Many of us learn how to create art, maybe even how to design lights or costuming. But how do you actually get people to attend your show? School usually doesn’t teach us that.
When I first started my company, I rejected any sort of management or business knowledge. ”This is art, ” I thought to myself ”and it’s completely different than other businesses.
I don’t want quotas and I don’t want to get bogged down in numbers.” Of course, that's nonsense. Numbers are important, as they enable art to actually happen.
So I got over myself and decided it would good for other people to actually see my work. Finally, I opened up to hearing ideas from outside of the dance world (including listening to my spouse, who has experience in volunteer management and non-profits). All of this led to the company's current ticket sales system.
Since we implemented these steps in 2017, we have seen striking improvement in our ticket sales (we are also a more mature company, which certainly helps, but I believe it is more than that). I hope that by sharing my methods, more folks will find ways to improve attendance at their own concerts.
Quickly, here are some practical ways to get folks to your show.
- Have Guest Choreographers show work (especially if it isn’t quite like yours, so the audience base is different).
- Give Guest Choreographers a cut of ticket sales, so they are invested in selling tickets.
- Get your cast invested in selling tickets, and teach them how to do so (more on that in a moment).
- Random tip: don’t waste money on fancy postcards only to leave them in a stack at a studio. Put posters up where you can and use most of your postcards like you would a business card—after you pitch the show, then you give a card to help remind them to come. Postcards are really useful, but only when paired with a conversation.
[insert dramatic music]
Six weeks out:
I hand out our information sheet to the company (it's available here--use as you see fit, but give me credit please), and we go over it.
You should look at the sheet yourself, but the document gives dancers language and scripts to help get others to come see the show. It reminds folks that you shouldn’t feel bad asking people to see a show, (assuming you believe in the work you are doing). It also discusses what NOT to do. Here is a quick summary:
- It benefits people to see your concert/art/product. You do them a disservice if you don't offer them a chance. Selling is ACTIVE. Don't just plop fliers down on a table or tape to a window and think you are done. Use the phone, talk in person, mail letters--but ask people directly. Be authentic, friendly, and kind. These are your family, friends, nice people in your life who you want to share something with.
- Leverage your personal network to find people to ask. Don't stop at just your parents and work friends: there are always more people in your life than you realize (until you think about it).
- Think about how you are going to talk about the concert before you actually do. Use language people will like and understand.
- Use the six laws (see the handout) to help people realize the value of the concert. It is not about tricking them, it is about helping them see the value.
- Once you talk to them, your job is not done. Follow through.
After going over the sheet, we brainstorm our various community ties, and ponder how many potential audience members there are in our lives. (They are are so many more than you expect! I have had my mother’s real estate agent show up at concerts. Once, my neurologist brought her daughter to a show. You just never know!).
After that, dancers come up their own individual goal for ticket sales. This goal is not binding, and there’s no punishment or reward from either meeting or not meeting it. It just helps everyone stay motivated.
I write down the number and that’s that for a few weeks. The whole process takes 30 minutes at most.
Four-two weeks out:
We have another check in, and we see how folks are doing with their goals. They can change their goals as desired to either feed their ambition or to reduce their stress. I also ask if anyone has any issues, comments, or ideas regarding ticket sales. Sometimes the company shares success stories or new ideas on how to pitch the show. This takes at most 15 minutes. It is also a good time to make sure the website and ticketing sites are all still working properly.
One week out:
Final check in! It’s basically the same as the last meeting- we troubleshoot and encourage each other. This is usually about ten minutes long.
AND THAT’S IT! That is all it takes. It seems silly, but i have personally seen great improvement since we started working this way. Try it out—you have nothing to lose, and a lot to gain!
What tips and tricks do you use to sell tickets? I’d love to hear your ideas!
(Oh hey! Did you make it to the end of this post? Then go ahead and visit http://aliveandwell.bpt.me and use the passcode “BLOG YAY” for $1 off your online ticket purchase (either for artist ticket or general ticket) for our concert on March 1-2, 2019. Act quick--this offer expires on February 28th!)