Live shows are back. And even though there are still plenty of issues facing the live music industry (including factors hitting everybody hard right now, like the price of gas), putting on a tour or even just a one-off live performance is one of the most exhilarating parts of being a music maker.
That said, there have also never been more options for entertainment. You can't just post tour dates on your website and expect people to show up. So let's look at some crucial elements to making sure fans know about your live shows.
Step One — Make Sure Your Live Shows Are Showing Up On Streaming Platforms
A lot of casual fans find concerts thanks to streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. But in order to get your concerts listed on these platforms, you need to be using other services.
Apple Music just announced a partnership with BandsInTown to get live shows listed via Shazam. Spotify has been working both with Ticketmaster and with the much more accessible SongKick to pull artist shows in to their profiles.
If you want to make sure people get an opportunity to see where your lives shows are, you have to be on both of these platforms. It's annoying to feel like you're doing duplicate work (because SongKick and BandsInTown are competitors so you can't upload shows to only one and expect them to appear in the other). But if you sit down and list all of your live shows on both platforms at once and get it out of the way, you'll be setting yourself up for more success.
And don't forget to embed one of these two platforms on your own website. It will be important for the next step.
Step Two — Put Your Live Shows Front And Center On Your Website And Direct As Much Traffic There As You Can
Having an artist website is still so incredibly important nowadays, and that's never more apparent than when you're selling things. Once you've embedded your shows on your website, you want to make sure people are headed there to look at dates before anywhere else. That's because there's a greater chance you can track and retarget the fans who land on your website than sending them straight to a third party source.
This next part is a little tricky, though. Because it really depends on how you're selling tickets. If you're locked in to using a platform like Ticketmaster etc. to sell tickets, the chances of you being able to follow your fans through their purchase is next to nothing. But if you're putting the show on yourself, or using a platform like Eventbrite, you've got a little bit better of an opportunity to make the transaction happen in a way that you can capture that data.
But remember — you need to have pixels and things like Google Analytics tracking installed on your website in order to judge how many people are actually landing on your site and clicking on your show links.
Step Three — Offer Your Email List First Dibs On Live Shows
Offering fans on your email list first dibs on show tickets is a great way to remind them why they signed up in the first place. Sometimes you're even able to parse out your email list by location and only send emails about certain shows to people within that area.
But even if you just have to send a big email blast at first to everybody in the countries you're touring, make sure they know they're getting early access. And when a new fan who wasn't on your list before buys a ticket, do your best to get them to opt-in to joining your list for the future.
Returning fans are always going to be easier to get to the show than new ones. That's the same with any business. If you don't have an email list yet, well, what are you waiting for? You can (and probably should) announce your tour dates before you actually announce the on-sale date. This is how you have the best of both worlds — let people know you've got shows coming up, get them excited and tell them to sign up for your email list to get first dibs, and then be able to track that data.
Step Four — Make It Central To Your Social Media Strategy
If you're going on tour, or even if you're just doing a one-off live show, it needs to be a central theme of your social media strategy. That doesn't just mean posting your cool show graphics a few times. That means sharing all sorts of posts and stories about things like rehearsal and stage setup, asking fans about what they want to see on the set list, showing off the different gear you're going to use etc.
Basically, social media is such an unreliable medium for reaching your fans that they only free way to make it work for you is to make sure you're hammering home the message consistently. As long as the content isn't the same every time, people won't mind. There's a good chance only very few of them will see all of it anyways.
This is also a great place to do some easy incentives like asking people to share images of their ticket receipts etc. in order to get discounts at the merch table or enter to win free stuff beforehand. So many people make social media their primary means of reaching people, but that's a mistake. It should be there to support your other efforts and enable fans to amplify the news about your live shows.
Step Five — Run Ads
Ads are central to any serious live show promotion effort. Even the biggest acts in the world run ads to get people out to the shows. You have to remember that even if you feel like you're breaking even on ticket sales due to ad costs, every additional head in the crowd is an opportunity to sell merchandise and — more importantly — make the vibe of the show better.
There are some different theories on the best places to run ads. Some people swear by still creating Facebook events and running everything through them. That certainly works for certain genres and age demographics more than others. Some people may make TikTok their primary medium for getting out the message.
Whatever you do, make sure you're making ads specific to the regions and shows you're playing. If you just try to advertise the tour as a whole, you're likely to end up with less effective ads due to relevance and targeting issues. That's not to say you shouldn't run a blanket ad about the whole tour. But you should definitely make sure you've got ads with creative addressing the market and dates of specific live shows. Nobody in New York is thinking about going to a show in Seattle. Both of those crowds need their own specific ads.
Additional Things To Consider
- If you've never put on a tour before, or even if it's been a minute or you just need some more advice, reach out to your friends in the industry. There's a lot of great advice to go around.
- Don't forget about Internet performances. You can add your livestreams to your live shows schedule on a lot of platforms and treat them accordingly. Does this mean you should do it for, say, every stream if you're streaming multiple times a week? Eh, not necessarily. But if you're focusing on a special livestream for something like an album release that you know not everybody will be able to see, you should absolutely add that to your tour schedule. Or if you're doing a "stream train" on Twitch. Or if you've got a very special themed or anniversary stream coming up. You get the idea.
- It's never too early to talk about the shows. In general, there's not really any reason to withhold information about a tour or show. You're going to need to remind people about it a lot, so as soon as you're comfortable pushing send on that first email, do it.