SELLING WITHOUT SELLING OUT

Building a loyal audience is one of the biggest challenges facing young artists.

Most young classical musicians experience four years of higher education that ignores the skills required to imagine and build a creative career, and promotes the trope that selling our work means selling out.

Without marketing, no one can know about you and what you have to offer. You may have the greatest music in the world but without marketing, you lose the opportunity to connect with the people who could love and support your work.  

Rather than thinking of marketing as sleazy selling, we need to reframe our mindset to believe that our work (concerts, teaching or composing) is valuable and in demand. Our job as creative artists is to share our work with the world, and let the audience decide if it’s right for them. That’s not so scary, or sleazy is it?

Here are some first steps to help you to connect your music with your people.

MAKE A LIST

When you are starting out, your audience will consist of your friends, family and peers. Start your audience database by creating an online spreadsheet with relevant and useful information about people who are interested in your work.

Set up the spreadsheet using the following column headers, I have provided an sample to get you started:

Today’s date: 26/05/2018
How you are connected: Former teacher
First name: Robert
Surname: Hughes
Preferred name: Rob
Home city: Melbourne
Email: rob.hughes@junkmail.com
Mobile: 0411 123 456
Job title: Head of Music and Low Brass Teacher
Employer: Hervey High School
Preferred method of contact: Email
Concerts attended: Rob came to wind quintet gig on 19/05/18, Rob came to end of year recital 11/10/2017
Personal likes: Rob likes new classical music, supports women in jazz, likes low brass, plays in a brass band, likes concerts in unusual locations

So now we have useful information that we can use to tailor invitations, we know about the interests of each individual and how to reach them in a way that gets their attention. Rob reads his email (great!) but your peers might not, they might only read Facebook messages. So don’t send your friends emails and don’t Facebook message Rob.

CONNECTING YOUR MUSIC TO YOUR PEOPLE

A lot of classical music marketing feels like a plea to audiences to come. We’ve all seen those Facebook posts the day before a gig, or even worse, on the day of a gig “Hey, everyone come to my gig that’s on this afternoon puhleese. I know I should have told you earlier”.

Yuck! It’s selfish and ineffective.

The secret to selling without selling out is to design your marketing for THEM, not for you. And to get your message to those who could be interested in plenty of time. Rather than preaching to audiences or begging for a favour, it’s more effective to use your emotional intelligence and market research to know what your audience likes.

Here’s a sample that can be used for emails or Facebook messages to promote a concert:

Rob
[Make it about them, ask how they are. Acknowledge if you haven’t seen each other in a while] I hope this finds you and your family well. I‘m sorry we haven’t had the chance to catch up recently.
[Write something about Rob’s work, be interested in his work, show that you care about what he does. If this is for family or friends, then make this about your personal connection, ask about what’s going on in their life] I have been following the HHS music department and am hoping to make it to the end of semester concert as my brother is playing in Symphonic Band.
[Now we can finally talk about your work] There is a concert in July that I thought you may be interested in. [List all the things that Rob likes that are part of this concert, make it about his interests only] I know you like new Australian compositions and brass music, so I thought that my Brass Quintet gig on 20 July would be right up your alley. We are playing the world premiere of a commission by Melbourne composer Lachlan Nesbitt, it has terrific Trombone and Tuba parts! The quintet, Laura and Sam (Trumpets), Chris (Horn), Heather (Tuba) and I are having loads of fun preparing. The gig starts at 6.30pm and will be finished by 7.30pm, with no interval and tickets are available [insert link to ticketing] online.
It would be great to see you there, please let me know if you can make it so I can keep an eye out for you after the gig to say hi. If you know anyone else who may be keen, please feel free to forward this information.
[However you sign off your emails] Regards
[Your name and links to your website and social media]

The next time you are playing a gig, instead of posting a bland plea to come to the gig, try these more targeted, strategic steps.  


NEXT STEPS

5 minutes Create the online audience database using the suggested column headers.

30 minutes Add 10+ people to your audience database. If you’re part of an ensemble, ask the other players to add 10+ people each and suddenly you’ve got 40+ folks who care about your gig.

1 hour Make a list of your gigs in the next 6 months that need an audience. Create reminders in your email calendar to send tailored invitations to your audience database at least one month before the gig, ensure that tickets are on sale at least one month before the gig.