How Can Music Venues Build Brand Loyalty?
For music fans, the live music experience is often the pinnacle of a long commitment to a favorite band or artist. Bringing these immersive experiences to patrons is an honor that music venues across the world have the privilege of sharing. They possess the exclusive opportunity to connect musicians with fans and continue the cycle of support and growth throughout the music industry.
With the introduction of music streaming and, in turn, the downfall of the CD, shows and touring have become many artists’ primary source of revenue. This is placing venues and promotion companies under a heavy demand to bring more shows to their local markets and sell more tickets in the process. Industry data giant, Pollstar, estimated that ticket sales reached $7.3 billion in 2016 in North America alone. Just twenty years ago, ticket sales hovered around $1 billion. This growth is projected to continue with the increasing popularity of show-going and the growing number of venues opening.
In cities like Nashville, where there are over 200 music venues, gaining loyalty from concert-goers, artists, and the community has become crucial to the success and longevity of a venue. This is not just a problem affecting major music cities; it is equally as important to maintain support and develop brand loyalty in smaller markets as large markets.
Venue owners, managers, and promoters all must work in tandem to help artists connect with their target market and customer base to create a sustainable, comfortable, and most importantly, enjoyable place for patrons to see music. Understanding the needs of artists, attendees and the community that the venue is operating within will allow a venue to more accurately define their market and build a stronger and more loyal fanbase.
Make everything about fans, first.
It all begins with the fan. Venues should start with a customer-oriented outlook and strive to give ticket buyers the best possible experience. This starts by engaging with and responding to customers on social media and IRL, hearing their needs, offering spaces for customer comments and suggestions both at the venue and online, and actively hearing and recording feedback from shows and events. Adopting and implementing a culture of trust, communication, and understanding will allow a venue to differentiate itself by showing they care about their fans, who are then more likely to advocate for the venue and encourage others to buy a ticket and take a visit.
Choose staff wisely.
For some fans, the experience of quality show-going is affiliated with exclusivity and eliteness. Ticket buyers — whether GA or VIP — should feel wanted and comfortable while inside your venue. This being said, when staffing a venue it’s important to iterate to new hires that while they are there to keep patrons safe, they are also there to offer assistance, answer questions, and ultimately serve as a resource for paying guests. Event staff and security should receive ongoing training or an employee handbook explaining the processes and importance of patron relations and management. Intimidating or rude event staff are often the number one complaint of attendees, and are a big reason many won’t return again if they feel they are being treated as criminals.
Elevate the experience with VIP offerings.
Additionally, considering offering some type of VIP offering to boost your revenue in an easy way. This could be offering a better viewing area, drink specials or a dedicated bar, coat check, a faster entry line, or even a meet-and-greet with artists. You can also start your own venue-based street team, allowing your best fans to earn free tickets by posting about your shows.
Make friends with the neighbors.
Whether a venue is operating year-round, seasonally, or for special events, which is often the case for festival venues, being conscious of the impact the events have on the communities the venue operates is vital. Allocating efforts to areas of importance for the communities that the venue operates within will help build understanding between the venue and nearby area, and reduce the chance the venue is kicked out of town due to noise complaints or other unsavory (in the neighbors’ eyes) behaviors.. This can be as simple as implementing greening practices, such as utilizing recycling bins or selling venue-branded reusable cups. Further aligning these community values with those of the ticket buyers will increase interest, trust, and venue loyalty. It will also differentiate a venue by adding an element of progressiveness and community understanding.
Be strategic about advertising.
Once a venue has established their core demographic, finding the appropriate radio stations, events, and other media outlets used for advertising should be a thoughtful and cohesive process. Venues should be strategic about how they market; partnering with an outlet or putting out a message that doesn’t sit well with ticket goers is a quick way to shoot yourself in the foot. Developing relationships and understanding the chain of the network reach of the ad medium will help you to more accurately target those who will buy tickets and support your venue and values.
Sell branded merch.
Another element that contributes to building brand loyalty for a venue is merch. It turns out that music fans like merchandise — imagine that ! Spending some time to create visually beautiful graphics for t-shirts, hats, and hoodies offers fans the opportunity to rep your venue and share stories from all the amazing shows they saw there. — plus, hello, more revenue and free advertising for you. Keep the prices for this merch relatively reasonable so people are encouraged to purchase it i.e. around $20 tops for a shirt. Selling the merch at shows and events, as well as using it for contest giveaways, is a great way to give back and let your customers give back to you by wearing the threads, thus deepening the connection between a venue and its primary customers.
Take care of the artists and their team.
In regards to the artists that perform at the venue, it is just as important to make sure their experience is as positive as the patrons. For touring artists, they spend every night at a different venue and they DO remember the ones that go above and beyond to make sure their needs are met and they are comfortable. Live music is a circulatory process and the best shows happen when the crowd is happy and the artist is happy. We’re not saying you have to bend over backwards to ensure the artist only has green M&Ms in their greenroom; but making them feel secure, giving them an onsite contact that is easy to reach, and making sure they have a clean, comfy space to get away from the crowd will go far. It’s likely that an artist will come back if they have an exceptional experience — and that often means easier advertising to sell tickets the second time around.
Whether a venue is historical like Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium or a brand new like Kettlehouse Amphitheatre in Missoula, MT, establishing yourself as a place that puts the music and the fans first is key to powerful and lasting success. Having deep-seeded and genuine values built into the bones that make up the framework for a venue will keep customers interested, appreciated and loyal. It will help them further the relationships they have with music, their show-going family and allow a venue to be the home in which they all gather.