For Independent Venues: How to Market Your Live Music Event (Part 1 of 4)
You’ve put all this work into creating live music to draw an audience and…crickets. You barely break even. Maybe it’s a Tuesday, maybe it’s raining, but the expense of the band is NOT paying off tonight.
First, make sure that you’re covering the basics. You’d be surprised (and if you’re not surprised, at least know that you’re not alone) how many Venues don’t use the basic email list they have to promote shows. Why? Well…they’re busy, and each tool has a learning curve.
PREP 1: The first step is always the hardest > MAKE TIME
We often overlook or simply don’t make time for the most important part: clearing the time to DO only marketing. When there’s something big, requiring extra thought I suddenly become very important and needed by others. There’s a saying I come back to when I’m feeling intimidated or using every excuse to procrastinate: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
You have my personal guarantee that if you set aside 2 hours per week to do these 4 simple steps, you will start to see movement. However, there are rules to my guarantee… You must:
- Actually block the time off of your calendar
- Turn off all notifications, and silence your phone.
- Close your door to prevent family distractions.
The business can lose you for 2 hours once a week without total collapse. Make this time sacred, make it a practice, and make it known to your team.
Now block off your calendar (that’s right, open it up right now and just. do. it.), set a timer, and let’s go.
PREP 2: Time for a new goal
As they say, if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
You only need to do this once for the next several months. It doesn’t have to be complicated, you don’t need spreadsheet; a simple sticky note on your wall will do. Write down how many tickets and/or sales you do in a week currently, increase it by a realistic amount. All done. Do not hide your goal!! Put it as the screensaver on your phone, post it on the wall, share it with colleagues, your spouse, or whoever will hold you accountable if it’s missed.
PREP 3: Identify your audience
Answer these questions about your best customers, and write the first thing that comes to mind (don’t over-think it). Resist the temptation to say, “I don’t know, they’re all different!” If you find yourself saying this, don’t think of everyone – instead think of 5 regulars who love your place and didn’t start as friends, then generalize. This will help shape your efforts in the marketing steps.
- How old are they?
- What do they like to do in their free time
- What kind of jobs do they have?
- Do they use social media? Which platforms?
- How often do they use social media? How often do they check their email?
- Do they text a lot on their phones?
**These may seem simple (that’s the point!) but most Venues don’t do ALL of these things all of the time.
Make the switch to regularly doing steps 1-4 and you will see more people coming, greater profits, and more loyalty…which means marketing will get easier and easier.
STEP 1. Create a theme, be specific
20 min to flesh out of 2 themes
Whether you have shows 5 nights a week, or just one, there will be days where the talent’s name will not bring in the audience. Instead, you need to create an EXPERIENCE.
Create a specific theme, and help the audience imagine themselves there. Imagery will help them savor the taste of the drink, feel the relaxation of the music, or engage in the learning of a new skill. Here’s how one drag show mastered this, and during a pandemic, no less. They took their regular drag show, broke it into sections, and taught guests how to make Portuguese Sangria in between, and promoted it on Airbnb Experiences (Not just Sangria, “Portuguese” Sangria, making it more special). They enhanced the experience even further for (online) guests by having everyone do an icebreaker and get them talking to start. For my 5th wedding anniversary, 2 days after the end of lockdown, I invited friends over and we laughed and mixed and danced as we watched online together. People still talk about it today, 2 years later.
Old or young, today’s audience love a ‘how to.’ Remember, that these specific events are perfect to add on prepaid, or higher tiered, tickets. And you can reuse ideas (not weekly! Please!), saying “back by popular demand.”
30 special event ideas
STEP 2. Use canva to create enticing graphics.
Don’t underestimate the power of good graphics to drive interest, connect with your audience, and get them to actually show up. Remember, unless you have a talent-driven event (and even still…) people are coming to your venue for an experience. The BEST way for them to imagine how that experience will feel is by the graphics you create. To start choose 1 event, and create 2-3 graphics (you can reuse them in the future). Don’t try to create something on your own, just don’t. Use the free canva account, and customize one of their 155,000 templates.
4 Best Canva templates for Bars, Restaurants, Cafes
Canva Template Retro – Go beyond binging Netflix on the couch and promise a better date night with a wine tasting. Change title from Wine fair to “Date Night.” Possible post: “What’s better: bingeing adventure and romance on Netflix on your couch, or treating your other half to a proper date night? You decide.”
Canva Template Travel – The facts of the pandemic and travel limitations means people are aching to be transported. Take them to Italy or South Africa or New Zealand by highlighting the 5 best wines from that region. Don’t have an expert? Contact your wine distributer and ask if they’ll join? Possible post: “You deserve a trip to Italy after these last two years. Come to our Venue instead, and be transported with the 5 best Italian wines of Umbria.”
Canva Template Pets – After 2 years of staying at home, people are closer than ever to their pets (although, it’s debatable if they still want to look at their spouse). Engage customers and their pets if you have outdoor space with a pet show, or doggie dress up day. Possible post: “Your fur baby has gotten you through the hard times. Reward them with a day out, human style. Come to our Venue on Saturday with your Dog dressed to the nines. We’ll have a special treat for the winner.”
Canva Template Whiskey – Go for sulky, moody, whiskey-driven chic by hosting a learning event on the finer points of Scotch vs. Whiskey. Don’t have an expert?? Ask one of your favorite, whiskey-obsessed customers, and treat them to a night of free drinks. Possible post: Is your palette an expert? Every palette can be trained. Come to our Venue on Tuesday and no one will ever know the difference.”
STEP 3. Amp Up your social media posts
You’re probably already posting regularly. However, if you are not paying for ads (with targeted audiences), and posting more than one time per event, then it’s probably not working, and is draining your time as well.
Don’t try to do this manually every time…set it and forget it by scheduling posts. Create 5-10 posts for the whole month at one time and schedule them. This will save you an enormous amount of time. (more to come on ads)
Here’s a simple 3 step process to do that, or you can watch a 40 sec how to video.
- Create a FB event so people can share with their friends that they’re going. If you have a ticket price, I highly recommend Eventbrite because not only can you pass the service fee on to the customer, they have a suite of free tools that allow you to easily create a FB event at the click of a button.
- Boost your event on Facebook. We recommend doing ads or boosting your post once a week. But make sure you target your geographic location and audience demographics. Here’s a quick tutorial
STEP 4. Regularly use & grow your email list
45 min to create and schedule emails
Venues often forget this step in favor of making a quick and dirty post to their social.
However, Facebook algorithms change without warning making it harder and harder for you to access the audience you built unless you pay for advertising. Drive signups to your list from people who love your place by doing in-store promotions. I.e.: Announce 50% off drinks for the next hour for anyone that signs up on your email (or text) list.
Start with an email every 2 weeks with upcoming event highlights or specials, then move to every 1 week after you test out the response. Use mail chimp (free tool which also integrates with Eventbrite). Use their templates to continue the clean and engaging look of your canva graphics.