Want to Sell Out Your Next Show?

Vortex Music Magazine

Take these concert promotion tips from local music marketing pros and add them to your checklist—then pick up plenty more when Vortex hosts a marketing meet up at the Doug Fir on January 24 featuring a panel of marketing gurus from local venues and festivals schooling you on the music biz and show promotion.

Another Crystal Ballroom sell out for Modest Mouse at December to Remember 2015: Photo by Paul GarciaAnother Crystal Ballroom sell out for Modest Mouse at December to Remember 2015: Photo by Paul Garcia

You’re not just promoting a show.


You’re promoting your artistic brand so think long-term. In fact, if you’re only talking when you have an event to promote, you’re likely wearing your audience thin. Make it less about me, me, me and offer your fans something. What you’re actually looking to do is create a presence that lives beyond any one single show and keeps you top of mind, part of the conversation.

In an effort to establish an educational conversation amongst musicians, Vortex, Mogo Music Festival, Portland Radio Project and J-Fell Presents are set to host a series of regular panels in 2016. We'll kick it off with a panel on local concert promotion featuring marketing gurus Mike Walker (Crystal Ballroom, McMenamins Music & Events), Frank Rinaldi (Doug Fir Lounge, MusicfestNW, Bite of Oregon) and Ned Failing (Pickathon, Revolution Hall, Mississippi Studios) shedding some light on the music business and show promotion on Sunday, January 24 from 2 to 5pm at the Doug Fir. The event is free but space is limited to the first 250 people.

Pick up some tips before you go, and then pick the marketers' brains in person!

✓ Know Thyself

Set goals, make sure all members of the group are on the same page, and be strategic in your decisions to reach those goals. Have group consensus on the specific goals for each gig: Make money? Get exposure to a new audience? Create an experience that profiles your band (like a record release)? Knowing thyself also includes understanding your fan base, Walker says. Have realistic expectations because it’s better to fill a room than play to an empty one.

✓ Create Shareable Content

“Bands that are the most successful are constantly trying to create shareable content: interviews, raw versions of tracks—content that can be intriguing,” Failing says. Make sure you have watchable videos with quality audio, professional photos, sharable recordings (Bandcamp, SoundCloud), and a functioning, updated website and active social profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).

✓ Promote Your Content, Constantly

Share content across all of your platforms and use it to engage the media, promoters and bookers. Organize all of your assets into a single electronic press kit (EPK) and have it ready to go at all times.

✓ Use Your Newsletter

Oft-underutilized, this resource directly reaches your audience and can offer a personal connection that’s lost in the deluge of social media. Share interesting info and good content and you’ll get a response. Before a show, offer ticket discounts, share new music or give away passes. During, make sure new folks sign up! After, reach out right away with a free download or digital content from the last performance.

✓ Invite the Industry

Press releases and Facebook invites may make your name sound familiar, but you’ll leave a lasting impression if promoters, bookers and media see you live. Get these folks in your orbit and create connections. It’s always said that the music biz is all about relationships and Portland’s a pretty open and friendly place. Just ask!

✓ Leverage New Audiences

Each venue as well as the bands you’re playing alongside can bring a new audience. Communicate and coordinate with all parties to align promotional efforts—like creating one Facebook event page, one poster. Don’t duplicate efforts. Grow your following: Network with the other acts, introduce your fans to them and ask them to do the same. If you’re opening the show, think about how you’re going to capitalize on the headliner’s draw.

✓ Have a Marketing Budget

“It shouldn’t be an if,” Walker says. “Bands should have a financial plan that puts money into a marketing budget—$10 can work for you.” Rinaldi agrees: “You have to put money out there or it’s not a strategy. Local bands should always be spending some money on promotion to activate their fan base.” Face it: The Portland market is saturated with local artists playing every night. Have a multi-pronged approach from the physical world (posters/flyers) to online (social media) to word of mouth.

✓ Build Concert Buzz

Invite everyone with content-creation skills in your creative network to be a part of your live experience. Get a photographer and videographers, friends that can help you tweet, post photos, stream video or audio, show what’s going down backstage. Make it look like everyone’s talking about you. Plus, there’ll be a lasting social and content buzz that you can share later.

✓ Brag

After the show, push all of this new content to your website and social channels. “Content can live beyond the show and encourage folks to come to the next,” Failing says. Engage with those who came and are still floating high. Show others what they missed. Update your EPK with reviews and links and share it. If the night was a success, touch base with the venue and reinforce this. “Venues are interested in hearing from bands that are showing growth,” Walker says. Tell new bookers about your sell out right away and see what you can get lined up down the road.

✓ Don’t Go Dark

Between gigs, continue to engage fans, venues and the media. Show you’re active, relevant and growing. Strive to reach new audiences. Remain top of mind. But also check in with your band’s strategic plan.

Photo by Kai HayashiPhoto by Kai Hayashi

✓ Be Good

Yes, this is subjective, but good means practiced and professional. On top of your game. At the peak of your ability. “If the music is average then you’re going to get an average response,” Failing says. Work on the craft of your music. Make yourself stand apart from the pack. “Not just good, be incredible,” Failing emphasizes. Incredible bands incite the strongest promotion you can get, both online and off: word of mouth.

Show promotion is not just leading up to a single show—it’s constant. Just because you recorded it, they will not listen. Just because you’re headlining, they will not come. Marketing yourself must be a habit.

Promote your next gig for free in Vortex’s live music calendar. Submit local gigs and artist information at vrtxmag.com/submit

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