COVID-19 Changed Everything. Even How You Market Your Music Venue.

How are things going for you and your venue right now? Ya, that’s what we thought. Are you wondering how to market your music venue? Maybe not. Now’s not the time, right? Not so fast. It might be the only shot you’ve got to survive.

First, the bad news. The results of an Austin, Texas survey, commissioned by the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, recently came out and the data was disheartening, to say the least. When more than 1,000 live music venues, restaurants, and bars were surveyed, 62% of the live music venue owners said they believed they would have to close their doors by Halloween due to the coronavirus pandemic that has forced them to shut their doors. One survey respondent is less optimistic, saying he/she believed the risk is closer to 90% of independent music venues closing in the next few months. 

While we still don’t know when venues will be allowed to reopen, we can assume it will still come with significant limitations, particularly with capacity. In the same survey, 55% of restaurant owners said they couldn’t survive over the next four months, even though they are allowed to be open with 50% capacity. With margins already so thin, 50% occupancy won’t cover the overhead. Restaurants and venues need at least 80% occupancy (or ticket sales) just to make ends meet.

But there’s some good news, too. If you’re good at marketing your music venue, you might be able to buy yourself some time. At some point, COVID will be out of here. Your main objective should be to find ways to hold on as long as you can until that happens. Once bands start touring again and venues can reopen at full capacity (and that will happen), your sales may be better than ever before. If we know one thing about this pandemic, it’s that it’s driving an incredible pent-up demand for things we once took for granted, like gathering with friends at a restaurant, having parties, and of course, seeing great bands with a room full of other music lovers.

How to Market Your Music Venue During a Pandemic

People may not be able to come to your venue right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t come to them. Your venue is just a place, but your brand is much more. People still want to hear great music and most people are wanting to support local businesses as much as they can. Combine those factors and you’ve got something to work with.

We’ve put together a list of things you can start doing now to keep your brand in front of your audience as much as possible so when restrictions ease up, you’ll be top of mind. You can also use this strategy to drum up some money to slow the bleeding.

Tip #1: Come up with objectives.

Just as with any business initiative, you need to start first with developing and prioritize your key business objectives that drive what tasks need to get done to achieve those objectives. The critical element here is to make sure your objectives:

1) are attainable, 
2) bring value, 
3) are measurable.

Attainable doesn’t just mean the objectives are reachable. They mean you have the resources (people, money, and time) to put you in a position to achieve your objectives.

Some of your objectives might be to increase brand awareness by 20% or generate $X per month in sales. Don’t worry right now about how you’re going to achieve your objectives. This stage is just about getting your thoughts on a roadmap and prioritize them based on the urgency and value they will bring your business.

Tip #2: Determine your strategy.

Now that you have your objectives lined up, it’s time to develop a strategy to market your music venue. Your strategy is a detailed map of how you are going to achieve your objectives. Your strategy will likely involve multiple people, so be sure it’s understandable and documented so all of the stakeholders know exactly what the strategy is, how it aligns with the objective, what their role is in executing the strategy, and how their performance will be measured.

Keep in mind that every single goal, project, and task must align directly to an objective. If it doesn’t, it needs to either be scrapped for now or knocked down in your list of priorities. You need to break down your strategy into the types of people you want to attract, what your goals are, how you will measure success, and when.

Who is your target audience?

Part of the strategy needs to be defining your personas. Personas are simply identifying the type of people that 1) come to your venue, and 2) you want to attract to your venue. Who are they? What kind of music do they like? What age group are they? What are they willing to pay for tickets? Where do they live (are they primarily local or do they travel in from other locations)? What other interests do they have? 

What are your goals?

Your goals need to be specific. If you want to increase brand awareness, for example, you can set up specific tasks that will help you achieve that goal, such as create targeted social media ads and/or bump up your email marketing to target specific personas you created.

While your goals may be noble, make sure they are aligned to the strategy and bring real value. That means you need to evaluate whether the cost to execute your goals is worth the value you expect to get out of the effort.

How will you measure success and when?

One of the biggest pitfalls businesses make in their strategy is to overlook the measurement element. This step is so critical because it 1) allows you to see if your efforts are moving the needle, 2) identifies which efforts are most effective and which aren’t bringing the intended value, and 3) gives you a chance to adjust your strategy or efforts to make more of an impact.

If your intent was to improve brand awareness and you see your email campaign isn’t making a difference and attracting people to your website or social media, you will be able to stop investing time and effort into that effort and direct them elsewhere. Make sure you are specific on how much time you are going to let go by before you measure. Some efforts won’t show immediate results. Measuring too soon could give you a false sense of what’s working. Similarly, measuring too late will translate into wasted effort that could have been adjusted earlier for better results.

Tip #3: Make sure you’re set up for success.

It’s one thing to say you want to improve brand awareness or increase sales. It’s quite another to have the systems and capabilities in place to execute your goals. If, for instance, you don’t already have a venue fan page, you need one. Where else are you going to send people you were successful in attracting? What do your social media pages look like? Are they optimized and designed in a way that attracts your target audience? Is your content appealing? Do they have a way to engage with you and other fans?

This may mean focusing more on one social channel than another. For instance, if you discover that most of your existing and potential audience engages with you on Instagram rather than Facebook, you may want to prioritize Insta over Facebook. You will want to direct your ads and posts to Insta.

Tip #4: Assign tasks.

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Once you know who your audience is and have defined your goals, it’s time to assign tasks. Get your whole team involved and make sure everyone is on the same page. Tasks need to be on a timeline with deadlines.

If you’re looking to increase brand awareness, who is going to be in charge of developing paid ads for the social channels you’ve deemed worthy? When will those ads be due? Who will be in charge of creating the email campaign and when will the first and second (and so on) emails need to go out? Come up with specific activities that need to happen to reach those goals and objectives.

Now, the Fun Part

The above tips are to get a system in place for any ideas you want to pursue. Brainstorming ways to make money and build brand awareness during this crazy time needs all hands on deck. Here are a few of the more creative ideas we’ve seen venues do lately:

Behind the scenes videos

The majority of your music fans likely have no idea what it takes to put on a show. They don’t know what goes on backstage, but they likely would love to. Leverage video platforms to educate them. Hubspot found 52% of marketers worldwide said video has the highest ROI.

Related: Video Marketing with Purpose: Creating Unique and Fun Videos for Your Venue or Show’s Social Pages

Let your team of stage techs go through the process of preparing for a show. Create a video explaining how shows get booked and the efforts that go into designing an awesome guest experience. Then market the hell out of them on social media platforms, your website, email campaigns, etc. You’ll be surprised at how many people enjoy getting the insider info on your business and will want to come to your venue when they can to see everything in action.

Partner with your acts

Just as people are interested in seeing how music venues work, they’ll often pay money to see an exclusive video interview with their favorite bands. This is money you can earn and split with the acts that agree to be interviewed. Remember: your bands and acts are struggling too. You can help each other by keeping each other top of mind and drumming up some extra cash. Interestingly, Ad-led video on demand, pay-per-view, and subscription video on demand is expected to grow from $37 billion in 2016 to $83.4 billion by 2021. Now with COVID, that number could go even higher.

The more interviews you do, the more fans you’ll likely attract going forward. Set up a schedule to push those interviews out to the public and use emails, social, and your website to build excitement around upcoming videos. Fans can purchase tickets to watch the interviews, so make sure you provide an easy way for them to make those purchases without having to navigate off of your website.

Related: To Stream or Not to Stream: Live-Streaming as a Source of Revenue

Be sure you get your bands to market the videos on their own channels as well and if needed, offer to help them set up a way for fans to purchase tickets. You can also work with your band to offer live or recorded concerts that people can buy tickets to see. 

Leverage Spotify.

Did you know that you can set up a Spotify account to reach an entirely new audience? Eventbrite says “if your ticketing provider distributes your events to Spotify, then your potential to convert Spotify fans to ticket buyers is even greater.” Once you get your profile set up, you can start building your playlist. You will build fans, promote your brand and venue, and can eventually sell tickets on Spotify.

Think outside of the box.

You may not be able to host concerts, but you may still be able to rent out your venue for other events, such as small exercise classes, private training sessions (remember: many gyms are either closed or their attendance has drastically decreased due to fears of crowds in the gym. You can offer private trainers space to work one-on-one in an uncrowded, air-conditioned facility for a small fee), stage tech lessons, and even remote office space for anyone not able to work from home or wanting a change of scenery.

You can market your music venue in multiple ways across multiple channels to reach multiple target audiences. Be sure you set up your strategy and objectives, outline your goals, assign tasks, and regularly measure results. By knowing who your current and potential audience is and marketing directly to them with valuable content and offerings, you will build your brand, bring in extra revenue, and keep your venue above the water for a bit longer.

Take back your weekend.
Let Prism settle your shows.