We come to part three of our guide to putting on shows – and if you’ve been following this, you’ve already digested part one: finding a venue and part two: deciding the type of show and booking acts so now we come to publicising the show, selling tickets and everything you need to do before the doors open… You’ve come this far, now read on!
Your show may be weeks away – in fact, even months away, which is the right time to write a press release for the show. Press releases are typically sent out to any printer publication (such as local magazines, what’s on mags and newspapers), local media (radio, TV), specialised magazines and papers (ones that deal with your particular genre) and any websites that you consider relevant to your show. A typical press release starts with a short ‘grab’ paragraph – basically the most exciting sentence about your show and some facts: when, where and what it is… the following sentence then goes into brief facts about your cast – always putting the most important/exciting facts first, and the closing paragraph states where people can buy tickets from and how much, and also your contact details if media want to follow up your press release with further details or interview any of the artists you have on the bill. You must send this out with a lead time of at least 2 months if you want any publicity in magazines – magazines typically work 2-3 months in advance (ie a December issue, with features relevant to december, will hit the shelves in November and might be planned as early as September and written/published and printed over October). Also ask for a hi-resolution photo from each of your performers so you can send to magazines and use in posters and flyers.
Essentially marketing is doing everything you can to push the show to ticket buyers… Just like its namesake of market traders shouting out their bargains, you are shouting out your show. and usually the ones who shout the loudest, in the most attractive way are the ones who catch people’s attention. ~As a producer/promoter it is YOUR JOB to market your shows, even if you are running a door split. If you put on the show, it is your responsibility to sell as many tickets as you can. You owe this to your performers and to the audience (if you’ve ever paid a premium for a show with a sparse audience, you will know what me mean by this – an empty show is as shit for the audience as it is for the performers). Performers on the bill may help you share the show around social media, but ultimately, you should never, ever, push that responsibility onto the performer. You have booked them to perform (again, whether for a fee or door split) and your promise to them is that you will provide an audience.
Marketing devices include flyering (leaving flyers at key places of interest – coffee shops, in the venue where you are holding the event, in shops with the same customer base, etc); posters (again in the venue and in key shops/cafes etc), social media – facebook, instagram, twitter, blog – and finding different angles to push the same product – including exciting write ups on each of your performers , youtube and other video media – an excerpt of what you are doing, an interview with a performer, etc are all good and imaginative ways of marketing your product
Selling advance tickets
“Why? I was just thinking I would sell them on the door…” Well, selling tickets in advance will help you guage how your marketing campaign is going. It will let you know if you need to push more or – result! if you have sold out of the show and can expect a big crowd. Just relying on door sales can be suicidal if you are putting on a show – how on earth are you going to know who is coming? Also, if you’ve sold tickets in advance, you have the show-goer’s commitment; relying on door sales means that the show goer has the potential to change their mind at the last minute and go somewhere else…
There are loads of great ways to sell in advance – you can sell directly through paypal on most websites, seetickets and ticketsource (other ticketing sites are available!), you can also link up with a local shop to sell tickets for you or the venue itself. If you are lucky, the venue itself will sell tickets through their box office (there might be a small fee for this to you or to the customer) but the benefit of this is that the theatre or venue will promote your show to their mailing list as, selling tickets for you, they now have a vested interest in your show. Bonus advertising!
Getting technical info, preparing a running order…
Aside from all this promotion and ticket selling, you must be prepared for the actual show, which means you have all your performers’ details in advance. Some venues, like the one we use in Swansea, contract their producers to return technical info to them ‘X’ amount of weeks ahead of the show so they can pre-rig the show and know what to expect. Here’s the technical info we ask performers ahead of the show:
Music used: [just so you can be sure another performer is not using the same track in the same show]
Music cue: [does the performer want the track started before they walk on stage or when they are in position – or perhaps there’s a visual cue when the music starts?]
Lighting: [how the performer would like to be lit – is there a certain colour that works for their act, do the lights need to be dimmed? if they don’t know, ask for their costume colour as that way the venue LX operator can light appropriately]
Set up: [how the performer needs their act to be set up -ie where props should be placed]
Break down: [what is to be cleaned up after the act – performers will usually write costume pieces as well as any confetti/glitter spills, etc]
Info for compare: [any info about the performer/how they want their act set up or anything the performer does not want to be said about the act]
Now you are armed with this information, you can break it down into who needs it – the stage manager will need any info to do with the stage – so set up, break down and also cue, the LX will need lighting info and the sound technician will need music info, not forgetting the compare who will need all the info on the acts they are to introduce. This is very time consuming for you but it means that the show will run smoothly if everyone has this info. Make sure you give performers a deadline for this info – it can be very annoying chasing performers who have “forgotten” to send it to you (and we have heard of other producers who have been strict and thrown performers off the bill for not returning it in time!) but all this info is essential to your show.
Weeks to go – things to do:
Make a running order that makes sense to the billing of your performers and depends on the details of their acts – ie, if it’s a messy act, it might be worth saving for the second half so there are less acts on after (putting it on first will mean everyone has the potential to be covered in glitter, etc)
Contact your performers to ensure everyone is kept in the loop, they’ve booked their travel, they know where the venue is, they know what to bring with them (ie – are they bringing their music on CD rather than emailing it to you?). If you are providing somewhere for them to stay, you might want to confirm they’re staying.
Chase up any leads on marketing.
Insure your event! Very important and very over-looked! If you are putting on an event and expecting the public to buy tickets, it’s your responsibility to ensure the public are safe. There are loads of brokers who can cover your event with Public Liability Insurance. Some cover a single event, others will cover a years’ worth. Choose the one that suits your event. Basically, PLI will cover you for any incident that happens at the show that is your responsibility – if an audience member slips on some glitter that hasn’t been cleared up, it’s your fault/ if a performer falls over a mic stand that hasn’t been moved, it’s your fault… etc
Performers’ Insurance – yes, check the PLI of your performers. If they accidentally hit someone in the face with a fan, they will need to be covered.
Other staff and why
You have your line-up and yourself, but you will also need other essential staff:
Compare – they are there to glue the show together! They might be someone with a silver tongue and wit, they might be a singer also, they might even have a skill to fill in time if there needs to be any fillers while a messy clean-up is in operation. Basically a good compare can save your show. If they see a problem, they can cover, they make the audience feel at ease and they set up the acts who are about to hit the stage…
Stage Manager (can also be called stage maid, kitten, etc) – essential for setting up the acts and swiftly clearing them up. Also preempts any problems and basically holds the show together behind the scenes. If you want to know how valuable they are, go here: stage managers are ESSENTIAL!
Door personnel – to check tickets and make audiences feel welcome (if you are hiring a theatre, they will already have these staff in place). Also, if you are selling any unsold advance tickets on the door (read above why we consider this suicidal if you are only selling tickets on the door), you will need someone to take the money.
Event photographer – great for your event and publicity of future events. High quality photos of your event will easily sell tickets for your next event and audiences love to see pics of the night – especially if you include a few pics of the audience. It’s also nice for performers (with the photographer’s permission, obviously, as the photographer has copyright!) to have pics of their acts.
All the above need to be paid – and it is your responsibility to pay for them. You should never, ever, expect anyone else on the bill or otherwise to pay for your staff. If it’s a door split show, these staff should take an equal split of the door takings, the same as the performers.
The day before the event…
Well, the day has almost arrived and you’ve got everything in place. There’s a few things you need to do – print out any running orders – you will need a lot to cover dressing room, door staff, compare and stage manager. If you are paying your performers in cash at the event, you will need to have the payment ready, along with receipts for them to sign (to prove you have paid them), if you are selling any tickets on the door, you need a float and the tickets.
You’ve come this far and the show will almost be hitting the stage! Look out for our fourth and final part – the event itself! There’s still a lot to do before you reach for that gin!