How to fill a room on a bad weekend
It is hard to turn down a sweet gig. We were aware that at least part of our core audience would likely be out of town for the July 4th weekend but we thought maybe a number people would still be around. WRONG! It seemed like almost everybody who had come to our previous show was going to be out of town! A few days after taking the gig, we were wishing we had turned it down. What are we going to do? We needed a plan. No. We needed many contingency plans. So we got to work…
Find people who have a reason to party
Our gig was July 1st, which also happens to be Canada Day. And we happen to have a Canadian in our band. So we contacted Canadian organizations in the area who might want to share our event with their members. We were amazed to find quite a few Canadians in attendance and we dutifully sang O Canada to celebrate 150 years of independence! Your show likely won’t fall on Canada day and you’re probably not be Canadian. The point is to look for a tie-in and use it to reach a new audience that has something else in common with you in addition to interest in live music.
Get to know the local crowd.
Find a networking event in the city you’re playing, preferably at or close to the venue. Go and meet people, share your story, listen to their stories, get in touch, follow up, build relationships. These people went out of their way to go to a networking event in the very area you’re going to play, so they might be willing to go to your event as well. Some will likely not be interested, that’s okay. The most important thing is to be genuinely interested in building a relationship with each person you meet. Once you’ve built a relationship, you can decide if they’re likely to be interested or not. If you feel that they are looking for fun things to do and ways to meet people while doing it, then make the ask. It’s not about me, me, me. It’s about them, them, them!
The problem with a holiday weekend is that many people are out of town. That often also means many people are coming into town. So, address them in your copy. Create a Facebook Ad targeting people who are visiting or hosting. Something along the lines of “Have friends/family visiting over the long weekend?” would be a good opener. Pay attention to what you’re writing in your ad, the preview text that is visible, and ask yourself whether you would read the whole thing or not.
What’s going on this weekend? Be the guide
Speaking of coming to town, why not put together a list of activity highlights for the weekend? I created a list of events in Redwood City that I think our audience would find interesting. Notice that I did not list completely unrelated events (eg kids activities) but rather events that our demographic would attend. Events that we would attend. I made sure to use an SEO-friendly title that was generic enough but the content was rather specific to our target demographic and our type of events.
Engage with the community
You might think your town isn’t on top of their social media game. It’s probably true to some extent. But there’s always a few people who are very active and are trying really hard to give the town a voice/online presence. Follow them, engage with their content. Retweet, like, share, comment regularly. Again, this isn’t about you. Help them. They might help you in return. Maybe today, maybe in 6 months, maybe never. Relationships take time to build, but you at least have to try.
People are likely to wait until the last minute to get tickets to a show on a long weekend. They want to see if something else comes up. That’s just how it is. However, you want to make sure that people who are genuinely insterested still remember your show is happening! We had at least one person buy tickets but then forget about the show. Adding to our pre-show to-do list: send last reminder to everybody who bought tickets the day before!
Your band’s friends
Make sure everybody in the band is inviting people. This should be obvious.
Ask for referrals
For those who can’t make it to your show, do they have friends who are going to be in town and might be interested in your show? Ask them to share your event on their social media. You never know! Ask nicely though… always ask nicely. And return the favor!
Last but not least, if you’re written about in the local papers, you might get a few people interested in what you’re doing. We were lucky to have articles written about us in The San Jose Mercury News and The Los Altos Town Crier. You’ll want to get in touch with the press as early as possible because these can take weeks. If you’d like a post about how to get press, let me know in the comments below.
To be honest, we tried all of the above and we still had no clue if we were going to play to an empty room. Then 60 people showed up! 6 repeat customers and everybody else was new. The room was full! We could hardly believe it. After all the anxiety, all the effort we put in was finally paying off! Every single tactic mentioned above gave us at least a few sales. A handful here and there adds up quickly. So it is possible to pack a room on a holiday weekend. It is a lot of work but it is so worth it. It forced us to expand beyond our existing audience and we’re so happy for it.
It was an amazing show. The audience was super attentive and appreciative. 60 people in the room and you could hear a pin drop. Most of these people were hearing us for the very first time, and they were loving it! Nobody was chatting away or looking at their phones. Everybody was listening, taking it in, having a good time. We truly managed to attract perfect strangers to our show! No other show ever felt to good. Give this a try and let us know how it worked for you.
We did each of these things mentioned above. If you think of anything else we could have tried, please let us know in the comments below. We’ll try it and report back!
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