Promoting live music requires mixing old and new marketing techniques. Here are some tips for what you should be focusing on when trying to get fans to your shows.
1. Email Marketing Is Still King
Pound for pound email is still the best online marketing platform for promoting bands and their shows. A good mailing list is crucial for building a fan-base who will buy concert tickets, merchandise, patronize venues and buy beer (when age-appropriate). A list of fans cultivated for your band newsletter is more dependable than fans, follows, and likes on other platforms like Facebook, tumblr or Twitter. One method for getting people to sign up to your email list is via a sweepstakes. You can give away tickets to future shows, merchandise, or downloads of music or videos.
2. Mobile Marketing
While you are building your email list, do the same with your SMS/TXT list and use it! Don’t be as aggressive as with email marketing though - perhaps send out a text a week before your event and then the day before. Be sure you segment your SMS/TXT list by area codes and use appropriately so you aren't spamming fans in Kansas about your next gig in Kentucky.
3. Know The Local Market
In some large metro areas there are shows all over the city on any given night. Don’t price yourself out of the market. During last week's SXSW conference in Austin, TX, Live Nation Labs revealed that they have commissioned studies which concluded that ticket price (and associated fees and taxes) is the number one reason why fans decide on attending live shows or not. You are building an audience and many folks in attendance are taking a risk on a band they’ve never heard before. Make it worth their while. You might have to take a hit early on while you build your brand, but if they like you they may purchase your CD's or other merchandise after the show.
4. Sell Premium Tickets in Advance (and add a little sugar)
Plenty of your fans will say they're coming to your show but those who have pre-purchased a ticket definitely will. And even if they don't, you've already earned the revenue from the unused ticket! Look for ways to encourage fans to buy tickets sooner if you are needing to drive sales in a more predictable manner. One technique may be to offer the first 50 ticket buyers a chance to go to venue early on the day of the show and meet the band for autographs during soundcheck. Don’t reveal who the first 50 are until you’ve sold the first 150/250/500 tickets or on a particular date and time. Another technique - bundle the tickets with free downloads of your latest release but only award the free downloads to the first 500 ticket buyers. You get the point. Just get creative. Check with lawyer types with the contests though. You can get yourself into trouble fast with the FTC and not even know it.
5. Where Are Your Manners? Introduce Yourself!
Assume the people you are promoting to have never heard of your band. When writing the description about your gig, be accurate and current – better yet - send them a link to a video, photos, reviews, or an EPK with tracks they can sample.
6. Find Your Audience - Don't Wait For Them To Find You
Don’t be afraid to find your audience from Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook accounts of similar bands. Talk directly to the fans of the music that is similar to yours and be responsible for starting the relationship yourself. You can also connect with fans in the comment sections of online music blogs and magazines. Don't be afraid to reach out. You already have your love of music in common and fans LOVE connecting with artists!
7. Using Social Networking Correctly
Post your events and invite people no more than two weeks before the show date on Facebook. Too early and people forget. Repost new info about the event a week out, three days out and on the morning of your event. Find fans on Twitter and ask them to retweet your posts using a hashtag with the name of your band. Trending Twitter hashtags can make the front page of Google, so mastering Twitter can (temporarily) boost your organic SEO which can, in turn, have a permanent positive impact on your search rankings. While most of your Facebook work should be done well in advance, Twitter is best used just a couple days before the show (*definately* the night before and the day of).
Also - make sure the venues you are playing at are promiting the show on their Twitter, Facebook, blog, tumbler, instagram, AOL, Compuserve, friendster, MySpace, GEOCities, and Dogster pages as well.
8. Customize Your Facebook Page
There are several companies who can create a customized Facebook page for your band. I've used Pagemodo (http://www.pagemodo.com) and Wildfire (http://www.wildfireapp.com/products/pages) with great success in the past. If you like to get your hands dirty and code yourself you can build your own solution. Start here: https://developers.Facebook.com
9. Get Listed
A few weeks before local shows, notify magazines and local music/pop culture sites about your concert. These should be editorial sites like The Dallas Observer and Houston Press, as well as websites devoted to local event listings like GuideLive, Bands in Town and Eventful. Send them a very brief, well-written description of the show, a list of notable shows you've played in the past, links to positive reviews, impressive web/traffic numbers the band has on their own site and on social media accounts, and a web-ready, search engine optimized image of the band. Only submit to websites that list shows that are similar to the genre of music your band plays.
10. Slow And Steady Wins The Race
None of this is hard, but there are no quick solutions either. Ever heard of elbow-grease? Get it out. You're gonna need it.
Everything I've mentioned in this list is based upon organic online marketing techniques. It's all "online marketing 101" to anyone who is savvy to SEO, social media or other kinds of internet marketing. With that said, it only works when you stick to it, build your audience and cultivate your relationship with your fans. If you don't beleive me, look at the fans who have followed East Texas indie rockers Eisley around the world on and off-line. Ask decades-old members of the KISS Army. Gene & Paul realized how important the steady, organic growth of their fanbase was to building a career in music long before the internet was around.
11. Get Offline!
Approach local radio and tv stations about doing spots on the air the day of your shows. Approach local newspapers and offer interviews of the band to be printed the day before your show. You are going to be told "no thanks" 999 times out of 1,000. But there is NOTHING equal to getting local coverage in a market. It not only opens you up to thousands of potential fans, but it gives your band’s brand instant credibility (assuming the interview goes well).