Apr. 25, 2018
Written by Bill Leigh and originally published on the Eventbrite blog
Christian music promoters have a very niche audience. Historically, the best ways to reach that audience were equally niche. But the most effective ways to market to Christian music fans are changing quickly.
To stay on top of the latest Christian music marketing trends, we turned to three expert faith-based music promoters:
Kevin Newton of Unity Christian Events, which produces the annual outdoor Unity Christian Music Festival in Muskegon, Michigan, along with regional events throughout the year.
Greg Carnes of San Antonio, Texas-based Live Show Events, a national Christian music promoter with a regional focus around the Gulf States and Oklahoma. Live Show Events also produces shows under the nonprofit entity Texas Arms of Love.
Jacob Reiser of Rush Concerts, a national promoter of faith-based music events located outside of Columbus, Ohio.
All three promoters produce shows in venues ranging from 2000-seat churches to clubs, arenas, and amphitheaters, working with top Christian bands like Mercy Me, Casting Crowns, For King & Country, and Skillet.
Here are the two new rules of Christian music promotion that these experts identified as shaping the future of the industry.
1. Modernize your approach to niche marketing
In the past, Christian music promoters relied mostly on radio to reach their niche audience. “We’ve always done radio,” says Kevin Newton of Unity Christian Events. “Radio, email, and online marketing are the core of what we do.”
Radio has been so prominent in the space because it speaks directly to the Christian music fanbase. It’s a clear fit: “People who listen to Christian radio obviously love Christian music,” says Rush Concerts’ Jacob Reiser.
But Christian radio’s dominance is coming to an end.
“We see better results from social ads right now,” says Greg Carnes. “I hate spending money on radio — we have to — but I don’t know if it has the same effect. Everybody’s staring at their phones all day.”
Carnes predicts that a major faith-based artist will tour without any radio or TV ads within the next two years. Instead, artists will turn to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
“Social media has just made it so much easier to advertise,” Reiser says. Reiser has used advanced targeting on social media to reach his niche audience in new ways.
“We can pinpoint the audience. We use geofencing to target large churches, shopping malls, and theaters, so when people are there they see our Facebook ads on their phones.” Reiser also uses ticketing data to target previous attendees with social media ads for future shows.
2. If you can’t beat your competition — join them
In a niche market, your competitors are all fighting for the same fans’ attention, time, and dollars. These promoters suggest you either beat the competition — or join them.
Book talent early: In Christian music promotion, it’s not uncommon for your competition to book similar talent on nearby dates. “It’s not unusual to have three shows within a few weeks of each other,” says Kevin Newton.
To fight this, Unity Christian Events works hard to get their shows on the calendar first. “We try to book very early, and apply what we’ve learned over the years in terms of timing,” Newton says. “There’s no substitute for getting on people’s calendar early. You don’t want to be the last one announced.”
Find new audience segments to market to: “Our biggest opportunity is young adults — millennials and Generation Z,” says Newton. “It’s because of them that we’ve come back strong from the recession. They want to get out and be around other people to have a sense of community, plus they have a common bond: their shared faith.”
Live Show Events’ Greg Carnes sometimes co-produces events with Rush Concerts and occasionally co-promotes events with Premier Productions — both of which are also competitors.
“Churches used to buy group rate tickets to our shows, but Premier does some low-priced shows for $10 to $15,” Carnes says. “Why would a youth pastor want to buy bulk tickets to our shows when he can just put the kids in a van and go see one of these shows for $15 a pop?”
Instead of being threatened by national promoters, Carnes occasionally works with them to co-produce and market shows. That way, the companies aren’t competing over their shared audience. Instead, they’re sharing the audience — and bringing fans a better experience as a result.
What you can do now: Turn trends from the larger music industry into your competitive advantage. Find out how in 2018 Music Trends: The Top Predictions.