DIY touring, temporary artist shows, tours, gigs, events or festival participants: use this resource guide before you plot your next production.
Or for anyone doing a show during a Scottish summer, including as part of official Edinburgh Fringe or before or after August or outside of Edinburgh.
Facebook’s promoted posts offer one of the best ROIs online for digital advertising. You can target by geography, age, gender, interests. Separately, you can also boost a post by targeting your Facebook page likes and their friends. Since people who already like your page are your best advocates (and customers), advertising to them and their friends can have powerful effects.
But content is key. If your copy or video or creative is weak, it will not perform well. It’s worth asking someone to create content for you with promotional content skill, experience and strategy.
2. Video Marketing
Creating a video demo is all the rage for musicians going on tour. Promotional videos can also work wonders for theater, dance or comedy performances. It builds interest and gives ticket buyers a taste of what they’ll see, hear, experience.
Billy Geoghegan, musician and independent music industry consultant, recommends creating a short video by renting or borrowing a quality video camera and making a tour promo video for a maximum of a couple of hundred pounds, euros or dollars (hopefully less). Keep it short. Less than two to three minutes is ideal. Geoghegan says, “Don’t suck. If you don’t suck people will come.” How better to let people decide for themselves but to give them a visual and audio taste.
3. Social Media
Create a social editorial calendar that builds momentum aimed at “game day” (your event day). Two months before your show/tour/gig, post something unique weekly. One month before your show/tour/gig, post daily on Twitter, twice a week on Instagram and once a week on Facebook. One week before your show/tour/gig, post daily on all accounts with unique content (write copy in different ways to drive ticket sales; focus on various ticket types (early bird, student rates, group pricing), encourage people to bring a friend, incentivize people to buy a ticket as a gift for friends or family.
Run a photo caption contest weekly—winner gets free ticket to show or swag that you’ll give to them at the show. Engage people with questions—post a question per week to spur discussion, grow awareness and reach prospective event attendees. What’s your favorite dance move? Favorite dance style or era? Pick winner with best comment, reply, answer and give them a free ticket. Free tickets give people incentive to reply and engage as well as tell their friends about your event.
Two days before show/tour/gig: post on each social channel “last chance to buy tickets” message or “don’t miss your chance” to convey time is ticking, which stimulates decision making from people on the fence, who just heard about the performance or procrastinators finally making plans. When it comes to events, more people share social media posts with time-sensitive information than posts without. It can also tap into the psychological anxiety-producing phenomenon of “fear of missing out” (FOMO), which can compel people to act, book, buy or participate.
With limited time or budget, focus on the three primary social media channels: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Snapchat, Pinterest, Vine, YouTube only if you have time/bandwidth as these are powerful channels, but not as widely used as the big three. Want one more reason to use Twitter? Press and media use it constantly due to its expediency, 140-character limit and a feed that reads like a breaking news ticker for pithy sound bites. You can bet press covering Edinburgh Festival Fringe are monitoring #edfringe hashtag on Twitter, for instance. Hint, hint.
Monitor hashtags right before and during festivals or shows. Use them selectively and strategically to promote your event. A few more social media tips.
4. Email Marketing
Still one of the best methods to reach people is directly via their inbox. Be judicious. Plan in advance the messages you will send out and when. Ideally you will send two emails out: one announcing your show, tour, event and a reminder email a week before your event or event series start date. Use your list of prior year attendees. Email message variety—one email can focus on announcing show, another can promote discount pricing and be clear about when to book discount tickets and when they expire. Those dates are powerful and drive purchases. “Get 20% off when you book tickets by July 1” taps into FOMO, appeals to those who want financial savings and creates urgency to act.
Encourage in the bottom of every email for people to share your event link or site on social media. “Tell your friends about X show (or X band).”
Tools for email campaign management: MailChimp, Campaign Monitor or Emma. If you don’t have time or it overwhelms you to set up an email software system to manage your email list(s), newsletters, etc. then nothing is wrong with using 100% free Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc. You won’t be able to learn how many people opened each message or other helpful statistics, but at least you’ll get the word out.
If you’re a budget-strapped or time-strapped arts nonprofit or volunteer-run crew, cut yourself some slack. Be realistic about what you can manage well. Don’t send out a shoddy email with typos. Spend time crafting a smart subject line, succinct body copy and enticing image cropped to a small size so it doesn’t overwhelm or hide your copy. Remember: in emails, content leads and images follow. Many email clients and users turn off images, so recipients often don’t even see email images. Copy rules in email. Be creative, but clear and to the point.
5. Flyers, Leaflets, Handbills
A mainstay of the Edinburgh festival marketing machine, handing out flyers of your show is a requisite. Everyone does it at the Festival Fringe, in particular, so much so you can’t go five minutes without someone on the street, bus, pub handing you a flyer and encouraging you to attend their event. Stand out. Be smart about where you hand them out and to whom. Keep a stash of flyers with you at all times, even if you’re in transit or breaking for a meal. You may strike up a conversation with someone and give them a personal invite with a memory cue (flyer).
Hand out flyers at venues with similar audiences during festivals. At other festival shows, talk directly to attendees: “if you liked that, you’ll love our show.” A personal invite is more memorable, more immediate.
Posters are another classic method of advertising your show. Hiring a professional designer can be worth the cost as you can use their graphics on your flyer, website and other materials. Having a strong singular visual helps people identify or remember you.
Geoghegan recommends you personalize and localize posters as much as possible. Leave room at the bottom so you can handwrite new dates, locations or other details that may change last minute.
7. Collaborative Word-of-Mouth
Partner with like-minded artist groups or festivals to cross-promote each other’s events and share social postings. During every show prior to a big gig or festival, announce your hashtag and encourage people to write reviews or talk about what they saw online.
Geoghegan recommends doing research for possible collaborations. “Leverage your contacts. Use professional acquaintances or personal contacts. Reach out to artists, DJs, genre-specific venues and invest time and effort in local communities,” he says. “Network with other artists by sharing their story, offer to help before you ask for help. Approach sponsors or partners.”
8. Get Physical
Stage a mini-production, give people a taste of your performance to attract interest (then hand them flyers). At Fringe, this is commonplace along the Royal Mile. Pick three strategic venues and talk to the owners to arrange a time when you can give a short preview of your show.
Geoghegan advises, “You can also create buzz for your performance by touring in advance of a festival to create fans, spur word-of-mouth recommendations, build a following.”
9. Advance Ticketing Online
Use multiple methods of advanced ticket sales. Put a block of tickets on Brown Paper Tickets or another ticketing service and see how having extra exposure on multiple event registration and ticketing platforms boosts sales. If you’re putting on a Fringe show, but you want to boost attendees, this is a great multifaceted marketing tip. Take a set number of tickets and make them available outside of the Fringe ticketing platform.
Set up ticket sales two or three months in advance. Then stage various promotional efforts around selling tickets using early pricing discounts, promotional discounts, and general promotion or marketing of your event via social media, media relations, preview shows, flyers, posters, etc. Always advertise the link to buy tickets in all these mediums. Make the link easily discoverable. On Brown Paper Tickets, you can set up a custom URL that is easy to read like my-event-or-tour-name.brownpapertickets.com.
For musicians (but also applicable to any artist) Geoghegan recommends, “Set up advance ticketing two to four months in advance of your tour or show. Then release a promo video before your show, not too early, so you’re building momentum toward getting people to buy tickets and attend your gig.”
10. Choose Venue Wisely
This is uber important and as much about your marketing plan as your production, especially for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. A venue should be your first research task. Find out how your venue markets upcoming shows, what they can offer you as free (or even paid) exposure to sell out your events, what production support they offer.
11. Promotional Pricing
Use multiple methods of pricing to drive sales such as early-bird discounts, last-minute discounts, buy one get one free, giveaways or merchandise packaged with a ticket price.
If you put it on discount or sale temporarily, people will buy. Sales, discounts, specials, special offers, limited-time offers and more are extraordinarily powerful. Everyone wants a deal. Consider this: pound/euro/dollar amount vs. percentage off. There is an art and science to the methodology of choosing which to use. What works best? By and large the bigger number, even if it isn’t apples to apples, wins in the minds of consumers. £10 off isn’t as enticing as 20% off, even if the pound/euro/dollar amount is less with the percentage. Again, it taps into people’s perception of a deal. Try both methods: currency amount off and percentage discount during different time frames. Promote each when the time is right. See which sells more. Your audience is unique—trial and learning will pay off in the end as you can use what you learned for your next show or event.
12. Eye-Candy Competitive Advantage
Festivals and arts industries alike have a huge competitive advantage over any other event. Why? They inherently have strong, authentic, original visuals that draw attention. We’re in the midst of a visual revolution (think Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube). Dancers striking a pose. Musicians plucking strings. Iconic staging, sets, backdrops. Capture and share short 15-second videos to upload directly to Instagram, especially. Compelling visuals are your advantage on social media, in getting press coverage, on flyers, etc. Press is more likely to cover your show if they are enticed by rich imagery and can use high-resolution still images in their story.
13. Radio: Video Did NOT Kill the Radio Star
Radio is still a viable promotional tool and entertainment medium. Podcasting, a modern radio spin-off, is in a renaissance right now from when it first gained popularity a decade ago.
Geoghegan recommends running a radio campaign for your band’s tour or show promotion. “Go to an indie radio station in the region or the market you’re targeting. Find the radio program if not a radio station.” Radio programs can be syndicated or also shared online as podcasts. A program has a DJ or person dedicated to its content. “Personalise what you send them. Make sure you send it to the DJ, not the program manager, so he/she sees his/her name on something.” Otherwise, your demo or disk is likely to be tossed in a pile and forgotten.
14. DIY Touring: Establish Your Name, Nonprofit or Festival
Geoghegan recommends for bands or musicians, especially DIY indie groups to, “build a name before you go on tour. Target radio stations to gain exposure, record or music stores to sell your music, morning news shows for interviews or reviews. Meet people and spread the word.” He adds, “Get exposure via events and festivals—big, small, rural, urban—from local birthday parties to large festivals.”
15. Fringe-Specific Event Marketing Tips
Going to the world’s largest open arts festival and trying to sell out every show? Ed Fringe has a wealth of marketing tips. You can run a banner ad on their official site, run a print ad in their physical programme, use their designated areas in Edinburgh to perform a preview of your show by singing, acting, telling jokes, speaking poetry (and wearing your wardrobe or show attire for full affect so you create the experience of your show as much as possible). If you’re part of the official Fringe, they have a media team that can be helpful to the hoards of press who attend the Fringe.
For Edinburgh Festival Fringe, use #edfringe for general Fringe attendee social chatter. Want to reach (in a relevant way, don’t spam) event organizers, venues and artists that are part of official Fringe? Tag @FringeCentral on social media.
Want more or different tips on topics such as merchandise, branding, box office or sales at the door? See event promotion and planning advice on Brown Paper Tickets’ blog.