Friday, 21 June 2013

Theater marketing - those who care

Last week I introduced my theory in marketing for theater productions.
Let's explore this theory in a little bit more depth by looking closer at one area of this theory, i.e. zone C. These are the people who care, but not yet knowing. To get them to buy a ticket, you need to simply inform them about the show. If you want to exploit this target market to the fullest, you must understand it better, know what they care about and where to find them. Then you can figure out how you can communicate to them.
So, exactly who are those people that care? What do they care about, and why would they want to come watch your show?
What you can assume now for the sake of this article, is that they do not care about the show itself (yet). This is evident from the mere fact that they are placed in the zone of "caring, but not knowing". In this zone you will find the fans. There are different ways to communicate to them, depending on who they are fans of. I want to look at them one by one.
Before we explore them further, I must just state the obvious. In this discussion I will assume that the show is good. Not only good, but great. If you do not have a show of the best quality, then you must go back and get the show up to highest standard before we worry about getting people to watch it.
Fans of the production company
These are people who know the production company. They are either connected with the company in some way, or have seen previous shows of this company. They are likely to come and watch your show because they trust that anything the company do will be good. As a writer / composer for musical theater you may want to find a company who has such a good reputation to produce your show. If the company has a good following, you have already sold a few tickets without spending any money on advertising. Most production companies will have a mailing list, email database, or SMS database of their regular patrons. Make sure you get permission from the chairmain or regulating committee to speak to their fans, obtain a copy of that list and exploit it. Many companies will have a facebook page and / or a twitter account. Make sure the company put an advert for your show on their web site.
If you are with a company who do not have any of the above, now is a good time to start. The best place to start collecting names for a mailing list is at the shows itself. Find out what the company schedule for the year is and help them to start the database at the earliest show on their schedule. By the time your show comes up, you may have a handy list of names to your disposal. At each show, mingle with the patrons at the front of house before the show and during intervals. Don't just put a pen and paper down in a corner. Actively pester people (in a resectful and friendly way) for their names and email adresses. Be sure to follow this up with a welcome email and an invite to like the company's (and your own) facebook page.
Fans of the director / musical director
Most directors who has been around for some time will have a following. Not many of them keep a mailing list, but some do. Some may even have a web page. Everything said about exlpoiting the production company's mailing lists above applies here as well. When sending an invite to the director's fans, make sure you mention in big letters that he or she is directing your show. Make sure the names of the directors and musical directors are clearly visible on all posters and advertising. Directors like to have their names visible and in bright lights, but make sure that you clear all advertising with them, as well as with the production company.
Fans and friends of other creative crew members
It is not very common for other crew members (set designers, stage managers, sound & lighting engineers, etc) to have a fan club or mailing list. To exploit their fan clubs, you need a slightly different approach. Ask them to sell some tickets to their friends and family. It is always a good idea to give each crew member at least one extra complimentary ticket for their trouble.
Fans of the cast
If you have a famous cast member, you must make sure that you capitalise on that fact. Ask your singers and actors if they have fan mailling lists. If they are not famous yet, make them famous. Include cast member's names on posters and advertising. I am always surprised by how few shows actually bother to advertise the cast. Newspapers like to write news stories about people. You can make stories newsworthy by including some personal fact and stories. Newspapers are more likely to place stories like "single mother with three jobs star in new musical". Those personal stories are more likely to catch the eyes of the readers, who will care to come watch the show. Ask the cast to sell tickets to their friends and family. If a cast member is connected in any way to a local art school, you have a direct line to another gold mine. Make sure you exploit it.
Fans of the songwriter / composer
Everything said above applies. I have to admit that I will go watch any show if I see Stephen Sondheim or Andrew Lloyd-Webber on the advertising. I know I am not alone. Songwriters and composers accumulate fans very quickly. If you are a songwriter or composer, start to build up your fan database from your first show and keep on adding to the database.
Fans of the show
Famous shows like Phantom of the opera and Les Miserables have huge followings. Fans will go watch these show, no matter who puts it up. If you put up a newly developed show, it is unlikely to have a dedicated fan club yet. Be sure to start building up that fan list from the very start. People who attended the first readings are likely to come to the show to see how the show has developed. People who saw the first show in a community hall is likely to watch it again when it comes up in a large profesional theater. Make sure you start collecting the names from the start. Dedicated fans will watch revivals whenever they have the chance.
Fans of theater
There are many people who will watch any musical just because they like to watch musicals. I know, I'm one. Make sure you inform them about your show. Theater fans are likely to read blogs and other dedicated theater news sites like artslink or Some of these sites offer free listings for newly developing shows or community shows. Make sure you do not miss out on these opportunities.
Talk to other theater companies in your area (professional and amateur). Ask them if they would mind sharing their mailing lists, or give you a mention in their newsletter in exchange for a mention in your newsletter. Ask them if you may advertise at their shows.
Hope this gave you some ideas on how to sell more tickets. This is not the only way, but it surely is the most effective way to start. We will look at more ideas some time.
Till then!


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