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.  

It's About Controlling Your Chances Through Marketing



Last week, I attended a workshop organised by Melbourne Fringe exclusively designed for participants of the 2016 Melbourne Fringe season.  The workshop was called ‘Tour Ready,’ inviting artists to consider and prepare for the possibility of touring their production/exhibition following their Fringe experience.  Guest speakers included Justin Murphy from Regional Arts Victoria, Marisa Cesario from Gasworks Arts Park and independent artists Emma Hall and Cameron Stewart from the award-winning production WE MAY HAVE TO CHOOSE. 

Each speaker gave heaps of useful information to artists who are interested in preparing themselves for touring opportunities.  Additionally, they offered their own support to artists throughout the preparation process. 

Most intriguing was a simple comment stated by Emma Hall from WE MAY HAVE TO CHOOSE.  Reflecting on her experience throughout the development and execution of WE MAY HAVE TO CHOOSE, Emma expressed her overwhelming elation over the fact that her show received so much media attention and award recognition.  Before her first production run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Hall began a simple marketing campaign that involved emails to people she knew through the network of knowing others.  ‘I sent emails to people I didn’t even know, told them a little about the show’s concept and crossed my fingers,’ she recalls.  From those simple emails, she booked one media personnel to attend a performance.  However, that one performance conveniently was to be an outstanding performance!  And then everyone started hearing about Emma and her show.

She continued her reflection by stating, ‘I couldn’t control the marketing machine that was happening because I was so focused on the creative machine but things were still happening.’ 

I approached Emma at the end of the workshop evening thanking her for an honest reflection of her experience, and particularly thanked her for mentioning the ‘marketing machine.’  I ensured her that from hearing her tale, she had done executed a great marketing campaign, and that’s why it worked.  She began her process by understanding her participation within the festival – that she had to build an audience from scratch.  So she set a simple goal: to attract people she knew to her show and invite them to invite others.  She also asked for help from those she knew, asking whom else might be interested to attend.  Additionally, she followed up by sending email invitations to the individuals suggested by people she knew.  All that simple but persistent effort paid off!

Sometimes, though not always, marketing can be that simple.

The point is: yes, marketing is a complex machine.  Certainly one that can either function smoothly OR seem like a fight to the very end.  Regardless, putting any kind of effort and energy into the machine is much better than putting no energy at all. 

My advise to any artist, participating in a festival like Melbourne Fringe or producing an individual production, is while you may not control the outcome of the marketing machine, you CAN control your chances by putting forth the energy into the machine.  Start by setting a goal by asking why are you producing this show through this platform?  Some possible answers could be to build an audience, to maintain an audience, to stretch my creativity or to gain experience/exposure.  However you answer, let the answer guide your marketing efforts.  Throughout any marketing efforts, be honest, be humble and most importantly keep things simple.  Remember: the more energy directed towards a goal, the better chance your efforts will see results.