How to sell tickets when you don’t have celebrity performers

We often get shows that are done by amateurs – and I’m not using the word in a condescending way at all – they are very very good and in fact better than many professionals. By amateurs I mean non-celebrity talent. And like anyone else, they want  to sell tickets like hot cakes.

They are good and they know they are good. Naturally they expect to sell out tickets for their shows and become celebrities. Unfortunately, the entertainment business doesn’t seem to work solely on talent. There is a lot that goes into the making of a star and building the ability to attract thousands of people into audiences. A. R. Rahman was not built over night and he is not the only one with the kind of talent that he has. Also he did not become the star that he is by himself. He was aided and built by a huge publicity machinery that worked to build him and the projects that he was involved in.

Robin Sharma had to self publish his first book and had only a handful of people in his first seminar. Since then, his marketing machinery has built him to be the rock star that he is today.

Call it luck, call it hard work, call it opportunity, whatever it is, its not just talent.

So lets first acknowledge the fact that just because you are super talented and you are putting up a show, no one’s going to come to watch you. It doesn’t matter if you go around shouting from every roof top in the city that you are doing a show. No amount of marketing – newspaper (some of our clients don’t want to spend on newspaper but believe just their names will bring them sold out audiences!), Facebook, etc. is going to make a difference.

Having said that, how do you sell tickets for a show by non-celebrity performers?

Like Robin Sharma above you have to sell it through friends, family and well wishers.

Here’s what you need to do.

1. Set a clear goal for the sale. Lets say 500 tickets. Make sure the goal is achievable or slightly less than what you think is achievable. Forget the self help BS about big, audacious goals. This is not a psychological exercise. This is hard core sales and you have one opportunity to max out sales. So set a clear, specific, slightly less than what you think is achievable goal. Remember – a 500 capacity auditorium with 10 people waiting outside is way better than a 1200 capacity audience with 700 seats empty.

2. Price the tickets right. More on how to price tickets in another post. But for this, ask around and find out how much your family and friends are willing to pay. Ask as many as you can. Most people either don’t know or will lie to be kind to you.

3. Work with an auditorium where you can fix seat numbers. Fixed seat numbers helps show movement in tickets and create urgency.

4. Once you’ve priced the tickets and ensured that you are working in the right auditorium, its time to start sales.

5. Sell the first 25% to friends and family and their friends and so on. This means sell at least 125 tickets to everyone you know. Recruit cast members as sales people. set a goal of 10 tickets each for each of the cast and crew. Its everyone’s show. And sell this ASAP. Force, cajole, plead, do what ever is necessary to sell the first 25%. Whatever you do, hurry!

Give the best seats to your friends and family. They are after all your support group. This process should finish ideally 3 weeks before the show.

6. Open ticketing to the general public 2 weeks before the show. Dont open earlier. It doesn’t help.

7. When it does open, the seat maps are now red with all the tickets you have already sold. This creates a sense of demand for the show.

8. Now its time to start your Facebook and social media campaigns. Post to groups, spread the word on whatsapp, sms, email call and talk to institutions for bulk bookings. 5 tickets or more is a bulk booking.

9. At this point close all discounts except bulk discounts. And make the discounts substantial. 25% or more. I’ve had customers tell me that 25% on a Rs. 300 ticket is Rs. 75. And if 100 tickets get sold on this, they will lose Rs. 7500. Hey – wake up! You are not going to sell 100 tickets on discount. In case you didn’t hear before – nobody cares for your show. And while Rs. 7500 seems like a lot to you, Rs. 75 is not enough to make me want to get out of my big ass recliner in front of my big screen TV with beer on the side, get into a car and drive across town to see you live your dream!

But your friends and well wishers will happily support you by buying the tickets and will be happy that you are acknowledging their support by giving them a substantial 25% discount. Thats what you are playing on. Not on the actual quantum of money.

10. Finish all your bulk sales and commitments in the week before show week. By now you should have hit your 40% of tickets sales mark. 40% is 40% of all the sales you are ever going to do for the show. If you have hit 200 tickets by now, you will most likely hit your target of 500. If you have hit 150, you will most likely sell 400 tickets for the show.

11. In the last one week before the show you will sell 60% of your tickets. Refer calculation in the above point. There is nothing you can do now except maybe keep pushing for bulk sales. The possibility of bulk sales also reduces as you get closer to the show as it needs some time to coordinate and collect numbers. So just chill and focus on putting up a good show. Ensure that those who have bought tickets have  a great experience. Dont worry about sales now. There is nothing more in your control.

Follow these steps and you will have a successful show. When it comes to dealing with non celebrity talent, success is only a factor of how realistic your goal setting was. Even following the above steps will only ensure that you sell 25 – 30% more than if you sold the tickets in a haphazard manner. Non-celebrity talent can only draw so much and the above steps will ensure that you max out the draw that you can get.

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