The 3 Absolute Minimum Things You Must Do To Promote a Stage Play or Musical in 2014
About three years ago I wrote a blog post titled The 3 Absolute Minimum Things You Must Do To Promote a Stage Play or Musical. To this day it is one of the pages on Sold Out Run that generates the most traffic from Google searches.
But over the last three years the landscape of marketing theatre has changed. Both technology and how we process the marketing information that’s put in front of us have evolved. I’ve also continued to learn new promotional tactics and approaches since writing that original piece. At this point I feel like it’s time (or more accurately: long overdue) to share three new critical tactics for marketing theatre 2014.
1.) A reason
The most important thing you need in order to promote your show is a reason why someone would come see this show, and I don’t mean a reason why someone would like theatre in general. Even the most ardent supporters of live theatre can’t make it to every production. They have to pick and choose, and you better have a solid rationale why people should put your show on their short list.
This needs to be a real reason. Something that can’t be said of every moderately decent production in your area.
None of the following are valid reasons for someone to see your show:
- It’s a good show – so vague that it’s effectively meaningless
- These people are talented – if they’re truly talented, then there will probably be other chances to see them besides this
- We worked really hard – since I wasn’t with you throughout the process, I don’t see your growth – I only get to see the finished product, and depending on where you started hard work is no guarantee that the show is good
Think about your favorite shows of the last few years and what made them great. Was it the complex character relationships? Historical references that resonated with you? The most talented singers in your area? You laughed so hard you peed a little?
There’s an almost infinite number of reasons your show might be too good to miss, and you only need one. But you absolutely need that one reason. It’s what you’ll be telling people in all of your marketing.
2.) Show art
You may or may not decide to print posters. Some companies are having success with them. Others aren’t. In truth I suspect your success hinges on what you do with the posters after they are printed. (If you hand a stack of posters to everyone in your cast and wait for the ticket sales to roll in, you’ll be waiting a long time.)
Whether you do a poster or not, though, I do think you need compelling show art. You might end up using it mostly in digital form, but you should be using it. Compelling imagery goes a long way on social media and in emails.
3.) Facebook event
Speaking of social media you should create a Facebook event. You might do a lot more on Facebook, but this is the bare minimum. Communicating with events isn’t quite as powerful as it used to be, but it’s still the best game in town for leveraging the social connections of the people involved in the production.
Even if you don’t do much formal promotion on Facebook, it’s worth the few minutes to set this up because it gives a focal point for all the informal word of mouth that can occur over Facebook with the friends and family of everyone involved in the show. It’s also one of the easiest possible ways for anyone to invite people to the show.
If you’re ready to go beyond these three bare minimum pieces of promoting your stage production consider creating a marketing calendar and a theatrical trailer or two.
I came across your podcasts just before Xmas and have been slowly working through them. I have found something in each and every podcast which has resonated and will be useful. I am a member of a community theatre group in Sydney, Australia. Our company will be staging an original play written by a friend and I. It is the first time that we have produced an original play for an adult audience (my wife has written several successful children’s shows), so we are looking at ways to market it. I am wondering if you have any thoughts on the marketing of an original play (if you have already addressed this issue in a previous podcast it would be appreciated if you could point me in the right direction). It strikes me that marketing the show as a new play by first time playwrights may not be the best way to promote it, i.e. it requires the audience to take a risk. Would you agree with this assessment?
Scott, it’s mentioned in bits and pieces here and there, but I’ve never dedicated an entire podcast episode or post to the subject of promoting an original work. That’s actually a pretty good idea, so keep an eye out for that. 🙂
I do agree with trying to minimize the perceived risk as much as possible in the marketing. In most cases that means not emphasizing that this is the maiden voyage for your playwrights. Maybe the subject matter or even the unique take you’re bringing to it would be more compelling?
And welcome to Sold Out Run!
Hey there Clay,
Me and my friend is writing a gospel stage play and we are gonna put on afternoon and evening performances at a pretty good sized big church and it’s gonna be stressful but it’s gonna be phenomenal. We will be holding auditions and how could we find people that can sing and act at the same time! Another question is how would we sell tickets online? How can we reach to all churches not only in our community but other cities around as well? Thanks once again and God Bless you in 2014!
That’s exciting, and I wish you all kinds of success. If you haven’t gotten to episode 24 of the podcast, yet, that one touches on marketing auditions. I’m sure there are multiple competitive services for online ticket sales, but I notice Brown Paper Tickets showing up a lot lately ( http://www.brownpapertickets.com/ ) so I’d start your searching there.
For reaching churches I would start by talking to your local church officials. How do they network? I imagine it will be much easier to reach out to people if you can get even an informal recording of your first run.
Break a leg!