Tag Archives: personal branding

How to make “free” work now and use the “it” factor later


There were two articles that have me thinking more this morning.  The first one, Hidden costs of free tickets by Deborah Stone.

Giving away freebies may not be the best way to grow your audiences but how do you set the right discount?

UK Arts economist Tim Baker told arts marketing professionals at the Australia Council Marketing Summit that they needed to be strategic about the incentives they offered.

Baker, who is Director of leading UK-based arts consultancy, Baker Richards, and Vice-President of its US sister company, The Pricing Institute, was speaking about pricing strategies for arts marketing.

He said free entry was often less valuable than strategic discounting because people took the freebies but didn’t come back. If they paid something –even very low – they were more likely to see the service as something worth paying for and would return and pay more.

Discounts and freebies do have to be handled carefully.  There is a chance that the audience will get too used to discounted prices and take your art for granted.  The fact that free does not guarantee that people will come back is also a consideration.  I recommend reading the entire article since it highlights some of the best ways to promote discounts.

My thoughts after reading this was the simple thought I have had before, free could work if you have a follow up program in place.  Free should not be just about getting people to come and sample, but also for you to build a relationship with them.  Make them feel important by following up and offering them a way to stay connected to you and your art.  I do not see the majority of artists and arts organizations using follow up programs to convert these free (or discounted) audience members into future loyal members.

Also, free could be a fabulous way (I agree with the 2-for-1 strategies) to get your current audience involved in bringing new audience members.  This works on so many levels since your audience becomes more involved (deepening their experience with you) and you end up broadening and potentially diversifying your audience as well (similar and different people will attend).

So, I agree that free can be undervaluing your worth, but if used in the right way, it could bring exactly what you were hoping it would.

The second article that caught my eye this morning was Jade Simmons: Elvis, Meryl & Michael at the Cliburn: The Intangibles of “It”.

The audience didn’t even know this kid, but they loved him, from his stride to his stringendos, even with only one prelim recital under his belt and a long grueling road ahead in the Fourteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. So how come he made them swoon so? Because he had “it,” that thing that makes you like music you once ignored, that makes you cheer when that’s not usually your way of behaving.

She goes on to compare three different performers of the Cliburn Competition, their special qualities, to Elvis’, Meryl Streep’s and Michael Jordan’s “it” factors.

There are a couple reasons why her thoughts have sparked a few of my own.  First, I applaud her ability to connect the dots from pop culture to classical music.  We need more of this mentality to create the relevancy that is missing today.  Secondly, it made me consider the “it” factor further.  It’s not just about individuals with this special quality.  Organizations can also have an “it” factor that makes them hook you.  These organizations stand out from the crowd and apply their “it” to everything that they do.  You feel fantastic working with them!

Perhaps we need to consider what our “it” factor is or how to reveal the hidden “it” factors we possess, bring them out, and make them shine.

Once we are using our “it,” we might not need to discount or give tickets away any longer since we will attract the right people that love our “it.”   Free can open the door for them, and the “it” will have them coming back for more!

Feel “free” to comment about your “it” to share…

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,


Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists




Filed under Audience Development

Personal Branding is Changing Audience Development for the arts

Welcome Wednesday has arrived!  I have another special guest blog post to share with you.  Today we will be considering personal branding with marketing and theatre strategist, Clay Mabbitt.  After reading Clay’s blog Sold Out Run, I found him to be quite thorough when he explores a topic.  Personal branding is becoming an extremely important factor and it can be a game changer as well.  The days of solely relying on others to promote your art, to promote you as an artist, are vanishing before our eyes.  Artists and arts organizations now have the opportunity to become savvy in promoting themselves.  In some cases, it is absolutely necessary to show that you have a following.  Personal branding is the first step to self promotion and to building your audiences. In order to build relationships with new audience members and grow your following, you will first need to show a sense of who you are, what you are all about.  Taking time on this step can ensure that you will attract the right audiences from the start.

Please do share your comments below.  Enjoy! 


Personal Branding is Changing Audience Development
by Clay Mabbitt

A few months ago I heard an interview with a television actor. He mentioned studios had a minimum number of Twitter followers that any actor needed in order to be considered for certain starring roles. The details escape me. I don’t remember the actor or where I heard the interview, but that idea stuck in my head.

Television studios, who are hyper focused on rapidly establishing a large audience for all of their projects, place a lot of value on the strength of the personal brands they attach to their show. They value it so highly that it even affects casting decisions.

Studios are looking exclusively at performers bringing a strong, established audience to the table. Certainly number of Twitter followers isn’t the only measure of a celebrity’s reach, but it is a pretty good one. It represents a group of people who have gone out of their way to signify they want to give their extremely valuable attention to that actor.

You have a brand

We typically think of a brand as something belonging to major corporations like Coke or Disney, but it’s useful (particularly in arts marketing) to think about the personal brands we all have as individuals. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the spotlight or behind the scenes.

Steven Spielberg has a brand. Lance Armstrong has a brand. Your kid’s 5th grade teacher has a brand. Literally everyone has a brand because that’s just a label we give the collection of assumptions and expectations people have about you – whether they’ve personally met you or not. Hopefully their preconceptions are original and accurate, but they always exist.

This is nothing new. Centuries before anyone thought of the term brand, we talked about someone’s reputation. The big difference being that a reputation is typically something that people determine about you based on your actions. Your brand certainly includes your reputation as people make judgements about what you do, but it has the added ingredient of what you say about yourself.

If you want to be known as an excellent cellist, the first step is to put in the necessary practice to master your craft. The second step is to tell people you are an excellent cellist. That doesn’t necessarily mean bragging (although it could), but it definitely means talking about your passion for the cello, your favorite pieces, conductors you’d love to work with, musicians you admire, and symphonies you’ve heard. With more subtle (and likely more persuasive) words you establish an identity as a musician that people can identify with and feel affinity towards.

No brand is too small

A few decades ago, the only means of sharing this kind of information about yourself were major media outlets like radio, magazines, and television. If you weren’t a nationally recognized figure, you didn’t have a big enough audience to justify the cost of any of these channels.

That isn’t a valid excuse today. The cost of setting up a website or an email newsletter is trivial. If that technology is too daunting, start developing your audience on Facebook or Twitter. If you can reach 10 people, the endeavor has paid for itself.

Leverage your connections

Adding subscribers to your newsletter and getting social media followers isn’t just an exercise in vanity. You are building relationships with people that care about what you are doing and like you. This is the audience you want.

When tickets become available for one of your shows, let these good folks know. Remember they raised their hand and said they wanted to stay informed about what you’re up to.

Not everyone in your audience will buy a ticket to every show, but you don’t want that ever to be because they didn’t know it was happening.

Most of us are swimming in a much smaller pond than network television. We don’t need to bring 100,000 Twitter followers to the projects we join, but the technology now exists for us to economically bring 100, 50, or even 10.If everyone involved in your next performance – both onstage and offstage – practiced the brand development described above, it would completely change the dynamic of the audience.

Not only would tickets sell faster, but the house would be filled with people that walked in already having a connection to the performance because they were emotionally invested in someone’s personal brand.

Even better than a large audience is a large, engaged audience. [:O)]

Clay Mabbitt is a professional marketing consultant and part-time actor. He can’t stop his brain from coming up with ideas and strategies for promoting theater productions, which he posts on his blog.


Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,

Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists



“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
~James Stewart

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