Home » People Aren’t Going to Buy Tickets to Your Show – Five Important Lessons for Filling Your Venue

People Aren’t Going to Buy Tickets to Your Show – Five Important Lessons for Filling Your Venue










By Paul Levy, author, The Filthy Guide to the Edinburgh Fringe

People Aren’t Going to Buy Tickets to Your Show. They really aren’t. If you assume they will, you are heading for a fairly empty house.

Your friends may well come to your show, though don’t even count on that, if their only commitment is an “Attending” or a “Maybe” on your Facebook event. Facebook commitment accounts for virtually nothing. At best, it is often a commitment to your endeavour but not a true commitment to physically attend. I always distinguish on Facebook between commitment to intention, and commitment to action. Only commitment to action matters, and Facebook is the home of commitment to intention, which is as good as a lie if it is real people on real seats you are looking for.


Lesson 1: Don’t rely on Facebook events as your method of securing audience for your show. You may have 150 “Attending”. Watch as less than a dozen show up.

People Aren’t Going to Buy Tickets to Your Show. A lot of people are counting their pennies these days, they are more reluctant to use credit cards, and if you have set your price the wrong side of a banknote you may well be in trouble. Six quid is the wrong side of a precious fiver. £4.50 is better. The 50p change is much more symbolically important in a recession. Eleven quid is a nutso price. Nine is better. Or two for £14.


Lesson 2: People have a subconscious affinity with banknotes, especially in a recession.

People Aren’t Going to Buy Tickets to Your Show. You may have a very impressive image on your web site, your posters and your flyers. The problem is that almost anyone can cut and past and morph images in a few seconds and make a show look amazing. Too many people have been disappointed by hype in recent years.

The hype of dodgy product sellers, the hype of bank managers, the hype of politicians. People are more cautious. They won’t by your over-clever derivative graphic design. Put up images of you at work. Decent show stills, rehearsal images. Show that you have talent, originality and skill by showing your people in action.

Too many companies are creating hastily thrown together PR materials – lazily overhyped language full of cliches, unoriginal and poorly realised images and logos. Flyers need to be created with more precision and respect for potential audiences. There need to be maps for hard to find pop-up venues, addresses too, and very direct and authentic descriptions of shows that are helpful. Eloquence is key.


Lesson 3: People are more drawn these days to inspiring reality than hype.

People Aren’t Going to Buy Tickets to Your Show. It doesn’t matter how good your website is, your flyers or your youtube clip. Get out onto the streets, meet and talk to people. Half your tickets will sell face to face, during Fringe City days (in Brighton), Carnival days and launches (in Edinburgh and at other Fringes) and through you getting out and about. Youtube clips and web sites should have truthful descriptions of what fires you up, how you work. People connect to enthusiasm more than arrogance, to feeling rather than thinking and willing. People like to feel it matters if they come, at least to them! Over polished marketing will irritate. Authentic conversation – build an unfolding story if your build up to a Fringe festival – this might just sell tickets. A lot of people have no idea how to be authentic. Do you?


Lesson 4: Connect for real – get out onto the streets and don’t robotically flyer, talk to people. Look ‘em in the eye.

People Aren’t Going to Buy Tickets to Your Show. Brighton is a city. that offers a lot of freebies and there isn’t a huge amount of theatre-buying money in the city. This changes a bit in May as more people come in from outside and people save up for May. But Brighton is a creative city. What’s unique about your work? What’s original about it? In Edinburgh you’ll have to push even harder to win attention amongst literally thousands of other shows. How are you using the venue in interesting ways? How is the show something people will regret missing?


Lesson 5: Focus your marketing on uniqueness, creative experimentation and restlessness. This is an eclectic, creative city. Tap into that.


Times have changed and marketing overload is tiring people out. They don’t believe what they read as much as they used to. They assume images have been faked or doctored. They assume your promises are hype. They are reaching for the real and the best way to respond is with a strong break for the borders of authenticity.

Cross over to the realm of honesty and be truthful.

Get back to connecting with your audience, not only via fingertips but also on the streets.

Give them Youtube windows into your rehearsals, your ideas and experiments. Invite them to be part of your narrative, the story of your show and its journey to others Fringes and from other places. Offer it. Don’t force it. Be gently truthful, and don’t build your confidence on marketing lies, build it on believing in what you are doing, and sharing that enthusiastically.