Here are twenty-five ways you can get more people to your shows. This article assumes your music is considered “good” by most people that hear it and your live show is considered the same by most people that have purchased a ticket in the past. You need people through those doors. It’s where you’re going to make a good portion of your money in the music industry. Don’t let people take advantage of you. You want to know how to run shows, so you don’t get the short end of the stick.
If you’re good for one hundred through the door at $10 a ticket, then you should at least see half of that: $500. If you’re good for only twenty on any given night, you shouldn’t be asking for more than $50-100. In some occasions, you’ll be asked to sell tickets. Some promoters don’t pay you back for those sales and say your spot is for exposure and they’ll get you back next time. In those cases, start to work with other promoters. Try and focus on getting shows you know the crowd will dig your music and live show & headlining your own gigs.
It’s important to headline because you know how much you’re truly worth in ticket sales. Let’s say your band takes influence from All Time Low. In the last year you’ve played with bands like Waterparks, State Champs, The Maine, and Knuckle Puck. In this hypothetical situation, you’d want to have a headlining show after each one of these concerts to see how many of the people that saw you with those bands actually care about seeing you.
Below you will find twenty-five ways to get more people to your shows.
- Play with artists bigger than you are – Seems like a novel idea! Playing with larger bands may not be easy at first, but once promoters see you’re good for ticket sales; you should be able to get on any show you want to pending availability and how many times you’ve played with a certain promoter in a certain time frame. Any time you do get a bigger slot on a show/tour, make it your mission to be as professional as you can in order to be able to get these type of opportunities in the future. These shows may be with national touring acts or the biggest local acts in your scene. Make friends, do right by bringing a crowd, and play a hell of a show.
- Use high quality designs for your flyers – This means you will hire someone (or learn graphic design) to release new show/tour announcements. You’re competing with the biggest shows and tours in your music scene. You want to be represented well, and you’re going to have to create something visually stunning to represent your show or tour. This will help sell your limited edition posters at your merch table. Use this to create exclusivity and value for your shows and tours.
- Hang up posters at the venue you’re playing – This seems like a no-brainer, but some bands/artists don’t do this. Make it a point to go to the venue (if you can) and hang up posters for your show after talking to venue staff. If you can’t make it to the venue, email them (or the promoter for the show) and ask what the best address is to send some posters to. The venue/promoter will definitely be happy they have an artist that’s on top of their promotions game. If you can make it to the venue, make sure to check out their calendar and promote the show with flyers at concerts the venue is having that matches your genre.
- Aggressively sell tickets – Make it your mission to sell out of tickets when you have a show on the books. If you’re throwing your own show, print and sell tickets. If you’re playing someone else’s, ask for tickets right away and sell them after negotiating your cut of the tickets sold. The more tickets you’re worth, the more you’ll see when headlining and the better shows you’ll play in support of.
- Promote in advance – This could sound like common sense to you, but there are local bands notorious for only promoting the show the day they were confirmed and the day before the show itself. Find a strategy to keep promotions of a show/tour fresh and new. You should find what works for you, but I would hope there’s at least a weekly call to action of “Buy tickets to our next show!” Focus on selling your shows out. Don’t be lazy!
- Promote at every single other show in your genre in your city – Never miss a show. You don’t have to break the bank to get into every single show. Just be there at the end of the night when people are heading home. Hand out a CD and show flyer for your upcoming show or tour. Shake some hands. Make some new friends. Show to others that you’re working hard.
- Use Facebook events and Facebook ads – Create and maintain Facebook events for the shows you have in your city and the tours you’ll be playing. You can also use Bandsintown and their RSVP system. These will give you somewhat of a gauge of who’s who. They give you accounts that have clicked yes to going to your show. Become familiar with these event platforms, as well as Songkick and Pollstar. Also, know how to run a strategic Facebook ad. You can target people that like a certain band that live in a certain area. Very powerful.
- Give a record or song away with a ticket sale – Metallica have been giving away a physical copy of ‘Hardwired…To Self Destruct’ with tickets to their shows, and their record has been one of the best selling rock albums in the last couple of years. This strategy can be employed digitally as well. Don’t think you have to produce a physical copy. Metallica tickets are around $70, so you can justify giving someone a digital copy of your album if they purchase a $10 ticket from you. If you don’t want to give away your whole record, then satisfy your fans with a song or two.
- Limited run merchandise – You should want to have new merchandise at most of your shows, if not all of them. You can sell these online after the show/tour is over. The only place to get these limited run shirts (or sweaters, hats, jackets, etc.) is your upcoming concert/tour. Exclusivity is key. Making these limited in hopes you’ll sell out of them at each show/tour is what you’re shooting for. Make sure these designs are awesome. The better the design, the better the item will sell. Hire the right graphic artists!
- Promote with local press – You can focus your efforts on TV, radio, print, and online. These four areas will give you the best exposure for your show or tour. Create press releases that are professional and get them out to as many of the local outlets you can. If you’re promoting an upcoming tour, make sure to do your research in each market. You can hire a publicist here, but why not do the work yourself? If you honestly don’t have the time, but you have the money; hire someone. The reason I suggest to do it yourself is to create the valuable connections and establish relationships.
- Run your street team effectively – Make sure to get missions out. Don’t let your street team sit. Create mission ideas daily and send them out each week. Make sure to follow up with your team members to see if they’ve received the show/tour flyer. If there are printing costs, see if the street team member can print them off. If they can’t, mail black and white posters to them. For one or a handful of shows, it may be more effective for you to have a street team meet up and give your street team members the posters yourself. For a tour, I’d suggest figuring out one or two people per city that can hang up posters. Give these people tickets to the show for their hard work. Perhaps a T-shirt as well.
- Set up day before ticket deliveries – We all have those friends who won’t buy a ticket from you until the day before the gig. Deliver these tickets directly to them. Text or call your friend/acquaintance. Meet up with them to hand over the ticket. You can give them a batch of stickers too just for being awesome. Either way, this day before ticket delivery system will ensure you sell tickets to those who procrastinate or don’t like to make plans until the last minute. The rest of the folks who buy tickets from you will either get them online or hit you up before hand.
- Produce a video trailer – Use footage from your past shows to create a video trailer for your upcoming show/tour. Make it look awesome, and you’ll have a great chance of grabbing people’s attention. You can post this to your website and social media. If you’d like, take out a Facebook ad and target people in certain cities who like certain bands/artists. High quality video helps you compete with the majors.
- Change up your set list – If you’re playing the same set every night, then why would people come see you more than once in awhile? Change it up! See what the fans what to hear. Throw in a tasteful cover if you feel like it. Play to your audience. See what songs have the biggest reactions.
- Make it an event rather than just another show – If you’re looking to play to a larger audience, then give people a reason to come. When you’re announcing a show, make it an event. Are you releasing a new album? Are you playing with a band you haven’t before? Are you playing some new songs? Are you filming the show for an online series? What makes this show unlike any other? Make each show special. Let your fans know to bring their friends because they may not see something like this again.
- Special guest appearances – Just like making your show an event rather than a performance, bringing in some special guests would be a great way to give your fans something new. You can promote it as a special surprise or you can outright promote that so-and-so is going to be there for a special part in your set. Either way, bringing someone out during your set always makes the night special.
- Make time to talk to the people that want to talk to you – There’s a reason people come to concerts outside of the music: to meet the band/artist. Make it a point to talk to as many people as you can. Give them something to remember. Sign a poster or CD. Take some selfies. Your fans are going to want to come back if you make them feel like part of the community you’re building. Yes, some fans are very awkward. No, this doesn’t give you a reason to dodge them. Make yourself available. These moments are special to them, and they should be special for you.
- Team up with the other artists – Don’t go at it alone. You can make a larger impact by working with the other artists. Create a plan. You can’t be everywhere at once, but a team can be. Let’s say it’s for a show. Team up with all the artists on the show to create a plan of attack. Stay in contact. This goes for a tour as well. If there are local bands on the tour’s shows, then reach out to them. Express interest. Ask them to help you promote. This makes it more memorable for everyone with less stress.
- Limit your guest list – If friends think they’ll get in for free every time, then those friends will expect it. If you don’t guest list people outside your family and very close friends, then people will know they have to pay to get in. This way you won’t have to be bombarded with people asking for guest list spots every time you announce a show. You will also create value for your shows to your friends. Make sure to be polite when you let them know your list is full. The more people willing to pay for your show, the better!
- Create pre-show fan rituals – Creating special events that happen before the show is a great way to have more people come out. You want people to gain a day’s worth of great times, so set something up that’s going to create an all day feel. Why not have a pre-show pizza party? Why not have a pre-show acoustic hang out? Why not have a pre-show meet and greet for free to listen to your new album or single? Create VIP opportunities for your fans to make a day out of going to your concert and all of the awesome things that surround it.
- Create sponsorship opportunities – If you want to have another entity (guitar shop, beverage company, merchandise company, etc.) as a part of promoting your upcoming show or tour, then figure out the best way how and pitch it to them. Perhaps the people in the marketing department will have a budget to help you print large, glossy posters. Perhaps they’ll know a few people in the radio or television sector. Either way, partnering up with a brand or company could help you pull larger crowds. Make sure that you won’t be alienating your audience by having the wrong sponsor. This could backfire! Be selective. Use those who’s products you enjoy, and you shouldn’t have to worry.
- Contests for free tickets and merchandise – Make it a point to have ticket contests and merchandise contests for your show or tour. Run these contests until about a week or two out from the show. This way those that didn’t win won’t hold out to see if they’ve been selected for a free ticket. Have the people that want to win help promote your show by inviting people to your Facebook event or post on their social media about your show. The more people talking about your show, the better! Create a call to action your fans will follow for awesome incentives.
- Invite your friends who are photographers and cinematographers – Have your friends come and shoot your show. If they need to be paid for their services, then figure out which one or two you’ll be able to budget for. This way you can have media to promote with for your next concert or tour! If you show people what they missed in a great light, then they’ll want to come the next time. Content creators are your friend, and you’ll want to make sure you know as many as you can in every city you go to. Shine a spotlight on them as well! Never forget to give credit.
- Consistently improve your live show – Get better every time they see you play. Start utilizing bigger and better production techniques. Every time someone sees you, they must feel like it was better than the last time. This way, a person going to your show in the future will know the next time the see you will be even better than the last time. Get better as musicians. Surround yourself with hardworking production staff that’s going to help you with the best lights and sound. Deliver a better product each time people see you.
- Support other people’s endeavors – This doesn’t mean you have to go to every single concert, art gallery, play, or whatever. This means if you see someone promoting their work, show your support in whatever way you can. Retweet someone posting about his/her gig. Invite a few people to a Facebook event. Tell people to go see a play your acquaintance/friend is in. The more you show your support for the arts and the other artists out there; the more support you’ll receive.
Selling out shows isn’t easy. You’re going to have to stick to it until your big win. You’re going to want to have multiple big wins, so don’t get yourself too stressed out. Take your shows seriously, work hard, and the right things will come to you. Just make it a point to do your best, sell as many tickets as possible, and to sell out your gigs. The more you bring people an experience rather than just a live band; the more you’ll be seeing new people at your shows. Keep them wanting more. Keep them coming back.