"I dunno... I'm a bit tired..." I sighed feebly down the phone. On the other side my friend was convincing me to attend the Levi's gig at Blue Waters hotel.
"You're on the list, you have to come!" he protested, suggesting that somehow being important enough to make a guest list would be sufficient to persuade me to go.
Turns out, it was. I'm shallow like that. But it also turns out that the "guest list" at the door was divided into thick volumes, quite like a telephone directory, and that the only people paying the R20 entrance fee were a few plebby tourists who wandered down from their rooms to investigate why the pictures were falling off their bedroom walls.
As I reflected on the fantastic turn-out, I realised that there was some critically important psychology behind the "guest list", something that all would-be promoters should take note of.
Even though the gig was essentially free, it wasn't officially marketed as such. The flyer specifically stated tickets were R20. There were however several well-placed emails and MySpace messages sent around that let those "in the know" in on a little "secret" - to get your name on the list, simply write it on the Levi's MySpace wall.
But it wasn't even a secret. It was common knowledge. So why bother? Why not just advertise a free gig, and not make people go through the hassle of having to write a comment on a MySpace wall?
Besides the marketing bonus of having extra eyeballs looking at your brand's MySpace page, there's also a simple equation that says: "free = crap". Give something away, and nobody wants it. Tell people that they have to do a minor task to be considered privileged enough to be a guest, and there'll be queues forming at the door.
The act of writing your name down to get on the list is also a subconscious commitment to attend. Even if the date approaches and other events or personal functions crop up, the fact that you've made the effort to register will nag you into attending, even if it's no more of a commitment than verbally agreeing with a mate to attend another free event.
Of course, Levi's and SL Magazine can afford to throw lavish parties that barely break even; something that was quite obvious when we considered the elaborate lighting rig and stage that was erected precariously over the pool of Blue Waters.
I don't want to take anything away from the bands or any other aspect of the promotion effort, but rather just point out the lesson to be learned: even if you can't afford to throw free gigs, making people feel special is one sure-fire way to secure their attendance. Even if it's something simple. Here are some ideas:
- Give away a free drink to all guests on the list.
- Make the entrance fee marginally more if you're not on the list. Like R5.
- If you're a musician promoting yourself, give away a free single cd in a paper sleeve to all guests. Cheap and easy.
Sound lame and transparent? It is, but it works. We're self-centered bastards, us humans, and playing on that can be the difference between 10 disappointed people or a packed crowd at your next gig.
What do you think? Does being on the list convince you to attend, even if anyone can do it? Or is it just a meaningless gesture for the conceited?