Despite all the changes the world of music marketing has undergone (technologically and otherwise) word-of-mouth remains the most effective method of selling tickets. So how do you, as an artist, harness the power of such an elusive form of marketing?
Guest post by Chris Zaldua of Eventbrite
It’s no secret: In the music business, word-of-mouth marketing is worth its weight in gold. Put simply: In music, “a personal recommendation is still the only one that matters.”
If you’re running a music venue or throwing shows, you need fans to buzz not just about the artists you’re booking, but the way your space looks and feels. And nothing drives a ticket sale — or a curious first-timer’s visit to your venue — like an excited fan telling their friends: You’ve got to check this out.
What makes word-of-mouth marketing so effective is also what makes it so elusive: It can’t be bought. You can’t guarantee it — but you can certainly enable it. These strategies will help you get your fans talking.
1. Identify your most valuable fans — and give them what they want
Not all word-of-mouth marketing is created equal. Your most valuable word-of-mouth marketing comes from your most valuable fans.
These fans are social ringleaders. They love going out, and they love bringing their friends with them. (In fact, they might be better at generating buzz about your events than you are.)
Who are they? Analytics tools offered by platforms like Eventbrite, Facebook, and Google will help you identify them demographically. But don’t be shy. Get personal and go low-tech: Look out for familiar faces. Who’s first in the door — and last out? Who’s right up front, next to the stage?
Say hello to these folks and learn what makes them tick. They’ll be thrilled to speak with you.
Once you have a sense of who these fans are, go one step further. Figure out what they’re excited about — and dive into it yourself. “When you pay close attention to the content your fans consume and the experiences they have, you don’t need to keep up with the latest trends — you anticipate them,” says Jess Bryndza, Vice President of Brand Strategy at Eventbrite.
2. Book buzzed-about artists alongside established sellers
Bigger artists sell more tickets. This fundamental maxim is Newton’s First Law of live music.
But it’s not quite that simple. These days, the most buzzed-about performers — the ones your fans are most likely to text their friends about — are often small-to-midsize artists. To get your fans talking about your shows, booking rising artists is key.
Because streaming has fundamentally altered (and rapidly accelerated) the music discovery pipeline, good relationships with the right booking agents will help you spot these buzzed-about artists before they blow up.
Know your fans and the music that’s popping in your city. Then give fans what they want — before they know it themselves. They’ll tell their friends all about it.
3. Keep your social media presence fresh and engaging
Maintaining an effective presence on social media feels mysteriously opaque at the best of times, and (at the worst) like tossing money into a bottomless pit.
Social media is essential to the success of your business. According to Eventbrite’s 2019 Pulse Report Survey of live music professionals, 58.6% of respondents designated social media marketing as “very effective.” (It ranked second most effective — after word-of-mouth referrals, at 62.1%.)
But social media ads aren’t enough. What you need is engagement — people talking about your venue and shows online.
Fret not: Effective social media engagement takes time, effort, and energy, but it’s fully within your grasp. There’s no better place to start than by reading these six strategies the team at The Capitol Theatre uses to build buzz. In particular: Respond to your fans directly and promptly, and don’t be afraid to craft your own voice online. Being witty, personable, and (where applicable) even a bit sassy will get fans talking online — which will get them talking IRL, too.
Effective word-of-mouth marketing means knowing your fans inside and out. Read How to Craft Live Music Experiences for Millennials at Your Venue to learn what makes your younger fans tick.
Chris Zaldua is a San Francisco-based writer, event producer, record label co-founder, and DJ. His bylines have appeared in SF Weekly, KQED, Resident Advisor, FACT Magazine, Red Bull Music Academy, and more.