How To Find An Audience For Your Show

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How To Find An Audience For Your Show

In February 2015 I interviewed Liz Miele for the Ask The Industry podcast about how she went viral and a lightbulb went off in my head… everything I’ve been doing in my day job (in terms of outreach)  can be transferred into my comedy career.
Before I carry on,I’d highly recommend you listen to the episode with Liz as it’s full of useful insights about social media. Although this post contains some spoilers… As you’ll hear, neither of us are experts nor claim to be. We just learn from trial and error and looking at our end goals and working our way backwards to what we want to achieve.
She talked about picking places to send specific jokes. Matching her “running joke” with a publication about running (Runners World). And sending her feminist joke out to blogs which might be interested in it. After she left the flat I thought… this is what I do for a job. 
Only it’s harder in my day job, because what I’m selling is a branded bit of content which is only half a step up from advertising (and nobody likes to be advertised to). People like to be talked to and communicated with. So for the Brighton Fringe I researched companies from locals who might be interested in my offering. I contacted them (largely on email but sometimes via the phone) and told them who I was, what I was doing and why it might interest the individual I was talking to (and by proxy the community they’re a part of). 
Now I’m here to tell you what I’ve learned. 
First of all, don’t aim for the masses unless you have a lot of time, energy and money. I found it difficult to talk to people at universities in Brighton because they were not interested in me and the show I was doing. If felt like they were much more interested in the household name comedians. Which is fine… so who are my market and how can I find them ? Here’s some steps that club owners, indie comedians and performers with a show can take to finding that initial burst of audience who (hopefully) will be the word-of-mouth that helps you get more bums on seats.
  1. Identify 3-5 subcultures you belong to.Think long and hard about this. It doesn’t have to be related to the jokes. I think this is where most people fall down. The subculture could be golf (for example) but you might have no golfing jokes… however the people who also like golf have something in common with you beyond golf which attracts them to that sport. It could be a way of life, big green fields or something else (I’m not an expert at golf). So first step, find your subcultures.
  2. Contact the right person in that group.You might have a friend in it already or have a friend of a friend in it who can help. The “degrees of separation” have become easier since social media has allowed us all to talk and stay in touch with people. So post on your wall / feeds asking if anyone is already in a community you want to be a part of or talk to (this is NOT you taking without giving, you shouldn’t expect to just advertise your gig to people this is you joining a community or asking for a favour of one you’re already in).
  3. Research the places they go for informationPodcasts, blogs, news sites, event listings etc etc. Where do the golfers (I’m sticking with golf for some reason) go to find out about events or interesting industry news? It could be a newsletter or a twitter feed. You can even ask your friend in the community “where do you get your information about X”.
  4. Engage with the communitySubscribe to the podcast and comment on the posts. Be seen to be sharing the links and reply to others who are asking questions in relation to the posts. You’re a person and so are they.
  5. Ask for help.When you feel comfortable say to this group of people or person “I’ve got a show / preview etc I’d love to just tell you about it”. Think of it like digital flyering. Only difference is you’ve already got a relationship with that person / group which means they’re likely to give you a minute more than a stranger on the street. You’ve caught them at the right time when they have a minute to read / listen and process your message. On the street… they might be in a hurry to get somewhere. You’ve less time and less chance they’ll care.Just ask the person who runs the blog / podcast etc. if they can mention your show / preview / project. They might say no, they might say yes. You never know until you ask.
  6. Thank them and remain in contactAt the end of my Brighton Fringe run I gave the bar staff a box of Celebrations. They said nobody else had done that and it was sweet. This made me happy and sad… given the number of shows happening in the venue I thought I wouldn’t be alone in trying to remain friends with people who ultimately have helped my show. I also emailed every company who let me put a poster up individually thanking them for their help and saying I’d pop in when I am back down. I’m also going to add them to my blog post about the Brighton Fringe as a thank you and form of free advertising for them.To remain in contact you can start a newsletter (here’s why I started mine), or a Twitter feed or a Facebook group… pick the one that works for you. Learn from your community research. Did you find that most people get information from Facebook Groups or Twitter? Then join that platform. Don’t just make an account for the hell of it.
Ultimately your show has taken time and effort to create…the marketing should be no different. By targeting specific segments of society and not the mass market I was able to give the personal touch to my emails and correspondence and (I hope) I’ve made some friends out of it. This way it’s not awkward should I go back to Brighton and want to ask to put up a poster again or get some more assistance with something.
You could see this as “a lot of work” or you could see it as a way of marketing your show from your bedroom in your onesie in a long form (email) method which allows you to think about what you want to say and personalize it to the individual rather than flyering on a street corner shouting “5 STAR COMEDY?!” with everyone else.
Who would you rather help / support… the person who took the time to contact you and build a friendship or the person who shouted at you in the street? Flyering has it’s place, but for me, I think it’s better to aim for the Fringes when marketing your Fringe show. Aim for the group of people who might REALLY give a shit about what you do and not the casual people in the mass market who might come if John Bishop is sold out (not sure I am picking on him, never seen him live, but you get my point). 
I’m writing a book on the subject of finding your audience through free online content. If you liked this post and want to hear when the book is out, please do join my newsletter here. It’s free and I’ll never give your information away to anyone else. Promise. You can also pick if you’d like to see me live or get emails about future pods on the same page
How have you started to find your audience? Have you got any tips you’d like to share? Please comment below. Also I’d highly recommend you listen to the episode with Luisa Omielan on creating work of mouth during the Edinburgh Fringe if you’ve not heard that yet…
One last thing… remember. What works for one show / performer might not work for another. So do not try and copy anyone, only learn from them.  🙂



Simon Caine is a comedian, author, podcaster, writer and social media manager. He's the host of the Ask The Industry Podcast (iTunes link) , writer of jokes for Twitter and teller of gags on the London comedy scene. He's also the person writing this and it is taking all his willpower not to make a "Simon Says" joke.
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