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How Bands Can Sell More Tickets

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Let’s face it: new bands and existing bands always come around to having to deal with pushing tickets for a gig. Now, when a band is starting off, it comes with the territory that you have to pay your dues by selling tickets to as many people as you know. Usually, family and friends are ok about it initially. But it can be disheartening at times when you sell tickets to colleagues and strangers, especially when they feel pressured to support your band. So many musicians have expressed both positive and negative stories in which people they “know” or friends of friends purchase just to help out. The good part is, well, obviously you help grow your fan base because if you put on a good show, people will come back and tell their friends about your band, your music, and then more likes pop up on your Facebook page that you didn’t have to pay for. The bad is, well, sometimes you get people to buy your tickets and then they don’t even come to the show (as if they only bought the ticket because they felt obligated to in order to help your band).

Ticket sales are important to bands at all levels. But selling tickets to a number of no-shows can be discouraging and pointless. So, what are some simple ways to both sell more tickets and get those extra bodies in the door to check out your show? Well, here are some simple ideas that have worked for a number of musicians.

In speaking with radio disc jockey and host of Baltimore’s Noise in the Basement (98 Rock FM) Matt Davis, a number of characteristics came to light in regard to bands who manage to successfully sell tickets to their shows at the local level. Davis says, “The biggest thing I think a band can do to sell tickets is to actually make a personal connection with the person who would buy their ticket. The only way to do this is to really get out and spend time in clubs where people are buying local bands’ tickets. Not just clubs though. The top ticket sellers are constantly promoting their band everywhere – outside of national band shows, festivals, malls (Not to mention online/social media. That is another conversation altogether!) – anywhere they are able to talk to people. The key is to talk to a person in a meaningful way – not just hand them a flyer.” It is understandable some people find it easier to approach people and just talk to them, but getting out of your “shell” shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of one particular member of the band either. Davis goes on to say, “If every member is pulling their weight and selling tickets and promoting the band, it’s obviously more effective than one band member trying to do it by themselves.”

Musicians everywhere know promotion is perhaps the most daunting task at times. And for most acts, getting people to come to a show is not an automatic thing. But the payoff is why bands do it. It can be a very crushing experience to promote a show, put in many hours of practice to prepare, promote, and try to get those last minute people to come and then…..hardly anyone shows up. That truly sucks. It’s just part of life as a local musician. Not to mention when it comes time to “turn in” the money from the ticket sales, you realize hardly any have been sold and you have to make that walk of shame to the promoter. Maybe there wasn’t enough time, or you didn’t reach out to enough people to make those sales. Have you considered online ticket sales? There are a few different “stores” you can set-up online to make it easier to sell tickets to people. Utilizing the Internet can be an efficient way to sell more tickets to people you cannot physically talk to face-to-face, as well as promote your band.

An interesting thing to consider is try to be cool and quirky, too. Giving your band the “fun” appeal can pay a lot of dividends if someone in the band can make people laugh. Davis advises, “Make a video for You Tube, a video blog of a practice or a studio session” in which “funny things” happen and post short clips of them on the Internet. Share them with as many people as you can and generate a buzz with some personality. Perhaps make an acoustic version of your more popular songs and make a simple video of them to share as well. Post new photos of the band consistently; at a club, out on the road, or just hanging out. People like to see activity, and the busier and more fun the band appears to be, the more interest you can generate.

Want to sell more tickets? Have merchandise, too? Have a fun contest to give away merch and tickets to an upcoming show. Let your fans know each of you personally and give them a way and a reason to constantly interact with you. Be creative in how you promote the contest. Get people interested and curious about what is happening with the band and they’ll start talking more about you. And conversations about a band can surely lead to more turn out at shows. Be sure to get notifications out to people on your email lists, but don’t become spammy with too many email blasts because after a while, people start to tune out so many notifications. However, space them out nicely, mention your contests, giveaways, free music downloads, upcoming shows, pics, and links to your sites periodically and you can certainly increase traffic to your band’s sites, and more importantly, get people wanting to see you play live.

Another important consideration for local bands is to space out your shows accordingly. Matt Davis explains candidly, “The biggest thing you can do to kill your ticket sales is to overplay an area and burn out your crowd. To put it in perspective, if your favorite, biggest band played your area a couple times per month would you really go see them every time they played? Probably not (at least after a while). Space out your shows and make each show you do an “event,” not just another show. The fans are going to feed off of your excitement about your show, so get excited and really treat each show you do as “THE” show! Be selective about the shows you book and don’t enter into something you are not able to or going to give your 100%. It’s tough to do this when you are playing 2-3 shows per month in the same area. Many of the top bands drawing bands I know only play every couple of months and it’s a big deal. They spend the rest of their time trying to break into new markets and promoting the band!”

There are many ways musicians and bands can get more people to actually purchase tickets and come to their shows. Try to remember if you keep doing the same routine, it will likely render the same results. If you are trying to get more ticket sales and, ultimately, more people to turn out at your live shows, then keep an open mind to the various creative ways bands accomplish this. A worthy mention is to be supportive of other musicians. The trick is if you buy tickets to other bands’ shows, it could bode well for you in selling tickets to them, too. It is not unusual for bands to get a good turn out of “other musicians” coming to show support of their band. Getting other musicians to talk about you is always a good thing. Also, don’t be ashamed to talk to other bands. Sharing information is a good way to make connections and build bridges with other musicians on the scene who are likely in the same boat you are in. When people help each other out, everyone wins.

Stay tuned for more on this subject in subsequent postings that will include testimonies from active musicians on the scene who are doing cool things to boost their ticket sales. Also, feel free to share your ideas and stories by commenting and give your insight for musicians all across the United States and beyond. Thanks and Rock on!

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5 thoughts on “How Bands Can Sell More Tickets

  1. Although I am sure the advice you’ve given to assist bands how to increase the number of tickets they can pre-sell is valid, I’ll disagree with the premise on pre-selling tickets is “paying your dues”, it is Paying To Play. This is the business model of promotions such as Gorilla and Afton, which care little about the quality or talent of the bands they book, just about how many tickets the band can sell for them. Any band pre-selling tickets and giving up to 90% of the monies to a promotion or venue for the “privilege” of performing is screwing themself. NO PAY TO PLAY !!!

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    • I agree “pay for play” is often regarded as a scam. And sometimes it truly is. Unfortunately, there are a lot of “willing pigeons” out there just wanting to play on stage and they are preyed upon by promotions sharks. However, at some point all bands push tickets eventually in some form or another. It’s just part of the game.

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      • I’ll respectfully disagree….my band has never pre-sold tickets. This will be the 5th year as a “Main Stage” band at the Heavy Rebel Weekender in Winston Salem NC (google the event, and if you’re on the east coast, it’s worth a trip)….we are selective about venues we play in our home town (Richmond) and do not try to get booked at places we know require bands pre-selling tickets.

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      • I am not disagreeing with you, Dirk. But I will make one observation: as a “Main stage” band, you certainly sell tickets to your shows -either through ticket master or some other ticket service. You are likely in a good band and people want to see you so they “pay” for tickets to see you. Now, those that are not well known, or just not that good yet, they have to rely on support from the people they know to “buy” from them. That is not necessarily a shameful thing. Consider yourself fortunate, not everyone has it as good as you.

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  2. I absolutely agree with the author on this one. At start up level, bands HAVE to be the fundamental player in the promotion of their own shows. Promoters are not managers and are not in the game of artist development. Promoters have a responsibility for providing a great venue, equipment, etc. depending on the agreement. They work with bands that work for themselves, but both the promoter and the band must work as a promotional team to draw and ensure everyone gets paid, including the band. Being in a “few” start-ups and having to promote my own shows I can tell that shelling out $700 for a 6 hour hall rental is eye-opening, and when you consider the number of 5 dollar tickets you need to sell at the door just to cover the hall and sound guy, you start to realize you might need to get out and sell your tickets directly to your fans, whoever they may be. Promotional advertising, flyers, etc. only reach a limited number of people, and start-ups (ie unknowns ) are going to be the only ones who know their ticket buying audience, NOT the promoter, so they HAVE to sell tickets!! In addition, selling them in advance is the only way to ensure you are not down to the wire financially, while hoping (praying?) that people show up at the door. Bottom line is that Start-Ups cannot expect promoters to gamble on their internal enthusiasm, promoters will only “put out” once they have proof that the band has the resolve to share the responsibility to promote themselves and put their own time and effort on the line. It’s called teamwork, not entitlement.

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