Madmen Advice: Sell Advertising on Tickets
The portrayal of the advertising industry in AMC's hit TV series 'Madmen' may lead the hard working entertainer that advertiser underwriting is beyond their ability. The truth is, bands and venues can obtain lucrative sponsorship but the right approach is required. Music industry "madmen" Simon Tam and Scott Honsberger have some good advice for bands plus we add our own two cents: sell advertising on tickets.
This week Simon Tam wrote a smart piece on Hypebot's 'Music Think Tank' on how bands can attract paid sponsorship. 'Home Much You Should Ask from Sponsors' is written with Tam's extensive experience working with performers and lists some excellent points, including:
Instead of thinking about how much you can get from potential sponsors, think about what kind of value you can offer and how much it is worth. It’s fairly common for first-time sponsors to offer $500 to bands (either in cash and/or products) for little in return.
If you want to command higher prices, you’re going to have to offer a lot more than putting someone’s logo on your website or tour van. Go the extra mile and get creative.
If you are in a band, or are responsible for a band's success (promoter, tour manager, etc.), Tam's thoughts are recommended reading - as is his book.
Toward the end of 'How Much', Tam writes this critical reminder, applicable not just to musicians, but any type of performer, or venue for that matter:
Remember, because they are not underwriting your expenses, you shouldn't worry about how much your project or endeavor costs. You should focus on the value that you can deliver for them and how much that is worth.
That point cannot be emphasized enough. Underwriting the cost of any endeavor through advertising starts with the value perception by advertisers. Venues and performers alike need to offer a realistic estimate of the potential return on investment for sponsors during the "discovery period", to borrow a litigious term.
The discovery period is also when the band and venue ask each other "how much?" money the performance will generate. Estimated ticket revenue can be a major factor in knowing the amount to ask for from an advertiser.
The Price Is Right
Scott Honsberger's 'Five Bucks' is a good place to start when answering the question of "how much?" Honsberger is the executive director of Music Ontario, a non-profit dedicated to promoting & supporting the music industry, so he speaks with considerable authority on the subject of live music performances.
In 'Five Bucks', Scott Honsberger draws upon that authority, and his pedigree as a once struggling musician, to speak directly to bands and venues on how much to charge for a performance. He starts by dismantling the age old patron expectation of a cover charge.
People have gotten so used to charging $5 at the door, simply by default, that if you charge more, patrons tend to be surprised. But the cost of guitars, amps, strings, gas to get to the venue, food, and virtually everything else has gone up. Why hasn't the price of seeing bands? If we had been raising this incrementally all along the way, however, maybe today $10 would be second nature – the ‘going rate’ if you will – and younger bands would be in much, much better shape.
Everyone – bands, promoters, venue owners, and supporters – need to be open to change in order to find the right price for a night of live music. $5, as a default, just isn't cutting it.
Admissions prices do need to be carefully aligned with patron expectations, absolutely. But the harsh reality may be that overhead costs for both the performer and the venue end-up making "six bucks at the door" impractical. Hence Tam's suggestion of sponsored underwriting earlier.
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Sponsorships through Ticket Advertising
Missing from both Tam and Honsberger's advice columns is the the idea of selling advertising on the tickets.
Sponsorship may include myriad other aspects, as Tam suggested, but one of the highest returns on investment for sponsors of live music performances has proven to be their name printed on the paper ticket.
Conveying the value proposition of advertising on tickets should include just how well live music patrons respond to them. If the data published by Lab 42 is any indication, both the performers and the venues are starting from an advantageous position.
The Lab 42 info graphic on concert ticket QR codes states of the people who have used QR codes 62% of those said it was a concert ticket. Such a specialized use case can be extrapolated to mean that the average concertgoer is very aware of what is printed on the ticket. If that many people bothered to follow through on the somewhat "nerdy" QR code, imagine the engagement on something as easy as "Fans of [band name], bring your ticket stub to [advertiser name] to get $5 off your purchase..."
So when Tam tells bands to "focus on the value your offer" consider the tremendous potential of 1,000 fans responding to an advertisers personalized offer printed on the ticket. If half the band's fans heed the call and go spend ~$20 each at the advertiser's location - that's a $10,000 return on investment!
Sell Advertising On Tickets
ThunderTix offer bands, tour managers and venues the ability to sell advertising on tickets. The feature is part of our extensive support for traditional printed tickets and our popular print-at-home PDF tickets. The advertising can be split into more than one sponsor, and each ad can also include a QR code if desired.
You can garner additional profits per show by selling the space available on the ticket. This option generates additional revenue from any advertiser you choose. Even better, put your partnerships with local vendors to good use by making the ticket advertising also function as a coupon.
Printed tickets are more than a substrate to place advertisements on though, they are central to every live music performance. Our ticketing software technology includes sophisticated advertising options and we have pricing plans suited to meet the needs of bands.
What do you think? Should every discussion by bands and venues to sponsors include selling advertising on the tickets? What other ways can bands underwrite their costs? Let us know in the comments below!