So you’re barreling along, booking tour dates, doing your promotion, playing the gigs and generally feeling pretty good about the way things are going. Yes? But you’re thinking to yourself, “How can I spice things up, make them more exciting for everyone, especially the media and bring a bit more attention to this road show?” The answer—Themes.
Upon returning from New Orleans where I moderated a panel on “Accessing the Media.” My panelists were a music critic, a publicist and a radio programmer. At one point during the workshop, our attention was focused on creating media events to capture audience, press, TV and radio. We were not talking about media events for visiting dignitaries. We were discussing a simple CD release and how, with a little creative mind expansion, some planning and some outreach to community businesses and organizations, you can turn that simple CD release into a media event. So what does it take to make the media notice you? How can you incorporate this approach each time you want to stir things up?
First, let’s talk about themes. I always teach my seminar attendees to crystallize a description of their act into a single sentence and then into three to five words. If we take this approach a bit further, think about how you can create a theme around a CD title, the type of music you play, your name, the title song you want to push to radio, create a name for the upcoming tour, etc. For example, the publicist on the panel had worked with B.B. King. Not only did they focus on the Blues genre by working the color blue into all the decorations when hosting a restaurant event, but they manipulated a menu of foods to include everything with “King” in the name—King Crab Legs, Chicken a la King, you get the idea. When planning, these ideas were incorporated into the invitations, press releases and all of the pre-promotion to get people and the press excited about the event and what they could expect when attending this shindig. It grabbed their attention.
Another angle that becomes very important is how you involve community businesses and organizations. When you approach a restaurant or club about hosting a CD release, they are likely to pull out their rental room sheet and begin tallying up costs to give you an estimate. But, if you approach them with a theme that reaches beyond just you and your CD release, and incorporates a local, regional or national charitable organization, then they start figuring “in-kind” services as their donation and the media attention the event is likely to get. The theme gives them something to get excited about and gives them a creative jumping off point. As a marketing tool, all involved in supporting a theme become inspired co-workers eager to add their specialty to the overall product or event. It really does get people’s creative juices flowing. When the event is coordinated so that a charity is an ultimate beneficiary, media coverage grows exponentially. Businesses are more likely to donate services in exchange for association with the event and the subsequent media attention they’ll receive. This attention far outweighs that which they might receive from straight advertising. The event takes on a new meaning as you bring a great deal more attention to the cause and ultimately your CD, your act and the event than would have been possible using a non-thematic approach.
It takes creative thinking, even exercising some outrageous ideas to move beyond the basics and into the realm of staging media events. Finding a theme to ignite your ideas makes it easy and more exciting for all involved. Here are a few suggestions as you consider incorporating a thematic approach into your career.
Think about your plans for the next two years – What events, projects, tours are in the works? Begin to think about themes for these new projects. Brainstorm with group members, managers, record labels and publicists as you discuss the next projects. Work the theme into your plans as you develop the project, tour, or recording. As you begin planning for each event and begin to incorporate the theme for that event, consider the following:
Think about the businesses that you could involve in the theme. When ready, create a proposal that will get them excited about being an integral part of the event. Think about how this will benefit them and share that with them when presenting the proposal.
Think about community charities that you could align yourself with that would be a natural fit with your theme. If you are particularly interested in a specific organization, strive to create a long-lasting relationship that might span the years as you grow your career.
Consider your graphics, posters, colors, and any design features that will enhance the overall execution of the theme to expand its impact on the media and the public.
Will food be involved in the event? If so, how can the theme be carried over into the catering? This can be very simple and low cost. When all the players involved are participating because it benefits a higher cause, the sponsor donates most of their costs. When you have a clever theme and a good cause, sponsors will be attracted to your event and want to participate.
Will a specific location be important to the theme’s execution? Get any licenses you might need from the city or county. Check local event calendars to make sure your event won’t interfere with another scheduled for the same day.
Now might this cost some money? Yes! Will the payoff be greater? Many times greater than sending out a few press releases hoping they get printed or even noticed. If you plan ahead and build associations as you incorporate these themes into your plan, donations, sponsorships, and in-kind services will cover many costs. When you consider the cost of a large mailing or a phone campaign to get radio attention, a media event approach has potential to impact a much broader audience. As you get used to creating budgets for each project you undertake, it becomes apparent how you might dole out bits of your budget to prospective sponsors to have the costs of various line items completely covered by the sponsor. When you being incorporating a thematic approach to each project, the planning, the budgeting and the creativity all become worth the effort as you evaluate the results. Yes, it is a bit more work initially, but the outcome is magnified many times over, placing you among the true professionals to be reckoned with in this business.
Step out of the ordinary and place your act among the unique, the outrageous and the extraordinary, who are gaining momentum in their careers because they dared to be more interesting than the competition. It all starts with choosing a theme for your next project. Work that theme from all angles and you will be pleasantly surprised at the end results.
And, I invite you to learn more about this and other topics important to your career development and to sign up for free weekly audio Biz Booster Hot Tip! Every Monday you’ll get another valuable strategy and technique that you can put to use immediately. You’ll find helpful books, career development seminars, Booking & Touring Success Strategies & Secrets online course and information on booking tours, the music business and performing arts. It’s all waiting for you at http://www.performingbiz.com. Jeri Goldstein is the author of, How To Be Your Own Booking Agent The Musician’s & Performing Artist’s Guide To Successful Touring, 3rd Edition.
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