To many artists (visual or performing), perfecting every element for a showpiece as part of participation in a curated event or festival can seem overwhelming. Often times, artists strictly rely on the curator or festival team to handle the execution of a marketing campaign – at least your event is in the program brochure, right? WRONG! I can assure you, it is NOT enough to rely on a curator or a festival team to drawl a crowd to your show. The reality is, with hundreds of events and participants involved in creating a successful festival or curated event, there is just not enough time or energy to dedicate to the promotion of every participant.
So, what can participants do to increase their chances in attracting an audience to their curated or festival event? While, like life itself, marketing strategies have no guarantees, here are four strong suggestions artists should to consider in order to secure more bums on seats:
1.) Set goals
Goal setting is another way of making a commitment to yourself and your team. Start goal setting by asking why your show is a participant in the specific event. Every festival or curated opportunity carries its own benefits to its participants. For example, as massive and widely popular as Edinburgh Fringe Festival is, it offers artists a chance to expand their brand into international audience members. Understanding the reason for your involvement will help set a clear goal for your experience, and thus specify your marketing strategy.
Once you know the ‘why,’ then list at least three specific goals you wish to achieve during your participation. Remember to be specific and KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) your goals J
2.) Identify your audience
Believing that everyone will want to come see your show makes you quite naïve and counterproductive to a successful experience. After all, every person has specific likes and dislikes to everything. But knowing who and how to target a unique audience can help filter good audience members from bad ones. After asking yourself, ‘who would ideally come to the show?’ imagine an ideal audience member (or several). Describe as much about he/she/both as possible about them: their age, gender (if identified by one), occupation, income earning, everyday interests and likes, informed reading sources, places frequently visited, etc. The more specific you can be about your ideal audience member, the more clues you will have to guide you towards where and how to send marketing materials.
3.) Develop and practice your pitch
Do you what to say to convince people to attend your show? Creating and practicing several styles to pitching can help you promote your show tremendously. The art to pitching is seamlessly applying it into every conversation.
A good way to start developing your pitch is identify and using ‘tag’ words or labels to describe your show. Identify what kind of event yours is: is your show a comedy, drama, musical, cabaret, visual arts exhibition, art installation, or other? Then identify what element(s) makes your show unique – maybe it’s the ensemble cast, a character, a known performer’s participation, other art forms being used, etc. Next, incorporate a brief synopsis and the unique element(s) about the show into your pitch. Finally, knowing how to describe your event to both an artist patron (someone who frequently attends the arts) and a non-artist patron (someone who has never attended an arts event EVER) is key!
4.) Develop relationships/partnerships
Friends and family are a great start to recruiting others who can advocate for your show. Make sure to inform them with as many tools to use in their advocacy as possible: posters, postcards, social media posts (including hashtags, pictures or video), a clear pitch to use in conversations, etc. The more info you supply, the more comfortable they will feel to help out.
Another partnership you can potentially rely on are your fellow venue participants. Approach creators of the show(s) before and after yours offering them an alliance to promote one another throughout the festival. If you can incorporate into your show run, a friendly announcement at the end of your giving thanks to those who attended and them recommending other shows is always helpful to your audience members. Promote your fellow venue participants then!
While these are only a few suggestions to consider when designing a marketing strategy for your festival or curated event, it is important to remember that there are no right or wrong answers to marketing. What’s most important is that effort is being made in order to increase your chances of securing bums on seats.