Marketing Musical Chairs: Work Smarter, Not Harder

The annual marketing panel headed up by

That proved to be quite literal as the panel was divided up into five stations, with attendees moving from table to table after 15 minutes.

The focus of the panel was the marketing and development of singer/songwriter Sierra Hull’s career. After Hull kicked things off by showing off her skills on the mandolin and performing the title track from her Grammy-nominated 2016 album, Weighted Mind, attendees were sold on her blend of bluegrass, Americana and folk.

Then it was time to get to work brainstorming how to get Hull’s name out there to more fans and onto the marquees of bigger venues.

The “Marketing Musical Chairs” stations were headed up by Brunner; Fred and Renee Frank of

Hull’s agent, Patrick May of

Attendees were encouraged to interact and share their best practices.

Fred Frank talked about how his independent concert promotion company handles everything from club shows to major tours for artists like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but “whether it’s 500,000 or 400[-seat venues], it’s the same challenges. It’s getting the word out, creating excitement, getting people to want to spend their dollars.”

He noted that when Frank Productions finds artists like Hull, the first thing they do is dive into research and find similar artists to reach out to fans: “If you like Alison Krauss, you’re going to like this artist.”

Agent Patrick May talked about how Hull’s fan base had known her as a bluegrass artist but that her new album was more of an introspective album.

He said, “We constantly try to alter the promotion so it was more forward on the newer vibe of what she’s about without ignoring the past.”

Barry Brecheisen
– Sierra Hull
at Pollstar Live! 2017

Renee Frank suggested hosting contests that would encourage users to share posts about Hull on Facebook or Instagram. She added, “We found that there’s nothing like an experience, giving away a meet and greet.”

Before the 15-minute timer was up and we were prompted to move to the next section, an audience member asked how much Frank Productions is at the whim of AEG and Live Nation.

“If it’s just about the money or just the check, I can tell them who to call,” Fred Frank said. “If it’s about building a long lasting career, we’re your guys. Are we smaller than an AEG or Live Nation? Is that an advantageous for an artist like this? Absolutely. I can’t comment about how they would handle something like this, but I can say that whether it’s Sierra Hull or Red Hot Chili Peppers, we’ll give it the same effort.”

Greene of HUKA Entertainment offered attendees another look at developing a new artist from the promoter side of things.

When promoting an up-and-coming artist, “You’re going to be typically faced with a small venue, working with a small budget, you’re not doing multiple radio spots,” Greene said. “You’re also working with an artist with little to zero name recognition. You’ve got to cut through the clutter. You’re working with infinite newsfeeds. How do you stop [potential fans] and get them to pay attention to what you’re putting out?”

Greene brought up the “80/20 rule,” explaining that 80 percent of HUKA’s ticket sales come from 20 percent of repeat ticket purchases. He suggests investing in targeting those fans with specific advertising because they’re already paying attention to what you’re doing. Attendees were encouraged to create a short video to promote the artist’s tour using quotes, a snippet of a music video and a “call to action” at the end to buy tickets.

Greene showed off a video he had made in iMovie and said it took him just 30 minutes to create it. He added, “If you want to advertise, you need to keep it below 60 seconds. … When we use videos it engages a lot more people. Your cost per impression is so low it’s ridiculous.”

And then it was time to move onto the next station, which featured Hull, Harris and Biddanda discussing venues.

“My favorite venues to play are performing arts centers because I think it’s very much listening music with a seated audience … but at the same time, I do love festivals, both as an artist and a fan,” Hull said.

She noted that although the nicer theaters give her the production she’s looking for, on the downside ticket prices at these venues can be high from the perspective of the younger audience she’s trying to attract. As for festivals, it has helped get her name out there by sitting in on other artists’ sets as a mandolin player, in addition to her own set.

While Hull may not be the best fit for some casinos that tend toward classic rock acts, an audience member suggested partnering with a radio station to make it cost effective to break an artist into a new market.

Hull also asked attendees for advice about which artists she should be paired with to support on tour, with suggestions ranging from Bonnie Raitt to The Lumineers and

He pointed out that Bandsintown allows artists to directly message fans, including sending VIPs push notifications.

Ticketing is integrated within the app so fans can purchase tickets without leaving the Bandsintown app. Promoters can use Bandsintown to promote a specific show within a specific radius. Stay tuned for a BandsinTown venue app.

During her portion of the panel, Brunner reminded attendees that sometimes old-school methods like posters and street teams work best. She cited a survey that found that posters/fliers is the top way fans 18- to 24-year-olds prefer to hear about events.

“And they work. We found that to be really true as well but people fight us every step of the way. We absolutely won’t do a tour without it.”