After a challenging summer concert season, one of the perennially bright revenue spots for the music industry—touring—is now limping into the fall season. Here are six strategies that everyone connected to live entertainment should embrace to boost efficiency, and ultimately, the bottom line.
1. GET THE PRICE RIGHT
The industry is still having a tough time getting one of the big “P’s” of the five “P’s” of marketing right—price. Figure this one out first. Discounting reactively is only a short-term solution that can cause long-term problems. “We’re alienating the customers who have already purchased tickets at face value, while training the public to wait longer to purchase tickets for the next show, which leads to more discounting and continues the vicious cycle,” says Todd Hunt, director of the BancorpSouth Arena in Tupelo, Miss., voicing what many in the business won’t. “We need to do a better job of pricing the inventory from the start and also be willing to wait for the customers to come—no quick reach for the panic button.”
2. WHAT TO DO ON THE WEB
When it comes to selling tickets, traditional media is on life support. Long live new media. With an estimated 95% of all tickets sold on the Internet these days, it should be obvious that music fans live on the Web. Internet marketing is more targeted, more efficient and less expensive. As readership declines and ad rates rise, Internet marketing, particularly for younger acts, is simply a better buy. Broadcast still packs some punch, but print? Promoters can generally buy two weeks on as many as half a dozen targeted websites for what they’d spend on a full-page color add in an alternative weekly. And on the Web ads, consumers can click through and actually buy a ticket.
3. SOCIAL, SOCIAL, SOCIAL
The secret is out: Social networking can sell the hell out of tickets. “We all saw the great power of social media with the Conan O’Brien tour, where with one tweet and everyone finding all the stuff on the Web we sold 125,000 tickets in one day across the country,” says Michele Bernstein, director of tour marketing for William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, who says social networking is the best way for artists to speak directly to their fans and consumers. “At the end of the day, when you have a band that talks directly to their fans, and the fans know that it’s organic and it’s real, they almost always respond.” Which leads us to . . .
4. STOP WASTING YOUR CUSTOMER'S TIME
Don’t waste your fans’ time. They love it when you talk to them, but they don’t need to know you just went into Starbucks. Give ‘em something that counts: “We’re coming to your town. Here is how you can get in on the pre-sale.” Make it count, give information, offer value. “If you don’t really think you have something to say, then you should probably not say anything at all,” Bernstein says. “Sometimes the ‘less is more philosophy’ is a more effective route.”
5. PARTNER DATABASES
Use your partners’ databases. Promoters, venues, ticketing companies, fan clubs, sponsors all have highly valuable databases, and sometimes they’ll even let you use them. Live Nation and its Ticketmaster division are the data kings, but independent promoters have smaller, very targeted databases that are usually market-specific, and they’re very capable in managing the communication with ticket buyers and keeping spam to a minimum. And venues can send out incredibly effective and targeted e-mail blasts to consumers who frequent the building and know the drill. Sponsor partners like American Express can also be hugely successful at getting the word out on pre-sales and other premiums.
6. LEAN ON THE TICKET COMPANY
The ticketing company is your friend. Increasingly, ticketing companies want to take the ball when it comes to marketing, promotion, social media, fan clubs/websites, merch, bundling, mobile marketing, etc. This includes large, established ticketing companies that may or may not also be promoters, or visionary upstarts that are trying to find their place in this dynamic, highly competitive market place. Whether it’s a band, a venue, or a promoter, they want your business. They can work with the label for bundling and downloads, or if there is no label, many ticketing companies or companies that facilitate e-commerce can do it all.
-- Ray Waddell, Nashville