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Rory Raven
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Greetings, all --

Lately, I have been lucky enough to be lining up more and more out of town gigs, and have been hitting the road with some frequency. Usually, these shows are at public venues hours away from my home here in Providence, RI.

That's the good news.

The bad news is ... turnouts have generally been pretty dismal.

A few months ago, I drove 4 hours to Woodstock NY for a gig. Nine people showed up. I have a gig in Portland, ME this weekend, and just got an e-mail from the venue saying that they only had a few reservations. So I'm not looking forward to it.

A number of these gigs have been split-the-door ventures; I’m an unknown performer doing an unfamiliar kind of act (I’m not famous, and almost no one knows what a mentalist or a mind reader does), so most places simply won't offer a guarantee.

So when nine people show up, I don’t even cover gas and hotel, and it feels like I should have just stayed the h ell home.

How do you get butts in seats when you aren't in the area, and the promo pretty much rests with the venue? I've made sure they get posters and press releases, and I've done radio shows when they're offered. But being far away means I'm not there on the ground to help with promo, and it's just not feasible to show up a week before the show and spend it in town there trying to get the word out. And I’m a one-man operation and clearly not making a whole lot of money, so can’t afford an advance man or anything of the kind.

So I need to figure out how to get butts in seats from a distance.

Thoughts?

Thanks,

R
"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." -- Groucho Marx
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Dan Paulus
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I don't do door splits, so have never tried these ideas, but here's my 2 cents worth:

If there is a local college or two nearby your venue you may consider flipping the bill for an add in their school paper, usually very inexpensive. Also ask them to post fliers around campus that you will send to them. Print your posters in black & white to save on cost, but on colored paper to draw attention. (These will be stapled on poles and cork boards all over campus. They will get torn, so don't bother spending a fortune.

Yes, you are buying the adds yourself, but if you market it in a way that becomes attractive as a cool date night, then for not too much money you may get some of those seats filled. If it works well, for future gigs you could likely talk the bookers into splitting the cost and cover more venues.

You could also call in to a local radio show and do some on air mentalism. Give the station a few free tickets to give away to listeners too. This would be free marketing.
There is no great genius without a mixture of madness. - Aristotle
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RJE
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Hi Rory,

You've discovered the curse of the "unknown." Your act could (and may well be) fantastic, but unless you have a name, you are usually out of luck.

A lot of magicians and entertainers have tried to rent a theatre in an area where they are not known and have lost their shirts. Newspaper ads, posters, radio spots and ads, cable television promos, all of it can simply be a huge waste of time and money. If it worked that easy, we'd all be doing it. But mostly, it doesn't.

The other alternative is to have a force selling you. Something like a large charity that does telemarketing. That way, the seats are being filled to help the charity. Most of my large theatre shows are done this way. I've done at least 20 of these fundraisers a year for the past 15 years. Last weekend I put over 1100 miles on the car just doing 2 of these. They are large variety shows that I get to create and hire extra acts, some from here at the Café.

Goin' it alone can be costly. Careful and good luck.

Rob
Dan Paulus
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What Rob is mentioning reminds me a lot of the Boiler Room shows.
There's some info on that type of booking in The Success Book Vol 1 or 2... I believe it's in Vol 1.
There is no great genius without a mixture of madness. - Aristotle
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RJE
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Hello Dan,

I do not own nor have I read the Success Books, but the term Boiler Room is familiar to me. I truly hope that you are not suggesting that what I have mentioned here is something that is considered shady in any way. If that was the case, I would find that truly offensive. I realize that you said, "reminds me a lot," and not "sounds like it is", but still there was some sting in your words.

The companies (3 of them)that I have worked for over the past 15 years plus, are legitimate fundraising organizations. I am proud to have been associated with them and know for a fact that we have helped raise millions of dollars for such charities as the Canadian Diabetes Association, Crime Stoppers, various women's shelters, Cystic Fibrosis, various service clubs like the Lions, Kiwanas,the Optimists, a Children's Wish foundation granting terminally ill children wishes(each year one of the performers also volunteers a show at their annual picnic for the kids and their families besides doing the fundraiser shows), Multiple Sclerosis society and many other real and legitimate charities and causes.

Some of the performers that have worked in these shows have included Greg Frewin, and Fred Stinson (Major Bedhead from the kid's show Big Comfy Couch) as well as many other very talented and respected performers. Currently Timothy Drake here on the Café is doing the circuit with me.

Besides the variety shows, the company also organizes charity hockey games between locals and NHL Oldtimers in different communities. After the games, the people attending get to meet the Oldtimers for pictures and autographs. For hockey fans, on the team, when I was doing the rink announcements, the players included Norm Ullman, Eddie Shack, Paul Henderson and other notables and hall of famers. The company also organizes fundraising concerts and have created and run a professional rodeo circuit where the net proceeds go to the charity.

On another note, one of the largest annual touring magic shows in Canada is the Murray Hatfield show for the firefighters. It has employed some of the top magicians from this country and abroad. It is also reliant on telephone sales to fill the seats and help the fundraiser.

Now, having got that off of my chest, I have run across some boiler room operations. The ones that I was aware of have all gone by the wayside over the years. They burn their bridges and then disappear and I have not heard of any others operating in the Ontario area currently.

Anyway, I just want to make the point that just because it involves telemarketers, it doesn't mean it is a negative thing and to make it clear that my name and reputation is not tarnished by this thread.

All the best,

Rob
tpax
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Quote:
On 2008-06-05 19:04, Dan Paulus wrote:
I don't do door splits, so have never tried these ideas, but here's my 2 cents worth:

If there is a local college or two nearby your venue you may consider flipping the bill for an add in their school paper, usually very inexpensive. Also ask them to post fliers around campus that you will send to them. Print your posters in black & white to save on cost, but on colored paper to draw attention. (These will be stapled on poles and cork boards all over campus. They will get torn, so don't bother spending a fortune.

Yes, you are buying the adds yourself, but if you market it in a way that becomes attractive as a cool date night, then for not too much money you may get some of those seats filled. If it works well, for future gigs you could likely talk the bookers into splitting the cost and cover more venues.

You could also call in to a local radio show and do some on air mentalism. Give the station a few free tickets to give away to listeners too. This would be free marketing.

This is great advice! Focus on your target market and give them a reason to buy! I would check with the venues and see if they do any Radio advertising. If they do it is much easier to get the additional free air time.
Make sure you have a web address for your site on your handouts that gives a nice teaser for the show. Make sure it has pictures of HAPPY AUDIENCE MEMBERS OF THE AGE GROUP YOU ARE TRYING TO ATTRACT.
Dan Paulus
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On 2008-06-06 20:32, RJE wrote:
Hello Dan,

I do not own nor have I read the Success Books, but the term Boiler Room is familiar to me. I truly hope that you are not suggesting that what I have mentioned here is something that is considered shady in any way.


Rob.
I intended no such suggestion!
I brought it up as a legitimate source of study to anyone trying to fill seats.

I have not read that section of the Success Book for decades! If the book suggested that Boiler Rooms are "shady" then I am very unaware of it.

A wonderful magician here in Utah named Mark Evans use to do some boiler room work, and Mark is nothing but honest.

I guess I should re-read that section of the Success Book and see if it paints a less than honorable scenario of boiler room methods.

Dan
There is no great genius without a mixture of madness. - Aristotle
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RJE
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That's fair enough Dan.

I responded only because I had only ever heard the term Boiler Room Sales used in a negative and shady way. If there are those who use it simply as a term to represent a certain style of marketing that has no such connotation, then my response was unneccesary and I apologize for its confrontational tone.

Back to the topic at hand though, trying to sell a show in a market that you are not known (and Rory is a fairly well known author in his area and his book, which is outside of the magic arena, does sell internationally through Amazon) is tough. Many a good performer has tried it using the posters, the radio, the newspapers, the local colleges, high schools, publicity stunts and so on and has gotten burned bad.

My message is be careful, it is not as easy as "if you advertise it, they will come."

If you can tie into a well known and respected cause and help them raise money, they can help you sell tickets. It is in both parties best interest for them to sell the tickets.

If it is a bar or club, it works best if they either already have a regular evening of live entertainment with an established regular audience (ie: comedy night every Wednesday), or if you can tie in with a special promotion (ie: launch of a new beer etc...)

In any case, if you are an unknown, regardless of your on stage talents, you have a much better shot at having a larger audience if there is someone on the ground in the area promoting the show for reasons beyond yourself.

All the best,

Rob

p.s. If I buy your book Rory, will you autograph it for me Smile
Dan Paulus
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Rob,

I just reread your previous post. You said that you do NOT have, nor have you read the Success Books. My bad... At 4:00 a.m. , and without my glasses on,I misread and though you had said that you did read them.

If my memory is correct, and it is usually more accurate than my eyesight, The Success Books don’t refer to Boiler Rooms as scams, just hard work.

You must have a different reference, and/or experience with the term than I do.
There is no great genius without a mixture of madness. - Aristotle
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trey
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Boiler Room is also an old carney saying. They only way it would be shady. Is if you were calling people on the do not call list. Its not against the law to call people.

Trey
Cliffg37
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I today's language, a boiler room operation is a company that cold calls businesses and complains about a returned order. Addresses are verified and the bogus order is shipped at a very high price. What the success book is referring to is today called four-walling; Renting a theater and hoping to sell tickets.

What I do to avoid the problems put out in this thread is to have a prices structure that guarantees me either a minimum price or a percentage of the gate, which ever is larger. Clearly that wont work if I am self promoting the show. I like to do shows for schools and civic groups where that system works well. I did one show where the poor school principal neglected to advertise in the expected manner. She walked ended up with less than $200. Another guy did it right and his group pocketed over $2000. I got my asking price both times.

This may or may not work for you, but it can work.
Magic is like Science,
Both are fun if you do it right!
Dan Paulus
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Quote:
On 2008-06-07 15:19, Cliffg37 wrote:
I today's language, a boiler room operation is a company that cold calls businesses and complains about a returned order. Addresses are verified and the bogus order is shipped at a very high price. What the success book is referring to is today called four-walling; Renting a theater and hoping to sell tickets.


What the Success Book referred to as Boiler Room involved more than "hoping" to sell tickets. The magician would book a show through an organization, say the local police department or hospital, to raise funds for one of their needs. Phone operators and even door to door sellers were employed to sell tickets on behalf of the charity, and sell advertising space in the program guide. Sometimes these were done by professional phone solicitors, plus a few of the charity volunteers. The magician would take an agreed cut of all ticket sells, which were plentiful since the money was to raise funds for local groups.
- Remember, this was in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Long before caller ID and the Do Not Call List. Even so, charities are exempted from the do not call list. So this would still work today.
But it's a lot of hard work!
There is no great genius without a mixture of madness. - Aristotle
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Rory Raven
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Greetings, all --

Back from the gig in Portland. 12 people. Just about covered the gas it took to get there. Just about.

As I explained in a PM to one of you, the places I've been trying to work are smaller performing arts centers. Usually, they have one or (maybe) two staffers and some volunteers. Often, they are housed in spaces converted over from some other use -- this weekend's venue was an old church. These are really cool places, and they can pay. There's one such space near my house, and I can get people in there and make a few hundred dollars and sleep in my own bed that night. But I'm having trouble doing the same elsewhere.

In Portland, I was told that as people were leaving, they asked the staff when I was coming back. Perhaps in doing these gigs, I just need to take the first one on the chin in hopes that the second booking six months later will be better attended?

And Rob, I'm very flattered that you'd check up on my little book. It hasn't been out long enough for me to gauge how well it's selling. It's a little book of ghost stories I've collected about Providence, RI, my hometown. I do a walking tour, the Providence Ghost Walk, which has been more successful than it has any right to be, and that led to the book. I really don't imagine it sells internationally, or even very far outside the state.

Rory
"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." -- Groucho Marx
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RichardShure
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Rory,
Back in the day I used to do one and two man plays at small theaters just like you are trying to do with mentalism. The ones close to home I could make a small profit. However, as the distance increased it became more difficult. After considerable effort I did learn a few things.

One: Almost always assume your first show there will lose money. But at least you have your foot in the door.

Two: I would try to do those theaters 2, 3, or 4 times a year.

Three: Do as much long distance marketing as possible, flyers, newspapers (press releases), radio interviews (that I would drive there for), posters on store fronts , table tents.

Four: Make as many connections as you can when you go down for the show. I would go early in the day and walk to all the restaurants and businesses that were close by and network. By my second and third shows, I had local business support and people telling others about my show.

Most people believe that they will create a show and the people will simply show up . This is far from the truth. It will take hard work. By my 3rd or 4th appearance I would be making a tidy sum. (between $500 and $1000) I would also learn to string 3 to 5 of them together in a single week.

There was a time I was going to write a pamphlet on the subject of small theater show marketing, but life got in the way. There are so many ways to market your show and increase bookings. It takes work and I find this is where most artists lose interest.

I could go on and on, but I hope this helps
Richard S
RJE
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Hey Rory,

Somebody must be buying your book. According to Amazon, they only have 4 left and hope to be getting more in soon.

http://www.amazon.com/Haunted-Providence......9629387X

All the best with your shows and book!

Rob
aukt
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Hi rory, wanted to ask if your strategy has changed?
Gerry Hennessey
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Rory,

Just a word of encouragement for you.

An excellent ventriloquist believed that he was good and that sooner or later someone would notice. He did all those gigs no one wanted to play. On one occasion he only had one person in the audience.

Never the less, he gave it his best, believing that whether there was only one person in the audience or 1,000 they deserved the best performance he could give. That attitude took him a long way.

Last year, he won Americas Got Talent and a multi million dollar gig in 'Vegas. His name is Terry Fator.

It's attitude, not aptitude, that determines altitude.

See you at the top.

Best

Gerry
"Every discipline effects every other discipline. You can't straighten out the corporation if your closet is a mess" Jim Rohn

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Rory Raven
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Hi, guys --

This thread kind of got lost in the shuffle for me, and I'm only now getting back to it. Thanks for your input.

My strategy hasn't changed much because I don't have any out-of-state gigs on the horizon, so no real opportunities to make changes.

This summer I'm doing a string of shows in two local tourist towns -- every Thursday in one, every Friday in the other. And turnouts have been miserable. I have only broken double digits a couple of times. Twice, I have had TWO people show up. And when they did, I sat them down at a table and gave them a good 20 minutes of close up and a ticket to come back next week.

Other shows going on at those two venues on the other nights have reported similarly bad turnouts -- one act even walked out.

At the beginning of the run, I staged a publicity stunt in one town – a blindfolded bicycle ride from a local landmark to the theater, a distance of about a mile. This got in the newspaper and even on the 6 o’clock news. And the resulting audience? 12 people.

Both venues have been very good about handing out flyers, offering discounts, placing newspaper ads, but none of it is making any difference.

Looks like it’s a rough summer in general.

R
"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." -- Groucho Marx
visit www.roryraven.com today!
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