How to Sell $200 Concert Tickets at the Last Minute

Recently, I was contacted by a friend in a predicament. She would be hosting a fantastic benefit concert in downtown New York City with a cast of virtuosi including two who were WORLD FAMOUS musicians.  Tickets were *just* $200 apiece, a small price to pay for such a glamorous, epic, and meaningful event.  A once in a lifetime opportunity, really. 

The snag–It was just a week away, and only 40 out of a possible 250 seats had sold thus far.  What advice did I have?

Well, normally I’d explain that marketing takes time…a detailed, clever plan should be created and implemented at least 2-6 months beforehand…a Facebook and poster campaign just wasn’t going to cut it…blah, blah, blah.  But this was no time for lectures and Monday morning quarterbacking.  For whatever reason, efforts up until this point hadn’t worked.  She had a real problem and needed real solutions.  Fast.

So here’s where things stood from my perspective.  Event design wasn’t the problem. It would undoubtedly be unique, memorable, and a good time for all.  It wasn’t the price tag either.  There were surely plenty of folks in the NY region with the means and willingness to shell out that kind of bread to experience something like this.  But who were they, and how could they best be engaged on such short notice? 

Turning things around would take some serious time, work, and smart strategizing.  But attracting another 200 or so patrons was absolutely feasible. Even in a week. Below were my suggestions. 

1)       Hotels. Tourists are the perfect audience for this kind of event.  They’re in the market for amazing experiences, especially when visiting a city like NY, and are more likely to have an open schedule than locals.  Contact high end hotels in the area, meet with the concierges, and offer an incentive ($20-30 for each ticket sold).

2)      Cruise ships.  “Cruisers” are another kind of tourist on the lookout for amazing art.  NYC has a port for cruise ships.  Research which boats will be docked there for the night, and make a similar deal with the activities director as was outlined in #1. 

3)      Half-price line.  Times Square has a line for people to buy discounted same-day tickets to Broadway shows.  Every person there is 1) in search of great entertainment and 2) hasn’t solidified plans yet.  On any given day, there are also a few dozen people who market various shows, passing out informational fliers and answering questions.  With your incredible one-night-only offering, this is an ideal place to connect with eager cultural omnivores.    

4)      Restaurants.  Restaurants, both high end (i.e. The Rainbow Room) and trendy (i.e. Carnegie Deli), provide opportunities to meet tourists and locals.  In this case, I’d recommend seeking permission from managers to send friendly strolling musicians who can play a little, schmooze, talk up the event, and sell tickets.  Many restaurants will love this idea; their customers get a special experience at no cost to them. 

5)      Celebs.  Yours is a big deal event: for a meaningful charity and featuring famous performers.  Well, celebrities like to be around other celebs.  So why not go after the rich and famous?  Contact Donald Trump, movie actors, and other household names.  After all, they’re just people.  As an added incentive, why not ask these superstars to participate in a photo op, or to offer quotes about your cause that can be shared with the media? Appealing to this group brings several advantages. They should have no trouble coughing up the admission fee (might donate significantly more…). Additionally, the more celebs in attendance, the more perceived value your event has to others.

If you know some celebs will be attending, one strategy is leaking their names to the press.  An even better idea–don’t announce the names, just the fact that mystery superstars will be there.  This kind of surprise can get people talking and motivate them to attend.  After all, there’s a chance they’ll be able to rub shoulders with their favorite icon.

6)      Entrepreneurs.  Another group to consider is self-made entrepreneurs who believe in your cause.  A personal invitation may lead them to invite friends as well.  Why not offer to make special mention of them and their business during the show?  Everybody loves the limelight.

7)      Radio giveaways.  Offering local radio stations a pair of tickets to give away is good for everyone involved.  They get something valuable to offer listeners, the lucky winner gets an amazing gift, and you get free publicity.

8)      Buzz.  Hosting a benefit with famous performers is newsworthy in itself.  But if it hasn’t yet picked up traction with the media, try something so outrageous, unusual, or controversial a few days before the show that news organizations will have no choice but to jump on it. 

9)      Other options.  There are many other places to reach potential audience members for this kind of show: related arts events, golf ranges, government offices, cigar bars, school board meetings, box seats for sporting events, country clubs.  The important thing is to connect with populations who might actually be interested, create rapport, and make a compelling pitch. 

If you hope to sell concert tickets for $200, or even $20 (or $2 for that matter), it’s essential to architect an event that delivers at least as much value as the cover price.  But if you’ve done that, there is a way to populate it, even if tickets are expensive and time is short.  The process is a bit like working through a puzzle.  The solution may not be easy, but it can be discovered.  Be creative, be strategic, be buzzworthy.  Good luck!

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