Why Your Artsy Thing Is Not That Important
How do we get more people to come to shows? What can I do to make my shows better? Where is everybody? These are questions I hear far too often. Well, I am attempting to shed a little light on some of these subjects. Go into this with an open mind, and some thick skin, and maybe we can all make our individual scenes better, and make going to a stand up, sketch, art release, concert, improv show, or whatever your thing is, just a little better for all of us. Trust me, it gets funnier the further you read..
Where is the audience tonight?
That’s a question I have heard a lot throughout different scenes across the country. Where is the audience? Well, let’s think about that for a moment. In the age of the internet, with such things as Netflix, HULU, and the like, it is way easier for people to sit in the comfort of their own homes and veg out in front of the TV for entertainment than try to venture out to see a live show, especially if there happens to be bad weather on the night of your event. Sitting around in your PJs binge watching Game of Thrones seems way easier than preparing yourself for a night on the town. There are a lot of lazy people in this world that would much rather order a pizza and chug a 2 liter of cola on the couch instead of making effort to go see your artsy, unique event.
Yes. It is true that your art is important, but to whom? The answer is usually YOU. And yes, you want to share this unique little thing that you have created with the world, but without effort and drive to do so, that is a hard road to follow. Being an artist is so appealing because it is FUN, but only because WORK IS NOT WORK IF YOU LOVE WHAT YOU DO. Everyone would probably love to paint, draw, act, play music, do improv or sketch, or just perform for a living, because it’s fun when that is your passion. Well, I hate to break it to ya, but there are a lot of us that think this way. When there are a lot of people trying to get everyone to go see their unique thing, then it gets harder. You have to do more and do better. Your unique thing has to outshine the thousands of other unique things that exist in the world.
The other problem that arises, is that most creative individuals tend to flock to and be friends with other creative people. That, in turn, creates a crossover of friendships. If each artist is trying to get all of their friends to come to a thing, but then your other artist friends are trying to get the same folks to come to their things as well, then it becomes a pick and choose scenario. It’s like those dumb word problems that some of us had to do in high school. You know, "If Train A and Train B are traveling at 100 mph and they both happen to schedule their arrival time at the same place, how many passengers are gonna give a shit", type of questions. Well, let’s think about it in that way.
Keep in mind, I am no mathematician. If Doug has a group of 50 friends, and he invites them to his art show on Monday, but Sally has the same 50 friends, and invites them to her dance thingy on Wednesday, and Tom’s band is playing on Thursday, but don’t forget Billy’s Improv troupe is on the 2nd Friday of the month, which falls on the same week, and Chelsey’s birthday bash / stand up show is on Saturday, and Glenn’s other thingy is every Sunday after the first full moon of the artistic apocalypse, and don’t forget about Jill and her weird belly dance rendition of Fiddler on the Roof, and Kurt’s One Man Show about the importance of whale harmony, and Kelly, and George, and REMEMBER DOUG, DON’T FORGET ABOUT DOUG!……. SHIT!!! That’s a lot of things. Your friends have to choose. So what do you do? Talk to strangers? “Oh no, but I have issues with strangers and their things”. Well, that’s the tough part. Convincing strangers to go to your thing. But How?
Promotion. Promotion. Promotion.
We can’t always predict how many people will attend the show, but there are things that can be done to try and at least inform the public of the event that you are promoting at the time. If you are fortunate enough to have a group of people involved in the event, you have to convince them to do their part as well. If you are doing a solo thing, it is much harder, but the work still has to be done.
We live in an age where it is really easy to spend a lot of your day staring into the void of social media, whether on your phone, your computer, or your cool watch that is connected to your phone, nevertheless, being connected is a thing. Yes, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram are all platforms in which to let your “friends” know about the things that are going on in your life. Your boyfriend/girlfriend is amazing. The steak you had for dinner is beautiful. The video of this adorable dog doing doggy stuff is to die for. All of these things are true, but so is the thing you are trying to promote. Facebook, for example, is a great way to tell folks about your thing. Creating an event is great, but with the new restrictions on the ability to “invite” folks, you have to rely on others. Getting a person to take five seconds of their time to to do the simplest thing as to “share” your event, is hard. You have to almost resort to begging them to make this happen, and in some cases, even if they are a part of your cool thing. But, there are still ways.
There is an old saying, “You have to spend money to make money”. This is so true, especially in the world of Facebook. Complain all you want about having to pay to “boost” events to reach others, or to make your event hit the top of everyone’s feed, or whatever it is, but remember, Facebook is a business, and it is also an advertising platform. Of course the people in charge of running an advertising platform are going to capitalize on you needing people at your show. Just like ads in newspapers, radio, and TV cost money, so does the “ad” for your event on Facebook. It is how business is run. If you can afford it, do it.
Here is a little formula I use in boosting my events on FB. If the cost of 3 tickets to a show run about fifteen total ($5 per ticket… the lower the price point, the more likely people are to attend), then that is the amount you try and spend. If you can spend more, then great. It is the same as giving away 3 tickets to a show, you have to risk that money in hopes of getting folks out. Asses in the seats is what builds a brand. So if you spend $20 for an ad, which is very cheap in advertising standards, and let’s say you reach 2000 people, that is 2000 more people who know about your event. If 10% of those folks (200) actually are interested, then they might click your link to your event and look further into the show. If you can get 3% of them to actually buy a ticket and go, then you have sold 6 tickets, which covers the cost of your investment, and nets you $10, but more importantly, that’s 6 people that are attending your show. (Again, I am not a mathematician).
Now, admittedly, this does not always work out. Sometimes you just spend $20, but you made an effort. That’s what matters. I can’t tell you the number of times I have had folks in my town come up and tell me “I see your stuff all over Facebook, you really put a lot of work into it”. That means they noticed, and it also means that they themselves have opened the door for me to promote my next show to them. Hell, I would not be me if I didn’t use every opportunity to market the next show that I have going on. And 9 times out of 10, they most likely won’t come. People don’t want to be mean to your face, or feel like they have let you down. That’s why they say things like “Sorry I missed your show” or “When is the next one so I can try to attend”. They want to be able to sleep at night, and feel as if they have not let you down. Let’s be honest, most of life is full of let downs, it’s the ones that move passed those thing that are successful.
Posters and Flyers
“Who does postering and flyering anymore?” “People are just gonna throw that stuff away” “That’s not worth it to me.” Those are just some things I hear, but I must disagree. Any form of promotion, is still just that, PROMOTION!!! Now I’m not saying to hire a firm that does all of this for you, unless you got it like that, then by all means. I am trying to say that posters are easy to do. There are free sites that I use for making my posters. The one I use the most is postermywall.com. Designing is simple. Hell, there are even templates that you can plug in your unique pictures and fonts into existing layouts. It even allows you to download the finished products for free. (Yes, there will be a watermark at the bottom, but hell, that's the price for them to advertise with you and for you to use their site , virtually for free). Utilize this site, or if you find a better one, then use that. Hell, let me know, I’ll give it a try.
The next step is getting those things printed out. DON’T GO TO KINKOS, if you can help it. Kinkos is expensive. Find a local printing place in town, and work with them. The more you utilize them, the more likely you are to get a discount from time to time.
USE YOUR FEET!!! Walk all over your town. Ask to hang posters in the windows, community boards, bathrooms, or even set a stack of flyers at the register. Ask you friends and family if you can post stuff at their work, or in their break rooms. Every little bit helps. You just have to be willing to put in the work.
PEOPLE ARE LAZY
Now here’s the hard part…. Honesty. Let’s be entirely honest about how things are. People are Lazy. There, I said it. For the most part, people are lazy. Why? Because it is easy. It is easier to stay in bed all day watching movies, than it is to get up and do things. It’s the same reason why everyone in this country isn’t in tip top shape, me included. It’s not easy. It’s easier to lift a cheeseburger to your own mouth than it is to try and do a few push ups and sit ups everyday. It’s easier to use a remote, than it is to get up and change the channel. Companies make millions of dollars off of people’s laziness, or their desire to not try as hard. Examples: the remote control, escalators, elevators, microwaves, that dumb grabber thingy that makes it easier for you to sit in the motorized cart and reach a high shelf, than for you to just stand up, FUCKING SEGWAYS!!!!!!
Laziness dominates a lot of our lives. It’s so much easier to just not do shit, and then bitch about it later. If you really think about it, if you could have everything you needed brought to you all of the time, you’d probably do that. Hell I wouldn’t mind it myself. That’s why things like a damn Walmart Supercenter exist. Laziness. “Why go anywhere else, when you can get all of your shit in one place?” That’s how small businesses in this country got overrun by the megastores. Laziness. Why drive to five different places to get the things you need, when you can get it all in one giant place? Want food that you don’t have to cook too? Well, in our mega fucking grocery store, where you buy all the things you need to make the food yourself, we’ll throw in a stupid ass McDonalds. YAY!!! Why cook all the things you just spent over an hour buying, when you can pick this shitty food up and not have to cook, then go home and unload all of the shit you just bought into your house, and shovel this “food” in your face, and then take a nap. LAZINESS!!!
How do you combat this? A Little bit of EFFORT. A little bit of effort goes a long way. It doesn’t take much. Most of us are creatures of habit. We go to the same gas station every week, the same bank with the same bank tellers, or the same breakfast joint three times a week because they know your name, and the french toast is really cheap there. It’s comfort. Your bubble is your comfort zone. It’s why Norm went to Cheers all of the time. They knew him there. Well, take a flyer with you. Chances are, the people in the places you go know that you are an artist of some sorts, so why not have something to give them to let them know of your next show. Hell, they might even put it on their fridge, and they might even show up. If everyone in your group does the same thing, then that’s even more people that you reach.
Change it up. Go to new places and tell new people about your unique little thing. Shop locally, and ask to hang up a poster. Give the employees flyers, chances are they are bored, and might give it a try. Just put forth a little bit of effort to your unique little thing you do, and maybe, just maybe, people will show up. If you’re not willing to do this, then QUIT!!!!.
I said it. QUIT!!!!. Why try and follow this fun and awesome dream you have, if you’re not willing to put forth effort to do so. Stop getting in your own way!!! Stop worrying that you are not good enough. Bug everyone, and tell them about your thing. Spread the word. Shout it at the top of your lungs “I AM DOING THIS AWESOME UNIQUE LITTLE ARTSY THING THAT IS REALLY AMAZING AND YOU SHOULD COME WATCH IT AND TELL ME IT”S GOOD EVEN IF YOU DON’T THINK SO BECAUSE I NEED VALIDATION IN MY LIFE FOR THE THINGS I DO” or whatever you’d like to say.
So that’s the key kiddos. TRY. Put forth a little bit of effort, and things might just work out for you. People might actually end up liking your stuff, and keep showing up. Then they tell their friends, and those friends in turn tell their friends, and more and more people show up and continue to show up, and even newer people show up cause you met a new person and they had a flyer that you gave them, and the people start to show up to all of the things, and then it happens: NOBODY FORGOT ABOUT DOUG.
Be Kind. Be Humble. Things Will Work Out.