Generating Hype: Strategies for Selling Out Shows

Bill Leigh

Oct. 22, 2018

By Chris Zaldua, originally published on the Eventbrite blog

Whether you’re throwing shows, booking festivals, or managing a venue, you have one primary goal: Sell out events as often, as quickly, and as easily as possible. Simple, right?

Not quite — selling out shows, festivals, and events is much more art than science. Sometimes, in fact, sold-out shows come as a surprise, mystifying their producers and leaving them wondering what they did right this time (and how to replicate that success for next time).

Selling out every event you produce is a statistical impossibility, but smart, strategic thinking and savvy marketing can help you land your target more often than not. Here are four considerations that will place you on the path towards those five magic words: This show is sold out.

1. Book the right talent — not always the most expensive talent

Without a doubt, the talent you book for any given show will have the most impact on the number of tickets sold. Naturally, talent with the greatest draw comes attached with the greatest fees — so unless you’re made of money (and if you’re in the music business, you’re probably not), booking triple-A talent regularly is not an option.

Maintaining talent spend at a reasonable level means being creative and keeping your ear to the ground. There are always new, buzzy artists bubbling up, no matter what genre of music you specialize in.

Keep tabs on relevant Spotify and Apple Music playlists, music magazines and blogs, and if you have the time and resources, social media discussion. Follow dedicated listeners, record labels, and music writers on Twitter, and find Facebook groups focused on the sounds you book. Here’s where you’ll find the most engaged, clued-in fans: listen to what they’re listening to!

Staying one step ahead of your crowd’s favorite (and/or most hyped) artists will keep your shows selling out.

2. Timing isn’t everything — but it’s a lot

Timing is the greatest X-factor for any show or event. The right timing can push a show towards sell-out status, even if the talent booked isn’t necessarily up to snuff. Similarly, bad timing can mean disaster for a show that would be a guaranteed success otherwise.

Unfortunately, timing is often out of promoters’ or producers’ hands. Lining up artist and venue calendars means available show windows tend to be frustratingly small.

The best way to make sure timing works for you, and not against you, is to know your local market and crowd inside and out. Be aware of local holidays. Know when they can help (a Monday off work means a crowd thirsty for a party on Sunday!) and when they can hinder. If everyone skips town for a local holiday — July 4th, for example — resist the urge to book big shows during that time, even if offered a deal on talent.

Make sure to keep close tabs on other venues’ calendars — if Artist X played a supporting slot at a competing venue three months ago, now is probably not the time for them to headline your own venue.

3. Have a marketing plan — and stick to it

Effective event marketing is, of course, a whole world unto itself. But if there’s one tip that will benefit event producers of any size, it’s this: Make a marketing plan — and stick to it.

A good marketing plan need not be complicated. All you need to get started is a timeline and corresponding action items. For instance:

  • Week one: Launch event on ticketing platform, venue or promoter website, and relevant social media platforms
  • Week two: Send targeted email blast aimed at the relevant segment of your list
  • Week three: Create targeted ads on social media

A marketing plan will keep you on track and focus momentum on ticket sales, freeing up brainpower to focus on other problems as they arise. If building a marketing plan from scratch feels like a daunting task, don’t fret: This template will get you started on the right track.

4. Follow up — connect with your crowds

Selling out a show is excellent news, but don’t rest on your laurels. Reserve a small block of tickets, somewhere between 10-50, for walk-up crowds night of show. Then blast that announcement as widely as possible a few days before showtime — it’ll generate goodwill amongst your artists’ fans who missed a presale ticket.

And last but not least, don’t forget to connect with your crowds by any means possible. Email’s great, but social media is even better. Engage your audience and let them know you’re as excited about upcoming shows as they are. Be a part of their community, right alongside them, and they’ll turn out in spades to support you.

Want to dig deeper on music marketing strategies that work? Read our 2018 Music Marketing Handbook.

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