close up of microphone

Strange Times Call for Creative Measures

It’s pretty incredible to look at where the live music industry was at the start of the year and where it is now. Who would have thought when the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2020 that COVID-19 would change our world forever.

While music venues were forced to shut their doors and send staff home, not all was lost. Many owners and managers put their heads together to come up with creative venue marketing ideas to keep the lights on. The revenue may not be the same, but these ideas made a dent.

There’s still no set date when music venues can open, but when they do, these innovative thinkers may find themselves in a better position than before the pandemic. They’ve been able to keep their staff, guests, and even local talent engaged with their venue, even while staying home.

A Perfect Time for Marketing

The pandemic has had and may continue to have profound implications on our economy. Small businesses in particular have been the hardest hit. If you’re a music venue owner or manager, you may be wondering what you can do to lessen the blow. 

It’s not only about making sure you stay on your fans’ radars. It’s about taking care of your staff so they can pay their bills and know they have a job when the pandemic dust settles. It takes creativity and a willingness to do things a bit differently to move the needle.

We want to offer up a few of our favorite ideas we’ve learned many of our customers are doing to keep their fans engaged and their staff paid. All of these ideas are easy to model, even from home. 


We have all seen GoFundMe accounts to raise money for all kinds of things. From medical bills and funeral services to product development and college funds, the crowdfunding platform gives anyone the ability to raise money for whatever cause they want. 

Many small business owners are taking to GoFundMe to generate income to pay their staff. They post the link to their social media and send it out in their newsletters and email distribution lists. You may think it’s a long shot to get anyone to donate to your cause, particularly when so many are out of work and money, but you’d be surprised at people’s generosity.

White Oak Music Hall in Houston, Texas set up a GoFundMe account and has already raised nearly $65,000 in just a couple of months. They couldn’t believe how quickly they surpassed their original goal of $50,000, one they believed at the time was unattainable. Every penny of it went to pay their staff.

The best part? GoFundMe accounts can be set up in minutes and the link distributed in seconds via social media, email, and sponsor sites. It’s a perfect way to not only raise money, but provide a venue marketing platform where you can tout your commitment to your staff and your love of the live music industry. 

Donation Gifts

Most venues have merch. Why not use that merch to bring in some extra dollars? Sure, no one is coming in to buy anything, but you can set up contests or incentives for people to donate money. For donations of certain amounts, you can offer t-shirts, posters, discounted tickets, early access to tickets, VIP access, social mentions, or even a bar drink named after them.

Market your ideas on your website and social, but also with promoters, vendors, and local small business fundraising efforts. Be sure to include good pics of your merch, photos of your venue, and a brief write up of why you’re asking for help from loyal patrons and lovers of live music. People are more willing to donate when they understand the cause and feel like they get something in return. 

Private Parties/Events 

You’ve worked hard to make your venue a place people want to visit, so get creative with your venue marketing and offer it up for private parties. You may not be able to sell tickets to shows, but you can rent your space for small parties. One venue we work with has a rooftop venue and is offering those who donate $500 a two-hour sunset cocktail event on their rooftop for up to 20 people.

Another Prism customer is offering donors and a few of their friends a “jam session” with some local artists. All proceeds are divided up between the venue staff and the local artists. For larger donations, they can curate their own show, bringing their own talent for a four-hour private party. 

Keeping Track of It All

One thing we’ve learned from this pandemic is that rebooking shows is creating a mountain of work for venue managers. It’s hard enough to keep track of all of the moving parts of booking shows, but when you have a hundred or more to cancel and rebook all at once, it’s a whole other ballgame.

Relying on Google docs and spreadsheets is no way to manage so much change, details, and unknowns. We’re finding many venue owners are using this close-down time to invest in productivity/organization tools to make them more efficient and streamlined. One of the best ways to do this is to use an integrated software solution built specifically for live music industry professionals.

Prism offers venue managers a simple way to get all of their tasks done in one place with complete transparency and visibility. Our solution not only offers a robust calendar, offer generation, and settlement piece, but it also provides the much-needed, often ignored financial component.

Understanding where you are spending money and where you are bringing in money is only part of the story. You need to know which marketing efforts have the highest ROI and which ones you should retire so you can focus on what’s really working. You can build detailed budgets and track expenses against that budget to see where you have room to spend more or where you need to pull back.

The more you can do to streamline your expenses and practices, the more likely you are to weather this storm or any other that may come. Organization is critical, as is full transparency into every aspect of your business. The key is to have visibility into reliable data that helps you make smart decisions as early as possible. With Prism and a little venue marketing creativity, you can have it all so you can focus on taking care of your staff and keeping your patrons engaged. 

Take back your weekend.
Let Prism settle your shows.