by Dan Goldstein. First version 2004, last 2009.
1. DON'T BLOW YOUR AUDIENCE SUPPLY TOO EARLY
If you've got some agents or producers coming, get 'em all there on one night and then pull out all the stops to fill the house. Don't just keep extending your run for the sake of extending-you'll dry up your audience and then when it counts you won't have audience left.
2. BUILD A LIST
Put out your own sign-in sheet at your shows to get people's email addresses. The email list is the single most important thing in show marketing. Build yours any way you can. Don't send more than a couple messages a month.
3. GET CELEBRITIES IN THE HOUSE
Either on stage or in the audience. People will come to see them in person, even if they are Z-list celebs.
4. GET QUOTES
Ask people to email you their feedback about the show. If it's criticism, see 5. If it's praise, collect it together and use it in your plugs and on your website.
5. IMPROVE YOUR SHOW
Constantly get negative feedback about your show and fix it. The easiest way to fill the house is through the word of mouth generated by happy theatergoers. If your show is too long or sound system too loud, you as a performer/director will never realize it, you need the crowd to tell you. If you're keeping an email list like in point 2, you can ask those people how the show was.
6. GET REVIEWED
Here's a sample press kit contents:
- Who, what, where, when, etc.
- 3 black and white photographs. Credits: Joe Schmo
- 1 CD with digital photos and entire press kit
- 1 Press pass: admits two
- 1 Cover letter with story angles
- 1 Single page press release
- 5 Articles from Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, etc.
7. GET ON THE CALENDAR PAGE
The easiest way to do this is to get a high quality photograph. Two easy ways to make the page are 1) have someone photoshop the photo to make it striking and unusual 2) have the photo be sexy. If you look at the calendar pages, about half the photos their are sexy or suggesting nudity (but of course not showing it).
8. GET GROUPS IN THE HOUSE
Use your college alumni organization to organize a trip to see your show. Or your friends from work. Or the junior league. Or whatever you belong to. There is no easier way to sell 30 seats at once.
9. GIVE AWAY FREE FOOD
Big with the college and twentysomething crowd. You can buy giant bags of movie-theater popcorn, already popped (or pre-pop as well call it in the industry) and put it in to little bags and serve it. Just make sure you sweep up or the theater management will yell at you.
10. THE INTERNET
While I'm against spamming all your Facebook friends about every show you do, there are forums / message boards on which show plugs are welcome. If you take the time to become a member of these communities, and see other people's shows, people will actually take the time to see your shows. Putting your calendar of events on your Facebook page and of course on your group's page (just don't spam it out to everyone). Put show clips on YouTube. Make viral videos that show the "behind the scenes" a la Improv Everywhere.
Put love into everything you do, every message you write. It shows.
12. MAKE IT PERSONAL
Make as many invitations personal as you can. I don't mean use mail merge. I mean let people know, in indiviudal emails, about the show.
13. MAKE A POSTCARD THAT IS STRANGER-TO-YOUR-THEATER FRIENDLY
Take extra care to show exactly where the theater is. Draw a map. Show the location of subways. Mention the cross streets when giving addresses! People are afraid to go to a new place for the first time. If we are to believe research on cited in The Tipping Point, the addition of a map can make a huge difference.
14. MAKE A WEBSITE
However, don't sink too much time into it because nobody cares about your stupid show website, they just want practical information like where the theater is, how much it costs, and how to reserve tickets and when to arrive. Link to your show's Web site in your email or message board signatures. Put quotes there (see point 4). People like to read cast bios and see cast headshots and watch videos. Repurpose this stuff elsewhere on the Web (see point 10).