Some things money can't buy, and while you can spend all you want on self-promotion and advertising, some of the most important marketing that can take place isn't actually done by you, but can nonetheless generates more ticket sales than anything else.
Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix
There is a type of concert marketing that no amount of money or self-promotion can match. It cannot be fabricated, but anyone can earn it with enough hard work and dedication.
Competition for consumer money in live events has matched and perhaps exceeded the competition in recorded music. Virtually everyone who can tour is doing so, and the vast majority are playing rooms with capacities below one-thousand spread throughout the world. Most markets with multiple venues are hosting ten or more events any given week, and that figure doesn’t include DIY events and underground clubs.
All this tells us that consumers have more options than ever when it comes to choosing live entertainment. The problem is, most consumers don’t necessarily have more money to spend. Each dollar allotted for live entertainment is valuable, and in today’s cutthroat marketplace it is hard to know what promotional efforts will convince consumers to choose your gig over any number of other events.
You already know the basics of concert promotion. It should go without saying that every gig needs an event page on Facebook, promotional imagery, a Bandsintown listing, and numerous mentions across all social media channels. That kind of promotion is considered the bare minimum effort in today’s world, and to be honest — it’s probably not enough.
However, there is one form of promotion that leads to increased ticket sales and returning customers that cannot be bought or artificially created. That kind of marketing is consumer-driven, meaning that its generated by your fans talking to people about your gigs.
But if consumer-driven marketing cannot be bought or faked, then how is it produced? What drives someone to promote an event or artist whose financial gain does not directly benefit the consumer?
Artists should always aspire to create ‘I Was There’ moments during performances. These are moments that fans will remember forever. They will brag about the show to friends and coworkers because something that happened during your set blew them away. They will not think twice to see you again because they will hope to experience another moment just like it in the future.
A great ‘I Was There’ moment does not have to be carefully orchestrated. These moments arise naturally during great performances. They can stem from the delivery of an instrument or vocal in a song, the back-and-forth with the crowd, or the vibe of the night as a whole.
Here’s an example:
Parkway Drive is an Australian metal band with more than a decade of touring experience. The band has a number of radio hits in markets worldwide, but their biggest selling point has always been their live show. The band doesn’t run around the stage a ton or throw themselves into the crowd, but they perform their material masterfully. Furthermore, they do so with a high energy delivery that is downright infectious. They also put a lot of time and effort into their stage production, which makes a big impression on those in attendance. Every show and setlist may be mostly the same, but it is handled so well that people walk away feeling like the show they saw was special.
Sometimes ‘I was there’ moments arise spontaneously and stem from an artist’s response to an unexpected occurrence.
Here’s an example:
Recently, I caught singer-songwriter Jason Isbell performing at a festival. Halfway through his song “24 Frames,” Isbell stopped the show because he noticed someone near the front row was dealing with an emergency phone call. He asked the crowd to be patient while the issue was addressed, and when it was settled, he happily started the song over. The kindness present in his attentiveness to the issue, matched with the precision of his band, made the entire night instantly memorable. It created a story people would share positively, rather than something they might complain about.
I don’t have video of this moment, which makes it all the more special, but you should still hear the song because it’s great.
Creating ‘I Was There’ moments gives people something that no merchandise or social media engagement could match. These moments make gigs feel special and one-of-a-kind, which they are, and that makes people take pride in the decision to their spend time and money on you.
James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.