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Marketing Pay-to-Play Gigs


There's no sense in booking a Pay-to-Play gig if you cannot sell all of the tickets you obtain. With careful planning, selling the required number of tickets can be done without annoying your friends and family. 

With sufficient enough time to plan, and the proper usage of your marketing resources, a band can make the required number of ticket sales and even sell extra tickets.

Planning a Promotions Campaign

A new band’s first question is always how far ahead should they begin to promote. Some experienced bands believe that you don't need to promote until a couple of weeks before the event, where as others believe that you should begin promoting as soon as you set a date no matter how far out in advance it is. 

Bands I know have the perception that lot of people are more spontaneous when it comes to live local music and are less likely to plan ahead just in case something better comes up, as opposed to people who are willing to plan to see a major-label act a couple of months in advance.

I believe you should do both, start promoting right away and continue promoting up until the event, in graduating intensity of the promotions. 

Suppose you book at Pay-to-Play gig four-months in advance. It would be wise to make an initial announcement about the event, even before you've obtained sponsorship dollars.

Make a promotions schedule and gradually increase your promotions efforts as you near the date of performance, starting with once a week, then once a day the week of the event. 

Overcoming Pre-Selling Challenges

Potentially the hardest part of pre-selling tickets will be convincing fans to set aside a night on their calendar ahead of time, that is if the ticket price isn’t too high. 

If you are performing at a Pay-to-Play gig then your challenge is the same as the promoter you signed with, to sell the show out before it happens to ensure the investment is recouped immediately. 

Although you may be able to sell leftover tickets at the door the night of the show, the point is to book out the show long before you arrive to the greenroom so the band can relax and concentrate on performing.

If you encounter fans that are reluctant to invest in a ticket ahead of the show try to offer incentives to get them to buy now. People love free stuff, so try offering a item from your merchandise table, or maybe even a free beer, for the first n people to buy a ticket. 

If you're short on cash, and if your band can raise enough sponsor money to pay the booking fee, then the band can use some of the ticket money to buy merchandise to give away at the show.

Using Online Resources

There are a lot of options for promoting the band’s show including the obvious choices like your band’s website or social media profiles on Facebook, Reverb Nation, Twitter and others. 

Don’t forget to post on community boards like the Community section of Craigslist or local forums on websites specific to your city. 

Also don’t forget the many event calendar websites that many bands don’t use enough including Eventbright, Patch, and Meetup.

Using a Mailing List

More important than a Facebook, or any other social network, following is the band's mailing list. 

Central to any marketing campaign, the mailing list is yours and cannot be taken away when the fad of particular social networks wears off. 

If your band has not already started a mailing list, begin today using some advice from the How to Create an Email Marketing Plan tutorial.

Once you've begun a mailing list and have your fans email addresses, tailor an automatic campaign to run as soon as they sign up. One of the best ways to get people to sign up is by offering an incentive. 

Besides the obvious things like keeping your fans up-to-date with the latest news, aim to offer things like entries into contests (for example win a chance to name the band's next album) or prizes like band merchandise. 

Using a Sponsor's Resources

When you snag a sponsor, don't be afraid to ask them to post your marketing materials to their website, social networks, or their physical office bulletin board. 

The sponsor will likely be happy to advertise the band's flyer with their logo on it, so essentially this is like your band being paid to advertise to their customers.

Using Offline Tactics

Street Teams

Begin building a street team if you haven't already. A street team is usually constructed from your fans. Smart bands will give their street team members prizes and incentives to help pass out flyers and other promotional messages for free. 

Once you have a few people on your team, discuss a project where they get something in return for helping sell tickets, for example for every ten tickets they sell they get a free drink ticket at the show, or an autographed band t-shirt.

Work with the street team to determine the best places and times to do promotional events. For example, you can go to the parking lot of the venue that the band will be playing and pass out promotional material to the venue attendees when they leave the show. 


Posters have long been a staple in the marketing of band shows and even with the internet. The printing and posting of these large graphical promotional items will probably always be a viable way to effectively advertise your band. 

Ensure you speak to the management of the establishment you will be playing at to arrange to put your posters up in conspicuous places both inside and outside of the venue at least two weeks before the gig.


In this tutorial, I have shown you how to market pay-to-play gigs and have given you a number of suggestions to ensure that your gigs are successful and profitable.

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