At my choir, the Rushmoor Male Voice Choir, we are well back into the swing of things rehearsing new items for our Autumn/Winter season.
It also means that our annual ‘Christmas’ concert is fast approaching and I need to knuckle down on the promotional plans. Over the years I have been publicity officer for the choir I have built a short concert promotion checklist of things to do in the run-up to a major concert.
So I thought that I would share that checklist with you in case it can be of help.
Concert promotion checklist pre-requisites: What you should already have done
If you have read many of my previous posts you will know that I am a stickler for targeting your marketing efforts rather than “spray and pray”. This means that you need to have established who you are targeting, where they ‘hang out’ (both physically and digitally) and what messages will resonate with them.
So the ‘pre-requisite’ items in your concert promotion checklist are:
1. Define your ideal audience member
Refresh your memory on how to do this at “Understand your target audience” You are going to especially need to understand what they are looking for in their entertainment and how they find out about the events they may like to go to.
2. Describe what they are going to get out of attending your concert
Is it the type of music? Is it a fun evening or a more serious musical performance? Take a look at “Why should they come?” and create a ‘value proposition’ that means something to your target audience.
Setting the date, time and venue
Your definition of ideal audience member should also help you identify their preferences for location, day of the week and time of the day for your concert.
I know that we don’t necessarily have all the freedom we would like to chose venues and dates, but at least take your target audience ‘persona’ into account.
Frequent decisions we wrestle with are “should it be a Friday or a Saturday evening?” and “is a venue such as a theatre more likely to attract our audience than a church or school hall?”
It can often be of help to try and get hold of some data that can help your decisions. I have recently come across some research data from the Arts Council England called “The Active Lives Survey”. This details the habits of respondents, among other things, in terms of who has attended a performance of some sort over the previous 12 months.
The data is segmented by Local Council - so you can look at data relevant to your area.
We traditionally have organised 2 major concerts year, one in Aldershot and one in Farnham. For the last couple of years have been puzzled by the greater difficulty we get in attracting an audience in Aldershot. A quick look at the data in the Arts Council survey highlights that only 47% of respondents in that area have attended an event in the last 12 months whereas 66% have in the Farnham area. Perhaps we should either change location or just accept a lower audience level and plan accordingly.
Although the Arts Council data is only for England you might well find equivalent sources for other geographies.
What’s your competition?
One question to take into account when setting the day and venue for your concert is “what else will be competing for the attention of my audience?”.
Competition can be in many forms from holiday time or other cultural events in your area, through to national and international sporting events, such as World Cup matches or even TV spectacles such as the Strictly Come Dancing Finals!
By understanding your target audience you can gauge whether these competitive pressures could influence your attendance. And, yes, we have suffered by unthinkingly taking a booking to perform a concert on the night England played in a crucial football match!
Make it easy for your audience
When looking at suitable venues take into account road and public transport access, parking facilities etc. A venue with other attractions such as bar or cafe can also help to attract audiences.
The concert promotion checklist countdown
I have listed the concert promotion checklist items in the form of a countdown. The timings are those that we tend to try and adhere to - you may want to adapt them to suit your choir and concert programme. I am not claiming that I always meet these targets!
4-6 months before the concert
- Decide on the charity
Decide on any cause that is to benefit from the concert for example through collections and/or profits from ticket sales. Identify the representative who will be the contact person and book a call or meeting 3 months before the concert to agree on how they will assist in promoting the concert for maximum impact. Sadly, these days the availability of such assistance tends to make some charities more attractive to perform for than others.
- Agree any other performers or guests for the concert
A variety of entertainment can help make a concert more attractive to prospective audiences. They can often also be a source of additional ‘followers’ to come to the concert if they have an established appeal. We find that school choirs are often quite good for this, but you need to book them early so that they can timetable rehearsal etc into the school calendar.
- Organise photographer, recordings etc
If you can, it is often good to have someone lined up to record your concert in photographs, video and/or sound recording for use in future choir promotions.
- Provide content for venue publicity
If your concert is to be in a venue such as a theatre they will often require very early details to go into any brochures or website guides.
3 months before the concert
- Provisional music selection
Not really the publicity officer’s responsibility, but the choice of music could help with crafting promotional messages. So anything you can do to put pressure on the MD to make his or her mind up will be good!
- Finalise messaging
There are so many places, such as event sites and social media, where you will be wanting to promote your concert that it makes sense to create this wording once and re-use it rather than having to think it up each time you come across an opportunity. I find that drafting a 25 statement, a 100 word paragraph and a 250 word piece means that you can adapt them to meet most requirements.
- Make ticketing arrangements
Make it as easy as possible for audiences to buy tickets - preferably through an online box office and phone contact.
- Meet/talk to charity and guest performer publicity contacts
Agree who is going to do what. Find out how many posters and flyers they want, whether they have a mailing list or newsletter that can be used and any VIP guests to invite. Agree any wording or plans for press releases etc.
- Produce posters, flyers and banners
See “Choir poster design” and “Choir posters & flyers” for guidance.
- Agree banner locations
If you are going to hang banners promoting your concert then get permission/agreement from relevant bodies.
- Publish details on your website
Also provide content for the charity and guest performers websites.
2 months before the concert
- Publish concert details on event sites
There are numerous websites and online noticeboards where you can promote your concert. These sites often also feed the local press listings. I maintain a list of around 25 sites that I place details for our concerts. This is where pre-prepared messaging paragraphs are so useful! Make sure that you provide details of how to get tickets.
- Distribute posters and flyers
Try and get them into as many places as possible. This is where you need to press for help from choir members - you can’t do it all yourself! Keep a regular supply available at rehearsals make sure the charity and guest performers are distributing them as well.
- Press releases
Identify a story that you can use to create a press release that also promotes your concert. We tend to use the cheque presentation to the charity for our previous concert. But also if there are any ‘human interest’ stories that you can identify for the choir or its members then use them. Just make sure you mention the concert. Additionally identify if the charity that you plan to support has any press releases being published and ask that they mention the concert.
- Supporters newsletter
This is an ideal time to publish a newsletter to your followers and supporters that also promotes the concert.
- Kick the choir into action
As well as distributing posters and flyers make sure that choir members are telling all and sundry about the concert and personally driving ticket sales. Word of mouth is still the strongest source of audience members so keep exploiting it.
If you intend to advertise in local newspapers and/or radio then make sure you have it timetabled and material supplied
- Prepare the Concert Programme
If you provide a physical programme then you need to get this designed in time to have it printed.
The last 4 weeks
- Social Media
Use Facebook and other platforms to promote your concert. Regularly post about it. Consider using Facebook Adverts targeted locally at people with interests in music.
- Reminder emails to supporters
Set up a programme of one or two reminder emails to be sent to supporters between now and the concert. Don’t go overboard with spam but keep the messages coming.
- Keep up the pressure on choir members
Make sure they are still actively promoting the concert - keep a ready supply of flyers for them to use and even send reminder emails to them that they can forward to friends and family with an easy click-click-through for tickets.
- Hang banners
If you have agreed places where you are able to hang banners then get them up now if they are already!
That is the concert promotion checklist that I try and work to. Hopefully it is a useful ‘starting point’ for you in your planning. There will obviously be differing details of activities and timing between choirs but the main thing is not to leave everything to the last minute.
Good luck with your next concert!