Ari's Take

10 Steps To Sell Out Your Show

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There's no point in playing a show if no one shows up. Just listing a show on your Facebook Page will not bring people. Bands sometimes think that all they need to do is go on tour and get their shows listed on the venue's website and people will magically show up because they are a 'touring band' far away from home. You must understand that venues do not promote their shows. They can't. They have just too many. It is the reason Venues work with Promoters or expect bands to bring 100% of the crowd.
+Our Tour Page Is Totally Full (Of Empty Shows)
+Booking Your Own Tour: A How-To Guide

So how do you get people out to your shows? I covered how to get 50 people to your show in any city in 50 Is The Magic Number (How To Book A Headlining Tour), but how about selling out, say, a 500 cap venue? That takes a bit more effort. I applied these 10 techniques below to sell out the 800 cap Varsity Theater in Minneapolis.

Let's approach this locally first and then you can take some of these techniques and apply them on the road.

1. Spread Out Your Shows
Even if your favorite band played in your city every week you wouldn't go see them. What makes you think your friends/passive fans will want to come see you every other weekend at various bars around town? They'll just think "eh I'll hit the next one. They play all the damn time!" So don't play all the damn time. I recommend setting up a big show every 6-12 weeks locally and 4-6 months nationally.

2. Get A Street Team
The more people who work on the show the more people will be invested in its overall success. I used to get a street team of 10-20 people for all my big local shows to hit the town at night, in teams, with staple guns, tape, black winter caps and secret code words. I called my team "The Street Stand" (play off of Herstand) and I sometimes provided pizza or took them out to hot chocolate after a cold Minnesota postering evening, but they always got into the show for free and of course invited to the after party. In addition to the postering evenings, I gave them flyers to hand out at their work, on campus, at the bars, and some nights we had Facebooking parties where we all promoted the show video and Event on all our friends' walls.

3. Make a Show Video
Create a 1:00-2:00 video specifically for that show. Include clips of music videos of the other bands (you can add annotations in YouTube to the actual music videos) and impressive (high quality) live clips. If bands don't have high quality video, then at the very least run a photo stream with each bands' music. Make sure you showcase all the bands on the bill and work with each band to promote the video. Making a show specific video legitimizes this specific show and turns it into an event.
+Pimp Out Your CD Release Show

4. Title Your Show
Make each show unique. Why people will come out to this show versus a random 4 band bill Wednesday night show is because this is an EVENT. Giving the show a title automatically turns it into a talked about Event. "Are you going to the Unknown Order show?" Versus "Pink Shoes are playing Chop Suey on Thursday again. Want to go?"
+Shows Sell, Events Sell Out (The Unknown Order show)

5. Create A Show Poster
Get a graphic design artist to create a special poster for this one show (with the Show Title of course). Depending on your budget, you can screen print a limited number and get all the bands to sign them. Then either sell them or get ticket holders to win them. This show poster should be used everywhere: Facebook Event, Instagram, Posters, Flyers, T-Shirts, Facebook Ads, etc. The more people who see the poster image, the more they will talk about it and the more likely they will get out to the show.

6. Sell Tickets In Advance
Always try to sell tickets in advance whenever possible. By getting people to purchase tickets in advance insures they will actually come! It also gets them to encourage their friends to also buy tickets so they can all go together. Having advance tickets also legitimizes the shown and makes people feel more comfortable coming out.

7. Run Contests
Run various contests for promo efforts and advance ticket purchases. For one show, I gave out to advance ticket holders goodie bags containing a poster, stickers and other random fun nick-nacks from each band. It might be good to give the bags out after the show, though, as people are leaving - biggest complaint was that they had to hold onto the bag the entire night. Also, run contests on Facebook or Twitter to encourage people to share the Show Video and Show Poster. On the Facebook Event you can explain the contest like "Share this Event (or Video) on your Timeline, invite all your friends to this Event and then write MISSION ACCOMPLISHED on this Event's wall. Everyone who does this will be thrown into a drawing to win a Tshirt and Poster at the show." Then on stage at the show announce the winner.
+Pimp Out Your CD Release Show

8. Include Other Buzzing Bands
Maybe you got 50 people out to your last show, Pink Shoes got 30 to their last show, White Grey got 70 and Tombcat got 25. If there's no overlap, that's 175 that will most likely get out to this show (because it's an Event). Those in the local music scene will also love to see 4 buzzing bands on one bill together. Get together bands who are good and buzzing. If they aren't buzzing yet, well, get bands who are hard working and who will work just as hard as you on promo. Don't bring on a band unless they are willing to follow the promo necessities.

9. Contact Local Media
Because this show is now an Event, you have the ammunition to get local media's attention. If none of the bands could get more than just a mention in your local newspaper, bringing them together for this talked about event will get the paper to write about it.

10. Get a Sponsor
Find a local company, brand, newspaper or radio station that will get behind the event. This is a partnership for the evening. What the Sponsor gets is being associated with a hot event and getting included in all promo and in return, what you get can be anything from airtime, ad space in the newspaper, a write up on their (high traffic) website, alcohol, cash, printing and on and on. The best show-specific partnership deals with trades, not cash. We got a wine company to sponsor the Unknown Order show and they printed all of the full-color posters (some 400 to be put up around the city), donated a case of wine per band (which was nearly finished during the show - glad I didn't perform last!), an ad in the weekly variety newspaper, some air time and other promo. This show sold out 10 minutes after the doors opened with 200 people turned away.
+Shows Sell, Events Sell Out (The Unknown Order show)
+Booking Your Own Tour: A How-To Guide
+50 Is The Magic Number (Booking a Headlining Tour)

Once you sell out an established, well-respected venue in your hometown, everyone will start to take notice. Then, take your enterprise on the road!

Have you had success with your shows? Any unique promo techniques you've used? What worked and what didn't? Share them in the comments!

Like these tips? Preorder my new book How To Make It in the New Music Business and get exclusives only available until release date! Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby says "This is the single best book on the current music business. An absolute must-read for every musician."

Ari Herstand (pronounced Ar*ee Her*stand) is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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