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Play the long game,
 sell-out gigs next year.

Floating Cubes

I don’t care where you are in the process, whether you’re just starting out or a working artist, selling out a show is a marker of success that is hard to underestimate. 

During my career in artist promotion, I’ve met very few artists who can sell out every show, every time with little to no effort. In fact, the bigger the show, the more promotion that needs to go into it with bigger and bigger guns. Still, even with the biggest of guns, there are even fewer promoters or ad agencies that can guarantee a sold-out show. 

The reason behind that is simple as it is obvious - a sold-out show is not about the promoter or the ad agency or the size of your guns. Of course, these things help get you there, but the only way to ensure that you can sell out your show is to play the long game. 

In the fast-paced world of digital marketing, where trends come and go like the wind, it's easy to fall into the trap of seeking instant results. We often forget that success in advertising is often the result of playing the long game. It's about building anticipation, cultivating relationships, and nurturing your audience's curiosity until it reaches a fever pitch. In this article, I'll share my philosophy on why playing the long game is not only a viable strategy but often the most effective one when it comes to achieving your advertising goals. So, if you're ready to sell out a show or skyrocket your brand's success next year, let's dive in.

Let’s look at an example. 

One of the bands I have the highest regard for, both personally and musically, and an international phenomenon hailing from Israel - Orphaned Land. 
Little words need to be written about the success of the band internationally. In the metal scene, they are credited with the birth of a genre and they have been consistently touring all the festivals and clubs for over 30 years.  

Orphaned Land live in Ramat Gan stadium

Orphaned Land live in Ramat Gan stadium

By Little Savage - Own work, Public Domain,

Bubbles and Cubes
Here's another example. 

When I first met this client, an Israeli-based, Gypsy Jazz band; they had already played two shows in Europe the previous year. In 2019 they had a new album coming out, new singles, and music videos, and they wanted to embark on a tour of the continent. With shows booked in Berlin, Hamburg, Tübingen, Prague, Amsterdam, and Grenoble. 

We worked together and built a distribution strategy for the new content and used smart location-based advertising to expose people to our teasers and videos. By the time we were ready to sell tickets in any given location we already collected followers in the local market. Using strategic pricing and sponsored ads we were able to sell out every show but one. 

Anticipation doesn't happen overnight; it's a slow burn, a process of seduction where you gradually reveal your brand's story, values, and unique offerings. You set the stage, leaving breadcrumbs of excitement that lead your audience on a journey. This journey might take weeks, months, or even longer, but it's during this time that you're creating a bond, building trust, and stoking the fires of curiosity.

Falling Cubes

At home, however, since the heavy metal music scene isn’t very big, sold-out Israeli shows are an exception rather than the rule. Nonetheless, their annual Or-phaned Land show which takes place during Hannuka (a play on words, ‘or’ meaning light), has been sold out every year since 2016. Since then, whatever the circumstances, you could always bet on that show being sold out. 

After 25 years (as of 2016) on the scene, and with many hours dedicated to fan outreach, they have finally conditioned their fans that once a year, come hell or high water, they show up. 
That’s the longest of games and you can see that it pays off even in a small and highly competitive market such as Israel on the holidays.  

In a way, what really sells that show specifically is the tradition itself. The fact that this even happens every year is what makes it so attractive, the anticipation is constant. 

Now obviously, I’m not saying you need to wait 30-something years before you can consistently sell out shows, although that’s helpful. 

What I’m really saying is that you need to take a page out of this playbook. 
Play the long game and build anticipation.


Building a Narrative

One of the most potent tools in building anticipation is storytelling. Just like a great novel or movie, your advertising campaign should have a compelling narrative. Start by crafting a brand story that resonates with your target audience. What are your values? What shaped your unique point of view? Why should people care? Then, break this story into chapters or episodes that you can release over time.

Imagine, for instance, a musician who shares snippets of their songwriting process, the inspiration behind each track, or the challenges they faced while recording. By unveiling the story behind the music gradually, they keep their audience engaged and eager for the final release.

The Power of Teasers

Teasers are the breadcrumbs in your trail of anticipation. They can take many forms – a sneak peek, a behind-the-scenes glimpse, or a cryptic hint about an upcoming product. Teasers tap into our natural curiosity; they're the equivalent of leaving a tantalizing cliffhanger at the end of a TV episode, making sure viewers return for the next one.

We use social media platforms to share teasers. Platforms like Instagram and Facebook are perfect for short, captivating snippets that leave your audience wanting more. Teasers also create a sense of exclusivity, as if your audience is part of a select group privy to your brand's inner workings.

Of course, on a larger scale, these views add up. Using smart targeting tools we can keep coming back to whoever showed us interest and in that way keep them interested and keep pressing their anticipation buttons. 

When we work together, we will set the benchmark for success for each teaser and start collecting the proper engagement. We will be able to use this engagement to build a growing trend of anticipation for your next move.

Same Floating Cubes
Falling Cubes and bubbles
Open air concert
Patience Pays Off

In a world where everything moves at breakneck speed, playing the long game might seem counterintuitive. However, it's precisely because of this frenzy that taking a more deliberate, patient approach can set you apart from the competition. When you build anticipation, you're not just chasing short-term gains; you're investing in the long-term engagement and loyalty of your audience. So, if you're in it for the long haul, embrace the art of anticipation and watch your advertising goals unfold in ways you never thought possible.

Don’t underestimate the power of small actions.

Yes, when you’re getting off the ground, your first 1000 views might not seem like a lot. It sure doesn’t look the same as selling out a show. But if you use strategic planning and combine it with smart targeting, you can build off of that to get to your first million.

Remember to include building anticipation into your annual strategy and you will see the effects on your next big release. 


I’d love to hear what you think, and if you want to talk about your personal brand and journey, schedule a free consultation today.  


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