One of the most effective ways I've found for building a local audience is to set up a weekly show. I perform three music & puppet shows every Wednesday in my hometown for children ages 1-5. This allows me not only a weekly venue to improve and test new material, but also a reason for me to constantly keep my name out there.
I promote using my own e-mailing list which I build at shows (also offering regular discounts through the newsletter to entice people to sign up.)
I promote using a local yahoo moms group, which in my town (Hoboken, NJ) has about 4,000 members. This is the most common way people find out about my shows.
I also run a monthly ad in a regional parents paper, which over time has generated many calls, though it took running the ad for several months before people started to notice it.
I am currently experimenting with Facebook ads to help promote a new weekly show I'm beginning at the end of April in a new location. It was very easy to set up and I control how much I spend per click, and also the daily limit. I like the FB ads because I only pay when someone clicks on them, and I can be very specific in who the ad is shown to.
For example, my ad is only being shown to moms ages 25+ who have kids 0-3, within 10 miles of Summit, NJ. That's pretty specific targeting. At this point, the ad is being "exposed" 15,000-30,000 times per day with only a tiny little, itty-bitty fraction of those exposures leading to clicks. When someone clicks on the ad, they are taken to my website where I describe the show and offer a free ticket.
I haven't quite determined how effective this is in terms of getting people ultimately to buy tickets, but it's a relatively low cost way to advertise to my very specific target audience.
The final thing I do is simply to walk around putting up posters. This is time consuming and not my favorite thing to do. I mostly do it because it seems like everyone else is doing it. I don't have any evidence that posters translate into tickets sold. To speed up the process of putting up posters, I bought a good staple gun, and occasionally wander around a certain neighborhood putting up posters on all the telephone poles.
Marketing is unfortunately generally an after thought with me... I spend so much time working on the creative end of things that it's hard to also coordinate marketing efforts at the same time. I usually pull together a new show or recordings or whatever and THEN think about marketing them. I am currently reading books on marketing so that, eventually, I can get ahead of the game!
A few people have commented on my weekly "free" shows, but I want to point out that the weekly shows I do are not free. I charge $15 per child if tix are bought in advance, and $18 per child if they drop-in. I am performing in a space that only comfortably holds 14 kids with one grown up each, so I usually sell out 1 or 2 of the shows each week, and generally always make a reasonable profit for the time invested.
Occasionally I do have a show with only a few kids, but the space is "intimate" and I always do the show even if just ONE child who shows up!
For more info, check out my website: http://www.misterkipley.com
Great ideas! Thanks for sharing! Another thing that I've done is partner with venues that offer birthday party packages. They use me as an "add-on" for $150. I play for 20 minutes during the party, I get $100, they get $50 and I also get exposure to a room full of kids and parents who don't mind spending money on their kid's entertainment. Everybody wins!
I really like the idea of doing a consistent show with your hometown too. This really makes us be more creative to make a new show each time. And you're right it really makes you a better performer because of that. I really like involving the kids from town too - I think it's great for the community. It does cost money (for us at least) to put on these free shows but if we are ever fortunate enough to put on a house concert we can do pretty well.
Did facebook ads help for you? It does seem that people really like something that is popular so once you have a certain amount of people more people just feel they can like you because you must be good since so many people like you :P ha!
Hi, thanks for replying - I do want to stress that my weekly shows are not free. I have always sold tickets to the shows. When I first started out, I was charging just $5 per child, but after a few years of doing the shows, I gradually moved the price up to $15 per child. There are costs involved for us, and there is time involved.
Now, having said that, I do perform the occasional benefit for free when I know the people involved, and I have donated several show packages for charity auction events. Doing this helps a charity and is also good marketing.
But the weekly shows are not free. This is my job and I can't pay to rent a space and then give free shows on the chance that someone MIGHT want to hire me for a birthday party or something. I sell tickets!
That's great you can charge tickets! Hopefully we get to that stage sooner than later -- no pun intended ;) I think definitely it's worth busking though and playing in parks during the summer and maybe making it a traveling weekly show - it's amazing how many kids and families you can draw with this sort of relaxed way of performing. We really hope to do a lot more of this next year.