style of the show.
PRO-TIP: Optimize your poster for both online and print! My "Duet" gig poster was designed by talented Saint Louis graphic designer and illustrator, Parker Gibson, in both Instagram square crop and 11x17.
- Mass Blanketing. Now that you've got that beautiful gig poster, get them mass printed in low resolution. (Click here for an example!) These are not the copies you want to spend a bunch of money on because it's likely many of them will be tossed in the trash. Sad, but true. The goal is to reach folks on the street, make connections in person, and spark interest in your show! Go to a busy area on a Friday or Saturday (day or evening) and pass out flyers to promote your event. Put them on cars, hand them to strangers, etc. Make sure you check the laws in your area for where you are allowed to post material.
PRO-TIP: Printing can get expensive so do a little homework on the local print shops in your area. Here in Saint Louis, my go-to print shop is The Ink Spot on Hampton. They do high quality work and are consistently dramatically less expensive than some of the other print shops like Fed-ex, UPS, etc. Check out their website here!
- Handbills, bills, bills, bills. This time get those beautiful gig posters printed in high resolution on card stock hand bills (Click here for an example!). These are for the people that are connected to you (or your show) in some way or to place on "show information" tables and the like. Many businesses will have a table or counter to place local artists' information; add yours to the mix!
- The classic 11x17. These are larger copies of your gorgeous poster, printed in high resolution. (Click here for an example!) Think of these as the billboards you want plastered across your city. It should be eye-catching enough to stand out on a cluttered bulletin board, easy to read, and point the viewer to where they can find more information- be sure to include your website and/or ticketing website. Hit the streets to hang them in every store front that will let you.
PRO-TIP: Carry push-pins and tape with you when you're visiting businesses--often they won't have these and/or it will be inconvenient for them to stop what they're doing to assist you. Make it easy on them and you and be prepared to slap it up right away!
PRO-TIP: Save a couple of these 11x17 posters, sign them with a nice permanent marker, and frame them. Give them away as door prizes at your show! You can even require those entering to supply their email address for your newsletter!
- Radio. Look into what radio stations give local musicians promotional opportunities and/or chances to play and/or be interviewed on air. Visit their websites, find what shows/hosts work with local talent, and submit your concert to their monthly calendars. Don't see anything helpful? You can usually find a contact email for the network and/or the emails for specific hosts or radio shows. Don't be afraid to ask what opportunities are available directly!
PRO-TIP: Compose a well written form letter that introduces you and your music, as well as inquires about general publicity opportunities for local musicians and performers. You'll be sending out multiple versions of this letter to different media outlets, so it helps to have it somewhere that you can easily copy/paste into your email. Look at an example here!
PRO-TIP: Write a press release! An effective press release notifies media outlets of important show details, increases hype around your show, and communicates to the reader your work is professional. When reaching out to local media outlets, include this press release and a digital copy of your gig poster along with the introductory letter you put together above. View press release for "Duet" here!
- TV. Find local TV shows/stations that spotlight your area's businesses and their services. Often, major metropolitan areas will have local daytime TV shows dedicated to highlighting noteworthy happenings in the city. Find them, visit their websites, and submit your event to any monthly calendars. Again, you can usually find a contact email for the network and/or emails for specific hosts or shows. Compose a well written email asking if there are any opportunities for you as a local musician and performer!
- Podcasts. Finding podcast promotional opportunities is very similar to the steps I mention above for radio and TV. Podcasts are a new medium to many, and exist at all levels of listener-ship (is that a thing)? Find podcasters in your area that comment on local businesses, events, and people. Search for local podcasts on iTunes and Google, visit their websites, and record contact emails. Pull out that well written email, and introduce yourself, your music, and your upcoming concert! Inquire about interviews, live sessions, etc.
- Bloggers. As a blogger myself, I can tell you that they are always looking for new content. Find local lifestyle, music, and/or art bloggers, and contact them about collaborating. Collaborations can take many forms: social media account takeovers, guest posts, interviews, and more. Bloggers are a hugely un-tapped resource for local musicians, despite how valuable their influence can be. They often have a large and engaged readership open to new ideas. - reach out and you just might get exposure to an entirely new audience!
PRO- TIP: You'll want to make sure you're reaching out to established bloggers with regular readership, otherwise your efforts will not be worthwhile. A great indicator of an authentic following is by looking at his/her social media accounts. Check out their Facebook and/or Instagram profile. Are they active? Do their followers engage with their content? If the answer is yes, contact this blogger!
- Newspapers/Print articles. Again, find publications that highlight local events and/or performers. Likely, there will be 1-3 people assigned to covering arts and entertainment, so spend some time determining who these folks are and finding their emails. Contact them directly about opportunities for local talent.
- Social Media Post. This is fairly self-explanatory, but use your existing social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.) to plug your show often! Whether you have 200 or 2,000 followers, reach those who already keep up with you by posting regularly about the show and it's progress.
PRO- TIP: Focus on high-quality content to draw the most attention and engagement. Take pictures and videos of your rehearsals, distributing gig posters, promoting the show, performing, etc. People love getting a glimpse behind the scenes, and it also demonstrates that you're motivated and excited about the show. See some examples on my Instagram feed!
- Call to Action or Create a Button. Effective call to action prompts are studied by even the wisest social media gurus, and can exist on multiple online platforms. However, in this case, I'm referring to the Create a Button Function available on Facebook Business Profiles, which is basically a step-by-step guide in creating your own Call to Action prompt. (Click here for a map of where to find it!) This strategy allows you to prompt your followers to perform a specific action, such as clicking a link, to help support your cause. In order to attract more clicks, you'll want to create some sort of reward for the person clicking your CTA. Facebook sets this up for you perfectly, requiring you to direct users to a specific site. For musicians, say, you could create a "See Me In Action!" button that could lead users to a special performance video. Your CTA prompt should be eye catching, concise, and convey a level of immediacy and/or importance.
- Giveaways. People love free things. It doesn't matter if it's a pair of tickets, a t-shirt, signed gig poster, or sticker. To increase hype around your show host a giveaway of some sort. To enter, you can require folks to share the post, tag a friend, sign up for your newsletter, follow your social media accounts, and more. In all cases, limit entry requirements to 2-3 actions only. Your audience will not want to participate if your giveaway requires too much time!
PRO- TIP: Tailor your giveaway to best suit the social media platform you're using. Facebook is best for requesting re-shares, while tagging friends seems to be more effective on Instagram. Play with strategies and see what works best for you!
- Chalk it up. Fair weathered, folks? Buy chalk and visit an area in your city that has a bunch of foot traffic: universities, shopping and entertainment districts, popular parks, etc. Get artistic while promoting your show! Include all the basic information about your concert and/or where they can find more information. Make sure the link you include is short and/or very easy to remember and recall.
PRO-TIP: Do you know an artist? Call in a favor and get them to create a special chalk creation that helps promote your show. The more attention you can draw the better!
- Perform on the streets. If the weather is nice, hit the streets to promote your show! Find the areas in your city with high foot traffic, especially those welcoming to the arts community. Grab those inexpensively printed gig posters for mass blanketing, and hand out show information while you're serenading those passing by. The first time I did this I was slightly terrified--it's natural to have some apprehension when performing for strangers. After the first song or two, you realize that only half of them are listening anyway--which makes it perfect for hiding mistakes. A blessing and curse!
PRO-TIP: Don't be offended if somebody does not want your gig flyer and/or you find that some flyers have been thrown away. That's why you had them printed inexpensively to begin with! The only way to reach the people who may be interested is to cast your net widely; don't worry, some of them will keep it!
- Open mics. Often promoting your show means finding as many performance opportunities leading up to the gig as possible to spark interest in your talent/skill. Search for open mic nights in your area, sign up to perform, and come prepared with your gig information to distribute to the audience. People who attend open mics generally have this in common with you: they enjoy live music! Network with other local musicians and lovers of music, while aiming to generate a bump in your ticket sales.
PRO-TIP: Every performance is another opportunity to market yourself, your music, and your show. Look for free performance opportunities leading up to your event to demonstrate your skill to an expanded audience--including your other gigs, national anthem opportunities, open mics, and more.
- Supporting other musicians. An important step in becoming established in your local arts community is by supporting the other artists in your area. By being supportive of other artists and their events, they will naturally feel more inclined to support yours. Don't think of this as attending a show and expecting something in return--it's possible the musician you're seeing will not attend your event, and that's totally fine. However, being active in the arts community shows that you value others' art and allows you to see and network with others who do the same.
PRO-TIP: Bring some handbills for your show in case somebody asks about your next project! This is not the opportunity to walk around to every table and hand out your show information. This is somebody else's show, after all. Instead, quietly pass off your gig poster should somebody ask about your next gig.
- Live streaming rehearsals. A great way to promote your show is by streaming portions of your rehearsals live. Host a giveaway in connection with the live-stream and/or announce ahead of time to catch the maximum number of tune-ins. Give your audience a sneak peek of all your hard work!
PRO-TIP: Live stream a mini-concert to help promote your next show! Create another opportunity for folks to see you in action while hyping up your next show at the same time. Announce the date/time ahead of time to give your audience plenty of time to get it on their calendar. This is also a great opportunity for out-of-towners to tune in and watch!
- Reaching out personally. Reach out personally to your friends, family, and acquaintances that may need an extra push in the direction of the box office. Sometimes a personal note saying that you'd love for him/her to check out your show is all you need to sell another ticket. Perhaps you weren't able to get a copy of the gig poster in somebody's hands? This is your opportunity to reach those people that may still be on the fence!
- Ticket Discounts. Trying to boost last minute ticket sales? One strategy is to lower the ticket price- through discount codes, BOGO (buy one, get one) offers, etc.- to make the event more affordable for your audience. Be careful when offering discounts, however, as this will cut into your profit margin. Before lowering the ticket price, ensure you will be able to cover your costs despite the potential reduction in profit.
- Square Card Reader. It's 2017. Chances are you don't regularly carry cash, and neither will the folks your selling tickets to. I can't tell you how many times I've been chatting with somebody about tickets, only for them to exclaim, "I wish I had cash on me!" Be prepared, folks. Sometimes this is a legitimate excuse, while others use it to get out of buying a ticket. Sign up for a free credit card reader from Squareup.com, and you'll quickly figure out which case you're dealing with. They do charge a 3% fee per transaction. Find out more at www.squareup.com
- Sell concert merch. While not exactly related to increasing ticket sales, selling concert merch is a way to increase overall sales (and thus, profit). The possibilities are endless, but ideas include stickers, pins, t-shirts, apparel, and more.
PRO-TIP: Check out StickerMule.com for affordable custom stickers. I've used them in the past and have been very happy with both the price and quality of product. They are definitely on my 'go-to' vendor list for my sticker merch!