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Event Planning and Hosting Artists, Part 3

ISAMETD event- Jonatan and 2 musicians perform for a dancer

Promotion and Money – Finding Success

by Jonatan Gomes
posted January 6, 2019
part 1 here
part 2 here

Promotional Materials:

Flyers, handbills and posters are a must have, but this is really just for appearance mostly. Do not count on them as a prime source of promotional material. Just print up a few fancy looking things to pass about the city, do not over print as it is costly and not the most effective form of promotion. As I said before, social media is the best free promotion, and since so many people love to spend countless hours on the various social media outlets watching cat videos and playing games that grow virtual carrots and broccolis, you may as well milk it for everything it’s worth. Having one or more colourful and attractive posters featuring your top artist(s) as the superstar(s) that they are and sharing along with some fun details about the event and other promotional gimmicks is pretty useful.

Also, aside from the typical "Facebook Event Page", you may also want to create a group discussion page to where people can have access to a more organized discussion group. People can ask questions about the event, class materials and clear up any questions they may have. This one is pretty much a given and most people do this, but then again, some people don’t and there are also some people who do but are not as attentive to the potential attendees as the should be. Wix.com offers free websites, you can also create your own website just for the event in there. It’s more effort, but it shows you mean business! You aren’t playing around anymore. This thing has its own website too!? Wow! You can also put the web address on any flyers or posters so people passing by the local coffee shop, see the flyer, can get more info, even purchase tickets to the show.

Newspapers, city flyers, TV and radio are obviously the best, but are rarely cost efficient. Nevertheless, if you have access to any of these things, use it! Don’t be afraid to contact your local news morning show about the event either. You never know, but often I find there are a surprising number of people in local network television that find it beneficial to show cool happenings that show off their city as a place with fun, diverse activities for people to engage in. They may just invite you down to the station to give a quick promo for a few minutes. Then again, they may not. Either way, it’s just a simple phone call, try it.

Pace yourself, but do not slack, You started early, so just do a little at a time so you’re not overwhelmed when it’s go time!

Promotional Packages and Special Offers:

If you don’t have these in your event, you’re doing it wrong! Everyone likes to save money so give them the option to do so while simultaneously providing them with as much substance as possible. Let’s face it, virtually everything about this art form screams, “IT’S AN INVESTMENT!” $600 handmade costume from Cairo? “It’s an investment!” Travel expenses, lodging, workshops, show and a private lesson with Samira So and So? “It’s an investment!” Trip to Cairo, “It’s an investment!” Make-up, hair and nails? “It’s an investment!” DVD’s, CD’s Music Downloads? “They’re an investment!” Need I continue? Before you know it, you just might invest yourself into a subsidized housing project, trying to pay for your finger cymbals and fan veils with an EBT card.

Needless to say, no artist can do without training and experience and since this is an art that is of a foreign culture. Let’s face it, no community in the Occidental world will ever be as ripe with comparable teaching opportunities and experience of the Middle-East. Even if your preferred style is of a more contemporary nature such as Tribal and Fusion styles, we still all need to network as much as possible for the communities to grow. Therefore we can not skip the workshops and out of town artist experience.

Point being, all dancers want more information, skill sets and experience, not to mention the networking that comes with it, but never forget, most of them spend a lot of money on this art and they do so rather frequently. Setting prices of workshops too low, however, can cost you in the end.

So how do you provide what they want in an affordable way while still allowing you to profit? By offering multiple items for sale at regular price, but offering super saver-esc discounts when multiple items are purchased.

Set the lowest rate possible per workshop that you know will still turn a profit for you; if there are 2 workshops, multiply that number by 2 and that is the cost you charge if participants sign up for both workshops. Charge considerably more per each workshop if taken a la carte. This way you encourage people to take all things offered. If there’s a performance included, you can either offer workshop attendees a discount on the ticket sales, or charge a slight bit more for the workshops and just make the show free workshop attendees. Remember, the more items you have for sale = the more promotional services you can create, which means the more of a discount you can allow. So, more Items for sale = bigger discounts, bigger discounts = bigger profits. (Just never go below your bottom line) Reminder* Your bottom line for sale prices is determined by how much you need to turn a profit after all expenses are covered.)

What kind of profit should I expect to see?

This all depends on how realistic you are willing to be. One way to look at it is from the 70/30 perspective. Regardless of the event’s size, if the artist I’m hosting makes X amount of money, then if I can at least see 30% of that amount in my profits (after expenses), I did pretty dang good. Essentially, 70/30 split on profits between artist and host is industry standard pretty much, but since the host must also factor in the expenses involved in hosting, then the math should work as follows. Total event production cost = A. Total amount of money generated from event = B. Subtract A from B to get total profit. Total profit = C. Pay artist 70% of C and 30% of C goes to you. *Side Note! (This does not mean if you spend $1000 and profit $100 that the artist goes home with $70!; It probably goes without saying that most of us artists all have clauses in our contracts to prevent this sort of thing from ever happening…At least I hope we all do!)

I feel that if you just skid by with the bare minimum of all the things I mention here, then this should never happen to you, worst case scenario you break even. The point of this article, however, is for you to do far more than just “skid by” and break even and actually turn some sort of decent profit. Keep in mind, as many have stated before, the main thing is promoting art within your community and getting it to grow, money is secondary…But I feel it should not be a compromise either. If we’re making money, you should too. If in the beginning you only see a 5-10% profit, don’t give up, at least you didn’t lose money…so keep trying…unless of course, it’s just not your bag.

Keep a positive attitude, be friendly and kind to everyone. Be someone people enjoy to be around.

MO MONEY!

The final topic I would like to share is sadly one of the most underused tactics in this line of work, yet simultaneously one of the most effective for generating revenue. If done properly, you can generate anywhere from a few hundred dollars that can help to cut back on overhead cost, up to a potential sum of money that can cover virtually all your expenses so that all you see is straight up profit. This magical mystical financial enigma is found in the land of sponsorship, and no, you don’t need a business degree to pull this one off. All you need is a clear and concise, easy to understand sponsorship packet with reasonably affordable benefits that small business owners will want to take advantage of and a few different options for them to choose from. (Add dash of charisma and watch it work wonders.)

It’s actually not that difficult to find local businesses who would be willing to drop a few bucks your way if you can return the favor with some basic advertising.

It won’t cost you any extra to mention your gratitude towards said businesses for their contribution on your event posters and social media shout outs, and many local business would love to drop $25-50 or more for these promotions, especially since the more conventional means for them to promote their businesses can generally be of considerable cost to them.

For starters, imagine some of the cool businesses in your area owned by regular folks such as; restaurants, hookah lounges, craft shops, beauty salons, record shops, and even service providers. Maybe you have some friends starting up a lawn service, or your friends friend just started doing some sort of independent contracting. Do you know someone who owns an art gallery? Perhaps a tap dance studio. Virtually anything! Even if you don’t know them personally, there has got to be at least a dozen or more small businesses in your area to where you could easily contact the owner and meet with them.

What to Present to Them

Remember, these are small businesses that may or may not know you very well or even at all for that matter, so for starters you need to be the lovable, approachable friendly person that I know you are when you talk with them. Equally important is that you approach them with their business in mind. When you meet with them, sell your event. Tell them you are hosting a big name artist from out of town and that you will be doing a lot of promotion via social media, public distribution (posters/flyers/word of mouth) and all other avenues of promotion you intend to explore. Present them with several, affordable options to jump in on the bandwagon. I usually say, “Since I will be promoting a firestorm of this event, it really isn’t a big deal for me at all to throw the name of your business out there as a contributor.” From there I may proceed to inform them of the different promotional options available. Always make it affordable and as risk free to them as possible. Here’s a basic example, you can set your own prices based off of what you know of your city however:

I plan to promote this event x amount of times during the week via this manner and that… therefore:
$25 gets you x-amount of brief shoutouts on all social media outlets + your company name in small print on the event poster.
$35 gets you the same, but 2 extra shoutouts per week in addition to a weblink to your business on the flyer and social media pages
$50 gets you the same but more detailed shoutouts of whatever you want me to say about your business x amount of times, full company logo on event flyer in small print + web links to all our social media outlets.
$75 gets you the same but add this thing and that thing to make it better…
$100 gets you all that and a bag of chips, like hang up a banner or booth promoting your business at show, vip seating etc…be creative.

In my few years of experience with this, 80-90% of all new businesses that go for this do the most affordable options. So I basically make those options as desirable as possible because not only is it no skin off my back to throw their name about and a lot of these folks may not know me very well and probably aren’t sure if I can get the word out the way I claim.  So we keep it easy for everyone. If you get 5-10 $25 sponsors, watch your overhead costs diminish considerably!

Don’t forget, local businesses aren’t the only option. There are multiple online businesses that may enjoy frequent and affordable promotion such as online belly dance accessory supply companies, jewelry makers, costume designers and more.

Do you know any local artisans? Henna artists or costume / jewelry makers? Painters? Sculptors? Offer them a comfortable fee to set up a booth at the show. That sort of thing adds to the ambiance of the event and it’s fun for your guests and everyone has an opportunity to prosper, not to mention, you are spreading art, culture and awareness. These are the sorts of things media networks enjoy covering by the way because they help the local economy. Refer back to my point in the section on promotional materials, you may want to consider contacting your local news network if you are going to be featuring all of these cool things and promoting local businesses. Small efforts, such as a few phone calls and drop ins, can make a big difference. It all works full circle.

Conclusion:

Event hosting is not for everyone. Most of you reading this are likely artists such as myself who have either attempted event hosting in the past or are considering it in the future. It is extremely difficult to be both an artist and a business person at the same time. The two concepts when combined tend to produce an oxymoron of sorts. Granted, I have been working as an artist for the majority of my time on this fragile planet, and only now am I beginning to find ways to make it work for me. Personally, I feel it necessary to divide my abilities in such a way that allows me to pursue my artist career despite the compromises I must make to ensure certain stability. Not everyone can be so flexible but when it comes to the ever growing art that exists within the diverse Raqs Shari communities out there, we are blessed in many ways that extend far beyond our basic exposure to this amazing spectrum of cultural goodness…One of those ways that seems to stand out for me the most is the unity and togetherness of the dance communities around the world.

As a man living in a “man’s world”, there are few things I am privileged enough to witness that truly bring women together in a strengthened form of solidarity.

I feel very fortunate to have come as far as I have in a community that is virtually run by women, women who must endure living in this upside-down “man made” world that have made for themselves a truly remarkable and complex art form all of their own. This is more than just an art form that embodies the music and gives shape to musical passages. One cannot deny the apparent empowerment that a woman feels when she is free to express herself the way she was meant to. I have witnessed this same dynamic in many cities around the world and therefore feel that this is an art form that deserves as much attention as possible. So yes, I want my hosts to make money, but more importantly to keep the torch burning. But this torch will only stay lit if we can compete in this topsy turvy upside-down world.

If you are a woman and an artist and you are reading this and you are in a place to where you feel torn between the artist world and the business world, never forget that you are the creator of your own destiny. Do not confuse the business world for the “man’s world” just because it is generally men, and lame men for that matter, who have dictated for aeons a “pragmatic approach” towards attaining your goals. It is this overwhelming aspect of our society that tricks our brains into believing that we only have one narrow path towards success. Use the natural born instincts that you were given as a woman to change the game to fit your own personal goals and dreams. I know this is possible because my best friends in this business have been doing just that.

Hosting people is more than just exposing your community to new techniques and dance concepts, it is the spreading of information and concepts that teach the student far more than they ever expected. I have become enamored by the strength of communities around the world and I deeply wish to see it prevail with all of it’s potential. We need people who are willing to keep it going strong, and though my experiences may pale in comparison to the many much more experienced than I, it is with my deepest admiration toward the artists of this culture that I share what little I know in hopes to keep this torch burning.

Jonatan and Sadiia

Part 1 here

Part 2 here

 

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