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How I Sold $66,000 In Tickets in Less Than 2 Hours with 1 Text

1 (1)Here we explore an alternative method of advertising tickets to fans. Rather than using email or social media, this piece looks at how one band was able to use a mass of fan phone numbers in order to sell tickets via text, with incredible success.

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Guest Post by Nathan Fray Co-founder of Closeup.fm

The struggle to get butts in seats for your gig, tour, or event—it’s real. With so much noise in newsfeeds, so much competition for attention, we need another path.

The path begins with how we communicate every day.

Imagine you are inviting your close friends over to grill out. How do you get the word out?

  • You could create a public Facebook event. But your weird ex-roommate might see it. Are you really going to take the time to groom your friend list and unfriend him?
  • You could craft the perfect tweet annnd… within seconds an avalanche of snark, clickbait, and political rants will bury it.
  • You could try email. Again. You forgot some people last time, and boy, did you hear about it. Besides, the trouble with email is that you have to send reminders to get people to actually show up and eat free hot dogs.

For things that matter, you grab your phone and TEXT. 📱 & 💬

When we care about something in 2016 and want our friends to care too, we text them. Yet, when musicians, brands, and content creators want to invite their fans, they plunge into the fray and fight for attention in the newsfeeds of their most loyal fans and followers.

But what if they experienced a paradigm shift and instead treated their fans like friends?

Imagine if you had a smart phonebook that contained the mobile numbers of your biggest fans. Imagine if you could bypass the demoralizing click-through rates and communicate directly with 97% of your fans—with a few clicks without paying for ads.

That brings us to the punchline of this post: My band sold $66,000 in tickets in less that two hrs.

This story has been three years in the making. In summer of 2013, I saw an opportunity to help indie artists book concerts directly with their fans. Think living rooms and backyards instead of loud bars and lame clubs. I blame Airbnb for inspiring this harebrained idea, and I blame my co-founder Austin Church for helping me get Closeup.fm off the ground.

Anyone who has founded a tech startup will tell you that the honeymoon phase ends when people start asking you, “What’s it like being an entrepreneur?”

It mostly sucks. We’ve made many mistakes and missteps. We’ve had a few successes too.

(One of my favorite stories so far was helping sister trio Joseph launch a 16-city house show tour in the spring of 2014. Last month, Joseph played on Jimmy Fallon, and they are currently touring across Europe with James Bay. Well done, Joseph!)

After paying out over $100,000 to artists, we’ve learned a lot. For example, when you perform for 50 people in a living room, the lines blur.

Without a stage to separate you from the crowd, the crowd ceases to be a crowd. You instead see individual faces. You can hear a pin drop. You can’t hide behind a persona. But in that environment, magic replaces hype. What you lose in rock god status, you gain in true attention.

Listeners become more like friends than fans, and that’s how house shows help hard-working musicians to build careers one loyal friend-fan at a time.

The question then becomes, what happens after the last song? How do you keep building a relationship with each listener-turned-friend?

Last year, Austin and I tried some new experiments. We helped artists text their core fans to see if SMS enabled them to better engage with their fans and make more money in the process.

Using my band United Pursuit as the guinea pig, I invited UP’s fans to join our “fan phonebook” — that is, our mobile fan club. Pretty soon, 600 of our best fans opted to be first to hear from us about future tours and music. Best of all, we can segment this mobile fan club by city.

Ok, now you’re caught up.

United Pursuit didn’t abuse those mobile numbers. We assumed that nobody wanted to be interrupted with a 10% coupons for a t-shirt.

We waited until we had something exciting to share, and the opportunity arrived in June 2016. This September, my band will host our first-ever mini music festival on a farm outside of Nashville, Tennessee.

We decided to sell a total of 450 tickets at prices ranging from $99 to $159. With a little Closeup magic, we send a text to our mobile fan club, all 600 fans, with the news. The offer was simple: Join the waitlist and be first to know when the festival tickets go on sale.

Word spread fast. Within a week, 2100 people had joined the ticket waitlist.

I worried that the tickets were too expensive for our core group of twenty-something fans. Would we alienate the people who have been most loyal? I worried that we lose money on the festival.

But the moment of truth arrived, and we sent this text to 2100 people:

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I clicked submit, and I’m not going to lie: I didn’t move for the next two hours. I was glued to my chair. I refreshed the ticket sales page again and again. Watching the tickets disappear, minute by minute, was addictive.

After the dust settled, I realized that I had just witnessed career-sustaining fan engagement.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Within the first 3 minutes, 90% of our fans had opened the text message. Compare that to the industry average email open rate for musicians — 9%.
  • The click-through rate for this text was 76%. Compare that to email’s average click-through rate of 2.91% or Facebook ad CTR of .44%.
  • In 1:45 we sold out Reunion: 450 tickets and $66,000 in total sales.

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Bottom Line 

 If you are a hard-working artist or content creator with a tribe that loves what you do, then Closeup.fm would like to help you create experiences that reward your core fans for their loyalty.

You are only a couple of clicks away from communicating with them directly. Talk to them like friends, and 97% of them will read your texts. Respect the medium, and text messaging will reward you handsomely.

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have their place, but we think it’s time that you owned your audience and your data.

Closeup.fm helped my band sell $66,000 in tickets in less than two hours. Austin and I would like to help you build your fan phonebook.

Are you ready? Text PHONEBOOK to 615–988–4957 to get started.

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