There is a musical couple, Bernie and his wife Allison, who live in a small Newfoundland town of about 30,000 people. Yet they consistently make $400 to $600 each, playing music on a weekend. Do that every weekend and that adds up.
By day Bernie is an electronic repairman. By night a musician. Tired of playing in bars for $20 a night, he began to think up strategies to change his luck. And after two years of trial and error he hit upon a workable plan.
Bernie’s secret? People want to be entertained. Says Bernie: “If you take people’s money, make sure you give them something in return.” If you are the type of musician that just stands on the stage, there’s nothing to entertain visually. You have to give people a reason to get out and see you.
First on your promotion list is to look for venues where you can play. Not enough restaurants or hotels in your area? No matter. There are lots of other possibilities. Bernie is often on the phone for three to four hours a night, looking for unusual venues – and finding them.
Think outside the box. Is there a small town nearby that has a volunteer fire department? They probably have an annual ball. Would they like entertainment? Sure. But instead of telling them you charge a fee, pitch the idea that it won’t cost them a cent!
Print up tickets and give them to your sponsors to sell. After all, they know the people in their own areas better than you do. Tell your sponsors you will print all the tickets and supply them with posters to put up announcing the event. And that after a certain amount of tickets have pre-sold, you will split profits 50/50 with them.
Suppose an event will potentially have 250 people, and you need 100 pre-sold tickets to cover your costs. That leaves 150 tickets. Split the profits on those 150 tickets with your sponsor. Also, let them know you will split the profits on any tickets sold at the door. That will start to sound even more attractive to the sponsoring organization. And it guarantees you an audience.
In four years, Bernie has only had to cancel four or five shows because of poor advance sales. And that’s out of at least 200 shows!
What other kinds of places can you find for venues? Community halls, recreation centers, policeman’s balls, etc. It’s not the bars you’re going after, or even clubs. Look for places where no one else is thinking of entertaining. And give them a real show.
How do you get people to buy the advanced tickets? Charge $10 for an advanced ticket and $20 at the door. For most people that will look like an incredible deal. And of course it is. It benefits both you and your potential audience. You’ll know your show is sold out before you start, and your customers save money on the entrance fee.
When you’re promoting yourself, think of as many win-win strategies as possible. And give more of a show than people expect. That way they’ll ask you back!
All the best,
BellaOnline’s Musician Editor