Marketing Your Event
How to Promote Your Event Before You’ve Planned It
By the very nature of how events are created, tickets are often on sale before your content or schedule of activity has been firmed up. If you’re promoting a repeat event you can use assets from the previous event such as video, photos and testimonials to drive interest in the next event. However, if it’s a brand new event you may have a shiny new logo but not much else, so what can you do in an era when content is king? Here are some thoughts on places to start:
With all events, the target audience is key and it’s important to communicate who you are encouraging to attend so anyone reading your communications identifies themselves as someone who should be there. On trade exhibition websites, you will often see “Who should attend?” Usually, the site will also convey why those people should attend. This is particularly useful if the organisers are trying to broaden the reach of their event beyond its core audience and helps ensure you get the right people in the room for your exhibitors and sponsors. For other types of events the target audience can be conveyed with images and language such as “family fun,” “serious enthusiasts” or “hipsters and glamour cats” which also gives a nod to what to expect.
If there is some kind of dress code, either compulsory or encouraged you can promote this from day one. This may get your audience excited about your event and start them off on their search for the perfect outfit. Events such as the Goodwood Revival meeting and Comicon have made what people wear an essential part of the visitor experience. You can leverage this by encouraging people to share photos across social media, running competitions and getting exhibitors/sponsors involved.
A former employer was very keen on using what he called “future truths.” Work out what you can realistically claim about your event e.g. you could say something like “all the fun of the fair” without specifying exactly what rides will be available or “three days of non-stop music” without naming the acts performing. You can also kickstart ticket sales with an early bird offer where you’re essentially asking people to buy on trust that you’ll deliver a worthy event.
You need to be reasonably realistic on this otherwise it will come back to bite you. Don’t claim that there will be household names exhibiting or Robbie Williams is headlining until you’ve got it inked. Always have a disclaimer on your website to the effect that event information is correct at the time of publishing and subject to change without notice. (Legal teams can supply appropriate wording). I would advise against committing to a number of exhibitors or attendees. A three-day consumer exhibition held a couple of years ago sold stands on the basis that 20,000 visitors were expected. The venue didn’t even hold more than about 3000 at any given time and the event certainly didn’t attract anything like that many visitors which led to very unhappy exhibitors and a PR nightmare.
Name the place
It’s likely that you’ll meet with your venue team early on in the event organising process so try to glean as much information as you can including historical notes, transport information, environmental status and other points of note e.g. has it been used in any filming, have there been any famous visitors, does anyone live there, when was it built, have there been any records broken there, are there any landmarks nearby etc.
The venue’s website may also have a lot of information you can link to such as parking, disabled access, nearby amenities and food and drink information. Also, follow the venue on social media from the start so you can share any relevant content.
Paint a picture
So you might not have any video footage nor dynamic photography from a previous event but you can still inspire potential attendees by sharing your vision of how you expect the event to be. Tap into the senses. Is it a visual feast or a mouth-watering display? Is the air filled with purring engines or the laughter of families on a great day out? Perhaps you can get artists impressions created of event features once you have the essential details agreed. Royal Ascot has used drawings in their creative on several campaigns and you can get great cut through using these. If you do want to use photography you may be able to work with some stock images and close up iconic images such as a mic stand, balloons or a lectern which set the scene but don’t mislead or over-promise.
Exhibitors and sponsors
As soon as you have any third parties signed up they can be a rich source of content. Before you get to that stage you can outline the types of exhibitors you are hoping to secure such as car accessories suppliers, insurers, food and drink outlets. Choose retailer types that there are many of so you have a decent chance of securing some. If there’s only one supplier of a given product or service, wait until they’re booked in then make a big splash with the story.
Once you start to secure third parties, whether they’re exhibitors, sponsors, bands, speakers or charities for example, you can start pushing them for content. Point out that you can give them more exposure the sooner they provide you with this. It could be that they will be launching a new product or service at your event, may have a specialist or something rare on their stand or be running a competition/special offer. You will be able to help them promote this to your event audience much more effectively when it’s five months before your event compared with the week before.
Whatever type of event you’re promoting, you can start with outlining the event and sharing details of what, where, when and who, then build in the detail as it comes. Good luck!
Jack Scales, from Motion Bristol
1. Have confidence in yourself to promote your art.
2. Ensure you are on social media and using it effectively by having a variety of different engaging content and using paid advertising when necessary.
3. Networking with fellow artists, promoters and people involved in the industry is essential and will open doors to many new opportunities / gigs.
4. Have a marketing head on – you think of different ways you can promote and make people talk about you.
5. Be enthusiastic and show support for the shows you do get booked for. No matter how big or small the booking, that promoter has taken a chance on you.
Alex Kerr-Wilson, Music Promoter at Discovery Talent & Owner of O-Mix
Don’t just book a gig and turn up expecting a full house!
In 2016, artists need to be strategic about where and when they play, how regularly they play in the same town, select the right promoters and venues to work with. They need to work out what they are wanting to achieve by playing a certain gig.
Back in the day, selling tickets to gigs revolved around the relationship between music fans and promoters. This has all changed and the artist/fan now rules. It is therefore vital that bands actively promote gigs to their fans. The most successful gigs are when the band, venue and promoter are all working together.
The most successful gigs are when the band, venue and promoter are all working together.
Promotion is key and there are plenty of online tools out there ready to assist. A central Facebook event page is essential then anyone connected with the gig can post content and invite people.
Artists should all be registered with specialist gig apps such as Songkick and Pepper. Pepper’s data is pushed out to Bing and Windows 10 so this is a huge potential audience.
Artists should utilise their blogger and radio contacts who might play their track and announce the gig or tour. We recently put on indie, folk band, Van Susans who had their single played by Chris Hawkins on BBC 6 Music with a mention of our gig.
Any emerging act should have their music uploaded on their local BBC Introducing and Amazing Radio websites and alert relevant print media of forthcoming tour dates.
Discovery makes playlists of the acts performing before every gig, on YouTube and Soundcloud to be shared around on social media.
Bands should be active on Twitter and Instagram before, during and after the event.
Some bands have some unique ideas such as busking, releasing video teasers, bespoke invitations, limited releases of tracks or merch for promoting their live shows which they should communicate with the promoter in order to maximise promotion opportunities.
Anthony Chalmers, freelance music booker & promoter
Go to gigs, make friends, promote your own shows, self-release, budget touring, good social media posts, print your own merch & make really good music!
Tom Green, booker at 229 The Venue
Stay in contact with the promoter. Don’t go making your own poster without consulting the promoter, they might be making one as well. It’s simpler to have the same branding across everything.
Work your social, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, get all the other acts on the lineup involved via tagging and hashtags.
Don’t book shows two weeks before or after the one you have, especially in London. You will piss of the promoter and not maximise your audience attendance.
As a general rule we ask for 6 weeks either side.
Make each show as special as possible and combine with a single launch/tour etc.
Be nice to the promoter, they are facilitating the show for you and working under a lot of pressure. Work together and it means the show will be a lot better for everyone involved.
Nikki Gordon, Head of Talent & Marketing at Ministry of Sound & Director at We Are FSTVL
Always get your budget right before you do anything.
The play it safe formula is: Take the legal capacity of the venue, half it, then times it by the average door price = Ideal budget!
Jim Mattison, Director at Bug Bear Bookings
Bands need to actually get out more, attend other bands shows and hand out physical flyers and talk/connect with people.
Bands are too reliant on social media, which is over-saturated and doesn’t really work as well as it used to. It’s rare that we see bands print flyers, but pre-internet that’s what happened – and it worked – especially at grass roots level, it also gives your band some identity and something people can remember you by and helps create a scene, which among indie bands we don’t seem to have anymore.
Do some decent quality generic A3 posters for promoters to put up in the venue, press quotes etc so people who haven’t heard of you have some idea of what your about.
Obviously it’s all about the internet these days but target relevant blogs and sites, and do your research.
James Monteith, Director at Hold Tight! PR
If you’re in a new band, try to find any existing music communities that are relevant to you and make yourself known to them.
People are more likely to discover you if there’s a social connection.
Underground music is a very social scene, so people are more likely to discover you if there’s a social connection, no matter how tenuous. This can either be online in social media music groups, or the old fashioned method of going out to gigs, giving out flyers, and chatting to people about your band, but also music in general.
When you have a show booked, make sure people in these communities know about it. Post a link to music with gig dates in social media groups, flyer other shows with info about your show / band, talk to people about it in your local rock bar / music hang out.
Also, make sure to take an interest in other bands in the scene too. Some reciprocal love can go a long way.