One of my students favorite lectures, is when we talk about all the different strategies artists can use to promote their shows. After having promoted over 2,000 shows, I’ve seen a few things that work, and don’t work. Below I share 40 different strategies with you that you can add to your marketing arsenal. These are separated in three categories. The Basics - everything you should be doing and don’t want to miss. Social Media and Digital Marketing - pretty much everything that happens online. And Networking - you need to meet people in person that will become supporters of your music, not just online. You can’t just show up, and hope they’re there. When you do that, you’ll be playing for the bartender, audio engineer, and door person. That’s not fun for anyone!
One of the keys to keep in mind here, is the total number of impressions. These don’t just need to be digitally or online, they can be physical or in person. In the book, Guerilla Marketing, by Jay Conrad Levinson, he mentions that it takes at least 14-17 times for someone to notice your brand or business. Especially with the amount of noise and distraction in the world. Once people take notice and pay attention, it takes another average of seven touch points on average for someone to make a purchase. This is why the emphasis on 40 different strategies to load-up your marketing arsenal, as Jay Conrad Levinson calls it. You can’t just put all of your eggs in one basket. You have to be in as many places as possible, to increase your number of touchpoints. The thought is, someone sees your ad on Facebook to you get an invite to a Facebook event to you see the flyer on Instagram and the poster at your favorite coffee shop, to getting a flyer handed to you at school, while seeing another poster in the hallway. Eventually, when you see something often enough, you become conscious of it and might visit the artist's website, or take a listen on Spotify. The first touchpoint. Now you need to create an average of six more touch points from there.
After you’re done, here is a FREE checklist and timeline to help you post together your marketing strategy for your next show.
1. Show Posters
Don’t half ass your show poster. I see so many shows where the artist just used a band photo as the show poster. Those are ok to use to promote your show, but create a nice show poster. As Ari Herstand discussed in our first interview, you need to make each show special, and make it an event. Create a nice piece of art as your show poster that will really stand out. This can be distributed digitally online, as well as physically at music stores, colleges, coffee shops, tattoo shops, smoke shops, mom and pop restaurants, food trucks, and any other locations that will accept your posters.
2. Flyers / Exit Flyering
Same as with the posters. Create a flyer that will stand out, and that people will pay attention to. These can be distributed at the same locations as the posters, both digitally and physically. Also, one of the most effective use of flyers is at other events. Usually best when the event lets out - “Exit Flyering.” You have to be careful with this. Most cities will require you to get a permit to “exit flyer.” I’m not encouraging any illegal activity, and you should definitely get a permit. However, if you decided not to, wait till at least 50-100 people are already outside of the venue. Don’t hand flyers to the first person coming out or when people are just trickling out. That’s how you get busted. Wait till the herd comes out, and go inside the herd to start distributing. This is most effective when done as a team. You’ll get out a ton of flyers in a short period of time. I once distributed 1,000 flyers in 15 minutes at a sold out show on Disney property at House of Blues. Again, don’t go to jail or get trespassed.
3. Sticker / Magnet Bombs
This one requires another warning. Don’t damage property or be a jerk. However, sticker or magnet bombs can be a very effective way to promote a show as well. This is basically putting stickers in bathrooms, doors, venues, or other places where you already see a lot of stickers. It’s the consistency throughout an area when people will recognize the stickers or magnets. Again, don’t be a jerk, and build a bad name for yourself. Spend the extra money on getting stickers that are easy to remove, or use magnets. People can take those home and put them on their fridge. Especially when it’s a cool design.
A quote from a CD Baby DIY Musician Podcast that resonates with me is “Music is the last thing that matters until people hear it, then it’s the only thing that matters.” Get people to your music. Instead of exit flyering, or solely passing out flyers, add a demo with your flyer. Now most people don’t listen to CD’s anymore, but usually they still have CD Players in their cars. If you pass out demo’s when they’re leaving a show and most likely on their way to their car, they may listen to your music. This is about repetition and impressions. If they see the CD in their car every time they get in, see your ad on Facebook, see your post on Instagram, get invited to your event, etc. they’re going to start paying attention. More on Facebook ads and Instagram posts later.
5. Local Support
Find the right locals to play your shows. Find bands that seem to have a following, take their business serious, and are willing to promote. Create flyers and graphics for them too, so they feel like they’re really part of the show. Don’t make it just about you. Also, if you’re from out of town, and don’t have a following yet, take care of the locals. Let them take most of the door. You should just be trying to get as many people in the door as possible, to hear your music, and convert them into fans.
6. Street Teams
Put together street teams that will distribute your flyers and posters for you in your hometown, and out of town. Plan street team dates where they all go out to the same events together wearing the same one of your shirts. If you see 4 to 6 people with the same shirt, that’ll stand out and give you additional impressions. Create some kind of incentive for them. Hang out with the band before the show with food and drinks, free tickets, free merch, etc.
7. Virtual Street Teams
Have a team of people post the show flyer on their social media platforms, and have them invite people to the Facebook event page (more on this later). Have incentives for them as well if they meet some kind of minimums. For example, invite at least 500 people to the Facebook event page, and post the show flyer at least five times on your favorite social media platforms.
8. Yard Signs
Yes, like the ones politicians use. You laugh? It’s all about knowing your audience. I once did a show with Arturo Sandoval, a legendary Latin Jazz artist. We had less than 50 tickets sold. I used to live in a big Latin community in Orlando, and noticed there were yard signs promoting pretty much anything from restaurants, salons, concerts, real estate, and garage/yard sales. I had to try it. I printed up 100 bright yellow yard signs with “Arturo Sandoval, Fri July 1, Plaza Live, plazaliveorlando.org.” We put these up in all the busy intersections, and within one week we sold 300 tickets, and ended up with over 700 tickets sold total. I feel like I have to remind you again here, don’t get a ticket or arrested. Promoting shows is a risky business.
Record labels have people that go to events to distribute swag at other shows and festivals. Check out my interview with Erick Charles from Fueled by Ramen / Roadrunner Records. He’s their Field Marketing Director, and in charge of this for both labels. When you’re inside of a festival or events, don’t distribute stuff that people will throw away easily. They’re already getting bombarded with flyers and stickers here. Give them something that they can use at these events with your bands info on it - tote bags, drawstring bags, ponchos, hats, sunglasses, or koozies. The bigger items, tote bags or drawstring bags, work best. However, sunglasses and koozies can work very well too.
10. E-Mail Newsletters
This should probably have been first. BUILD YOUR EMAIL LIST!!! Learn how to add value with your email list. This is your most valued audience. There will be an article on this later, but in the meantime, feel free to check out my second conversation with Ari Herstand or my interview with Joe Pulizzi, the Godfather of Content Marketing.
Make sure your show is listed in all the weekly papers, magazines, newspapers, music blogs, colleges, bandsintown, StubHub (put some tickets on sale here, just for the listing), Pollstar, Jambase, and anywhere else local events are listed digitally and physically.
Reach out to local papers, bloggers, and independent/college radio, or any other radio program that plays independent music in the area.
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Social Media and Digital Marketing
13. Live Video
Start getting comfortable with live video TODAY. You can do all kinds of fun stuff here. Give them live acoustic previews of your upcoming shows, do interviews with the locals on the show, and anything else that will be fun and add value to your audience. Be consistent, do this at least once a week for four to 6 weeks leading up to your show. Keep this short, and storyboarded. Make live videos 15 to 20 minutes, prepare some questions in advance, don’t wait for people to join, go right into it, and engage with people commenting. Good way to storyboard the flow of your live video would be to - greeting to song to questions/talking to song to goodbye. Treat it like a TV show. Good platforms for live video are Facebook, YouTube, Periscope, and Instagram. You can even simulcast on all of them at the same time with LiveWire or similar platforms.
14. Snapchat / Instagram Stories
Be creative with your Snapchat and Instagram stories. These should be mostly storyboarded and planned out, and not completely random. And don’t show people what you’re eating.
15. BandsInTown Listing / Plugin
Use BandsInTown to list your shows, and use the plugin on Facebook and your website. Rumors are that Songkick is going away, and BandsInTown is the easiest app to use and integrate tour dates to all of your platforms.
16. BandsInTown Newsletter
BandsInTown has a promoter feature that will allow you to send email newsletters to a specific city within a 50-100 mile radius to fans of similar artists. This is promoters.bandsintown.com
17. Facebook / Instagram Ads
This can be an entire blogpost or series in itself. Learn how to build audiences on Facebook through ads manager, and use those audiences to boost posts and build ads through ads manager on Facebook and Instagram. Get started to learn more about sales funnels and how to get started with this in my interview with Kyle Leamire. It’s easy to boost your posts, but it’s an art to do this right.
18. Facebook Events
On phones, the only show listings people can see is your “Facebook Events.” They won’t be able to see your bandsintown plugin. Use Facebook Events for all of yours shows. Make the venue and all the other bands a co-host and have everyone work from one page for best results. Post exclusive content in your event pages. Also, when you change the title of the event page, everyone that says they’re interested or going to the event will get an update. If it’s “Kendrick Lamar at House of Blues New Orleans,” change it the title the week before, week of, day before, and day of to “Next Week - Kendrick Lamar at House of Blues New Orleans,” “This Week - Kendrick Lamar at House of Blues New Orleans,” “Tomorrow - Kendrick Lamar at House of Blues New Orleans” and “TONIGHT - Kendrick Lamar at House of Blues New Orleans.” Great way to stay on people's radar.
19. Instagram Posts
Be creative with your posts, post consistently, and don’t just post your flyer. Be promotional without being obviously promotional.
20. Instagram Hashtags
You can use up to 30 hashtags. Don’t use your hashtags in your caption. Keep your caption clean in the feed, and post your hashtags as a comment on your post instead.
21. Instagram Location Tag
Use the location Tag. Mix it up - tag the venue, the city, or a popular place near the venue.
22. Instagram Comment Pods
This is a group message with a group of friends. You can have up to 12 people in a comment pod. Everytime you post here, everyone in the group comments on your photo and likes your photo. Follow these up with a text to your group to let them know you posted. If they immediately like and comment on your photo, this will get picked up by the Instagram algorithm and your post will rank higher. Beat the system! Be careful, this can be very time consuming, and everyone has to play their part in the group.
23. Join the Conversation on Social Media
Engage with people on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram that live in the area, and are fans of similar artists. The goal is here is “jab, jab, jab, right hook.” Try your best not to promote, and make the conversation sincere and authentic. If they organically go to your page, check out your music, and become a fan, you have a fan for life. If you go straight to promoting, you’ll be on their blacklist for life.
24. Social Media Influencers
Work with social media influencers in the area to share your event, and post about your show. This could also be an entire blog post or series, but the key here is, try to find a way to add value to the social media influencer, or you can just pay them.
25. Twitter Posts
Be consistent on Twitter. Use photos and videos, and don’t just directly promote. Create posts that your audience will want to engage with, and have their curiosity lead them to discovering your music.
26. Snapchat Geofilters
You can create your own Geofilter to show up at the venue you’re performing before your show, at other shows, or pretty much anywhere else you feel that makes sense. You can target a specific area, and for a specific period of time. This is a great way to build the brand, and gain additional impressions. This is called Geofencing.
27. Geofencing on other platforms
Just like Snapchat Geofilters, you can create ads on other applications. You can target people during a specific period of time, in a specific area of town, and a specific apps. Each app uses a different provider to place their ads. Some are through Google Adsense. Best thing to do here, is figure out the app you want to promote on, and search how to buy ads on that app.
28. YouTube Videos
Just like live video, you can be creative with videos on YouTube to promote your show. Best thing here, is be consistent, be different, and have a clear call to action.
29. Pinterest Boards
Do not underestimate the power of pinterest! Especially if at least half of your audience is female. On your google play store or apple app store, it’s probably in the Top 20 most popular apps (at least as of this writing). Figure out creative ways to promote your shows by building boards. You could build mood boards, themes that preview your show, create a bunch of different flyers, collages of band photos, or even a collection of favorite things to do in the city your playing.
30. Pinterest Ads
You can create ads on Pinterest, just like on Facebook that target very specific people. The thing about ads on Pinterest is that they look “native.” They don’t stand out like an obvious ad.
31. Print Ads in Weekly Local Paper
Check how much ads are in the local weekly paper, physically or digitally. You don’t need a full page ad to promote your show. A quarter page does the trick. But don’t go smaller than that. Also, only do this in cities where the local weekly is still relevant.
32. College Radio
With college radio, you can come in for interviews, do ticket giveaways, or even buy advertising. It’s always best when you can partner with the station, and have them help promote your show. As always, figure out how you can add value to them.
33. YouTube Ads
TV commercials are dead, unless you can afford a Super Bowl ad, but you can create commercials to play on YouTube. You can target specific videos, and target them by location as well. For example, you want to target people that watch the new Foo Fighters video within a 100 mile radius from Atlanta, GA.
34. Google Ads (Adsense)
Don’t underestimate google ads. These can be very effective, and you can get very specific with your targeting. They also have the “Google Display Network,” where you can have your ad show up on website that use google ads to monetize their sites.
35. In-Store Performances
This is straightforward, but it doesn’t have to be just music or record stores. Find the “RIGHT” local partner, where you can do an acoustic in store performance. Think coffee shops, art galleries, skate parks, mom and pop restaurants, etc.
Get a permit to play a busy street corner during the day, or in the Subway in New York. For best results, have a team with you here with your shirts, and flyers for your upcoming show. Andy Grammer (see below), was busking for four years, before he hit the road and put out major hits.
37. Visiting Schools
Music Business schools love having guest speakers. If you’re ever in Miami, feel free to reach out to me. This is a great way to get in front of a group of students that are studying the music business to ask you questions, share your story, and play some tunes for them.
38. Networking / Niche Groups
If you’re playing a new city for the first time, and don’t know anyone, go there as early as you can, and integrate yourself into the community. Go to networking events, skate parks, coffee shops, other shows, play pick-up basketball or indoor soccer or really any sport, and integrate yourself into the community just as you would in your hometown.
39. Brand Partnerships
Partner with a local business, and work on ways you can promote each other. For example, I once worked with an artist that was big in the surf community. We partnered with a local fitness studio in New Orleans that offered Surf Fitness classes. He came by to take a free class, he promoted the business to his 50,000+ followers on Instagram, and they promoted him and his upcoming show.
40. Guerilla Marketing
This can be another whole blog post, but do things that stand out that are out of the ordinary. You should check out the story of how Shep Gordon and Alice Cooper sold out a show in London in the early 60’s with only 50 tickets sold a week before the show (see below). This is all about creating moments of history. Getting people to talk, and creating buzz.