Four Tips to Promoting Your Festival or Curated Event

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.  

Lessons Taken from ‘How Creatives Really Make a Living’

How exactly does a creative make a living? This seems to be the burning question on every creative mind since mid-2015 when the Abbot government, thank you George Brandis, decided to cut over $104 million out of arts funding. A reoccurring theme in many arts related publications, online forums and online arts sources, sustaining ones artistic practice has now lead to panic within the thousands of independent creative around Australia.

A collaborative presentation coordinated be General Assembly and Arts Hub on the very topic How Creatives Really Make a Living was held Tuesday, 1st June in Melbourne. A free event for creatives of all mediums, the room was packed – even leaving some standing on the side-lines.  All were eager to hear simple solutions to common frustrations to business sustainability.

Moderated by Arts Hub Deputy Editor, Madeline Dore, four panellists, highly regarded within their profession, summarised their discoveries about what it take to make a living as a creative. These panellists included Sara Toby (Just Another Agency), Tom Blachford (Freelance photographer), Honor Eastly (independent art maker and podcast announcer) and David Read (co-Creator of Melbourne Cabaret Festival). Below, I list five key points that I took away from the presentation:

Sustaining a career in the creatives requires patience

Expect to work long hours, feel overwhelmed and face many challenges. But also knowing why you do what you do will keep you motivated. Having your main objective as a creative is to make money won’t keep you in the game for very long. Go deeper as to why you consider yourself a creative. Is it the freedom to be your own boss? To support your travel dreams? To serve others? Whatever the reason may be, keep in mind that being a creative is more like a marathon and less like a sprint. The competition is high and the money is low, so go in with a positive and healthy attitude.

Quoting your work impacts more than you

Valuing yourself, your arts practice and your skills impact the way you shape your rates – how much you think a client should pay for your labour and work. However, a waterfall effect is currently trending where young skilled creatives enter the freelance market without knowledge of the average rates and are winning bids because of their lower rates. The question was asked of the panellists how do creatives overcome this impactful obstacle? Is it more education to the newbies or more education to the general community? Passionately, the discussion concluded on the fact that social change is needed but that will take time. Until then, there needs to be more resources for positive empowerment for artists, and a first step is to do the research within your industry about the average rates for your skills.

Friends are key

Especially when you are starting out. Or even if you are a veteran in the creatives scene, developing long-term relationships has many benefits. A major benefit is developing a barter system of skills to enhance your business. For example, trade your skills in graphic design with a photographer friend who needs a logo for their photography website in exchange for stockphotos for future jobs. That way you are helping a friend in need AND building your portfolio to show future clients.

Weigh you opportunities as ‘Exposure’ vs. ‘business exchange’

As a creative, especially young in your business, it is important to take every opportunity as it approaches. However, as your skills develop and interests starts peaking, know when the incoming jobs are reasons of exposure and reasons of business. In a heated debate between panellists Tom and Sara Toby, one creative says that you should never give away your skills for free. Another says go into an creative business knowingly and willingly to give most of your services for free. Because free services means exposure.   My conclusion: find an active balance between the two: know what from your business is coming in as paid services and what is free for exposure.

Find inspiration from everywhere

This too emphasises the importance of balance: balance of life. Though it is highly important to stay focused on your work, maintaining a healthy and active social life can add inspiration to your business. Expose yourself to other industries, artistic mediums, adventures, etc. as a way to keep yourself sane, motivated and, for lack of a better term, focused.

These were just five factors I took away from the incredibly inspiring night thanks to General Assembly and Arts Hub. Please leave a comment below to add to any ideas that stuck with you!