New Research: Independent Musicians Face New Challenges in Digital Age


Musicians at SXSW 2014You heard the rumors: there’s no money in music anymore. Bassist, drummer, keytarist. You are hosed. The only music you’ll make is the tap, tap, tap drumming your fingers on the surface of your cubicle-enclosed desk.

Or not. You’ve probably also heard that the digital age offers a wide-open creative landscape replete with opportunities, free from corporate interest. Send music to fans on the opposite side of the world in mere minutes. Make an album at home, in your jammies with your own recording software. Put it on an online streaming service, promote it and watch the dollars roll in.

Wait—which one is right? Maybe it’s time to take a more scientific look at indie musicians in the digital age.

Brown Paper Tickets Music Doer, Billy Geoghegan and University of Central Florida Professor Kevin Meehan, PhD co-authored the published paper, “DIY Noise and Compositional Horizons: Indie Musicians and Promoters in the Age of Digital Reproduction.” Other studies on music in the digital age zero in on high-profile artists. Geoghegan and Meehan explore digital reproduction at the grassroots level, “where smaller, independent, emerging and DIY musicians operate.”

Their research shows that while digital technology means that the cost of recording, manufacturing and distributing have dramatically decreased; corporate control and mindset still are an issue—even with DIY and independent musicians.

Musicians, creative types, digital entrepreneurs will likely relate to this research published in summer of 2014.

The authors conducted surveys with indie musicians and promoters and used a breadth of sources for their research. Attali’s Noise: The Political Economy of Music provides the framework for the argument. Geoghegan contributed anecdotes from decades of experience in indie records, live shows, booking and managing tours.

Indie Musician Research Highlights
The essay covers sound quality, promotions and what the emphasis on touring means for the future of the musician. For purposes of one brief blog, it would be impossible to include everything, so here are a few key findings:

Artist-Audience Relationship Changed with Digital Tools Like Social Media
In the study, 75% of quantitative survey respondents agreed that digital technology improved the artist-audience relationship—ease of reaching fans was found in the top pros of digital technology.

But respondents of the qualitative survey felt that though social networking helps promotions, the interactions aren’t authentic. A quotation from one survey respondent, “It’s still all about networking, and pre-digital networking may have been less convenient and less far-reaching but each connection had more gravity behind it.”

Building Fans and Notoriety More Complex Now
Some survey participants expressed that digital technology actually makes it more difficult to attract fans and there’s more pressure to conform to corporate business models. “There is more, not less, pressure to succumb to having PR, a tour manager, and all that because the music press, the blogs, the venues, and the local promoters are increasingly less likely to respond to an inquiry from an actual band … the pressure to take on some kind of business model from above has been increased rather than decreased by digital technology.”

Don’t be shy. Comment away with your thoughts and experiences. What have indie musicians gained and lost in the digital age?

Giving Refugees a Helping Handshake


Photo-IRC-RefugeesLanguage barriers. Financial worries. Finding a job. Refugees face enormous hardships, especially during the first few months in the U.S. On Giving Tuesday, a group from Brown Paper Tickets visited the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Seattle to facilitate mock job interviews with a refugee group who just arrived to the U.S. a few weeks ago.

Brown Paper Tickets allows every employee to use an extra 40 paid hours per year to give back to the community via nonprofit volunteering. Through this benefit, we’ve collaborated with some amazing organizations and met some inspiring people.

Founded in 1933 at Albert Einstein’s request, the IRC offers emergency aid and assistance to refugees and those displaced by war. The IRC works in over 40 countries and 22 U.S. cities, restoring safety and hope.

We joined the IRC for a day of job readiness training unsure what to expect. We left with a deep admiration for the participants and the realization that despite different backgrounds, we face similar challenges at new jobs.

To break the ice, we went around the room and dished about our first jobs. A volunteer from our group told us about biking through a treacherous blizzard to deliver newspapers. One of the refugees shared a story about fighting off feral dogs while carrying large bags of food. The anecdotes varied wildly from sad to funny, but the takeaways were similar. Everyone made mistakes and felt unprepared at their first jobs.

Volunteering with refugeesAfter the round of introductions and stories, we began mock interviewing. We practiced standard questions, such as “what are your strengths?” and exchanged ideas on what U.S. employers look for in candidates. Eye contact and strong handshakes are not a custom practice everywhere and relaying skills, even to a prospective employer can feel very uncomfortable to those from other countries.

The room filled with nervous laughter as we went through the questions and shared interview tips. As we started to pack up our stuff, one man said, “The IRC are our first American friends. You are the second. Are we going to be friends for life?”

Whoa, that made it hard to leave. But they’re in good hands with the IRC. And we had such a positive, rewarding experience, we know we’ll return one day.

12 Ways of Giving and a Message of Gratitude


giving-tuesday-blogThis Giving Tuesday (and everyday), Brown Paper Tickets is grateful.

Before we get to the season of turtle doves and French hens, we’re taking a gratitude pause to reflect on the little things that aren’t little at all. Food and water. Speaking without fear. Reading, writing, dancing, singing. Health. Safety. View our UNselfie video or see it posted below.

Read on for 12 ways of giving and find charity and fundraising events in your area.

1. Give Time

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 62.6 million people volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2012 and 2013. Volunteering may not require an intensive time commitment—there are walk-a-thons, community gardens, outreach and all kinds of one-day activities.

Volunteers often come away from the experience with lasting friendships, perspective and maybe even improved health. The Corporation for National & Community Service reports that those who volunteer have lower mortality and depression rates and feel more connected to the community.

Check out Volunteer Match to find a volunteer opportunity that matches your interests and schedule.

Throw a Fundraiser

Or put the fun into fundraising—organize an amazing, out-of-the-box, knock-their-socks off concert, performance or dinner to raise money for causes. Learn how you can use our Fee-Free Donation Tool to set up your page and collect funds with or without selling tickets.

Some examples of creative fundraising:

2. Have a Wine Competition

Put your palate to the test with competitive wine tasting. Form teams and have them bring two identical bottles of wine then do a blind taste test. Proceeds go to a good cause.

3. Laugh Out Loud with a Comedy Cabaret
Your charity event doesn’t have to be a bake sale or a black-tie benefit. You can make people laugh and raise money like this comedy cabaret that helps Team Towanda Foundation, a non-profit that provides women in need with funding for mammograms and other health services.

4. Stir Things Up with a Cook-off

If you’re planning a food-related charity event, stir things up by adding a competitive element. In Holiday Chefs Challenge, an event in North Carolina that benefits food banks, chefs compete to create delectable appetizers, desserts or entrees based on a list of everyday items distributed by the food bank.

5. Dance-a-Thon

Want to get physical with your charity fundraiser? Think outside the 5k. Shimmy, shake and move for a good cause with a dance off or dance-a-thon. You could even theme it to the dance like Zumbathon.

6. Treat a Veteran

Give military members a well-deserved night of entertainment. Brown Paper Tickets Salutes is a partnership with Veteran Tickets Foundation that donates event tickets to active military men and women, veterans and family members of those who gave their lives.

Giving-Tuesday7. Give Tickets to a Charity or Holiday Happening

Tickets make great gifts. They are more personalized than sweaters, almost guaranteed to be used and don’t clutter up the house. Buy your friend or loved one tickets to a charity or holiday happening and give back with your gift. Some ideas:

8. Broads for Bones
For your friend who loves to laugh, give tickets to see some of Los Angeles’ funniest women and help raise money for Ankylosing Spondylitis, a crippling bone disease. The hilarious line-up includes top-tier comedians, directors and television writers.

9. Green Generations Holiday Party
Send your favorite environmentalist to a swanky celebration with a signature cocktail and silent auction. Proceeds help Green Generations, Inc. an organization that teaches NYC children about sustainability.

10. Meowy Catmas Cat Circus
Surprise the cat-lover in your life with tickets to see acrocats walk tightropes, perform death-defying jumps with the greatest of ease and yes, rock out on keyboards and drums.  A portion of ticket sales goes toward cat rescue and the organizer strongly advocates adoption.

11. The Nutcracker
Bestow the gift of holiday ballet magic and sugar plum fairies while supporting the Alameda Civic Ballet, a non-profit and charitable organization.

12. Happy Giving
Who doesn’t love happy hour? When it’s for a great cause, it’s even happier. Enjoy wine, beer and appetizers while benefiting the Head Start program. Bring a toy and take joy in the act of giving.

We hope you enjoy our video. Feel free to share.

20 Creative Ways to Support Small Business Saturday


Small Business Saturday Brown Paper Tickets is big on small business—shops, restaurants, theaters, local makers, movers and shakers.  We were the first solution for small businesses to ticket events for free and we continue to offer a wealth of free resources and services to events of any size.

November 29 is Small Business Saturday. Discover what’s new in your neighborhood. Catch a band in your town. Buy gifts at a local craft fair. See what’s shakin’ at the local theater. Shop microbreweries and distilleries.

According to the Retail Merchants Association, for every $1 spent at local businesses, 45 cents is reinvested locally vs. 15 cents or less from non-local purchases. Local stores also tend to hire local people and make neighborhoods more visually appealing.

Not sure where to begin? Here are 20 creative ideas:

San Francisco
1. Take a tour

Relatives in town for the holidays? See your city with fresh eyes and support local tourism with an eclectic walking and riding tour. Learn about local architecture and explore the impact of the Gold Rush.

2. Sign up for sake class
Love sake, but aren’t sure whether it should be warm or cold or what to eat it with? Take a sake education class with friends and support a Japanese eatery at the same time.

Los Angeles
3. See, cook, learn

Fascinated by Samurais? Tour the renowned LACMA Samurai exhibit and then get schooled on Japanese cooking techniques at Surfas in Culver City.

4. Catch a Krampus fashion show
Krampus walks are now a thing here in the US. Add a devilish scare to your holiday reverie by watching locally made Krampus costumes take the runway at the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles.

5. Support local theater

There are so many great indie theaters to support; we couldn’t possibly name them all. But this one struck our nostalgic side. Revisit old favorites from the Twilight Zone Live on-stage at Theater Schmeater.

6. Enjoy craft brews + burlesque
Can’t choose if you want to support local beer or local beauties? Do both. Check out Revelry—Seattle’s only Monday night burlesque revue.

New York City
7. Take a bite
New Yorkers are serious about bagels. Explore neighborhood bagel shops and sweeteries with this unique food tour that works around your schedule.

8. Go to the Olde Grand Market
Celebrate the holidays and support a local performing arts center at the Grand Market celebration in Queens. Face painting, holiday portraits and more await.

9. Drink in “A Beer Carol”

Drinking and writing tends to go hand-in-pen. A Beer Carol at the Haymarket Brew Pub combines them both with a theatrical output from craft beer advocates. One reviewer describes it as “awesome and tasty too.”

10. Visit your local Santa
Avoid long lines at the mall to see Santa and support a local bookstore with an Evening with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

11. Pop-in to a pop-up dinner

Chef Bradley Kilgore is opening a restaurant in Wynwood named Alter. Sample an exclusive 4-course fixed menu and help support a new spot.

12. Show regional writers some love
Watch a battle of wits go down at the Laboratory Theater of Florida. In this 24-hour playwriting project, 5 playwrites are given a theme, director and actors. The audience gets to see the writers’ visions come to life when the plays are performed on stage.

Washington, DC
13. Spot the liar

Another great indie theater event in the District of Columbia. Four storytellers tell a story and only one is true. Vote and interrogate. Brace for the truth—it may be shocking.

14. Laugh locally
Need a laugh? Support the DC Arts Center by going to see local improv. Separate Beds is a senior-level improv show, so you’re practically guaranteed a few giggles.

15. Catch a cabaret show
There’s no place like home. Recapture the magic seeing this Judy Garland cabaret concert by a critically acclaimed tribute artist.

16. Get to know the North End
Boston is arguably one of the best food towns in the US. Take a neighborhood food tour and get to know the North End’s Italian fare. Find out about new restaurants and established ones you might not have heard about.

17. Go nuts

Do “The Nutcracker,” Austin-style with the Invisible Czars. Audience members are encouraged to dress up and let loose. Prizes are given out to the wearer of the best holiday costume and more.

18. Revisit a classic
Instead of big-box cinema, see a play. Bring the family out to see “Ebenezer’s Journey”—an interactive theatrical presentation in the old buildings of Pioneer Farms.

19. Sip brew made near you
Take a two-hour guided walking tour to the best local breweries in the historic LoDo. Learn the history of beer, how it’s made and maybe pick up a one-of-a-kind gift for the beer lover.

20. Brunch like a local
Forget mimosas. Drink 5 excellent Local Relic beers paired with brunched-up food at the Colorado House in Colorado Springs.

Comment below with your own ideas on shopping or supporting Small Business Saturday.

Photo 1: Shopping in Austin
Photo 2: Literary Affairs event

2014 Urban and Small Farms Conference Inspiration


GrowingPower-NewFarmer, founder and CEO, Will Allen and his non-profit Growing Power are leaders in the sustainable food movement. Based in Milwaukee, Growing Power transforms abandoned and unused lots into year-round organic food sources and inspires young people in the community to learn to grow food for themselves and their neighbors. Farmers, community groups and others are joining the fun and the results are outstanding.

Growing Power recently held the 2014 Urban & Small Farms Conference: Building a Fair Food Economy to Grow Healthy People in Milwaukee.  The 3-day conference covered issues of our modern food system and how we can work together to change them.  It focused on community and inter-community teamwork to tackle crucial issues our planet’s food and water systems face.  The conference buzzed with palpable energy and a strong sense of community and global stewardship. Every farmer and educator involved was approachable and willing to give additional resources to those hungry for more information.

Workshops included Urban Farming, Urban Aquaculture, Food and Technology, Food Policy, International (Food and Farming Around the World), Land and Architecture. In addition to workshops, there were networking activities such as Makers Craft Bazaar, Growing Power Farm field trips, Growing Food and Justice for All Initiative (GFJI) and a chef’s gala.  To top it all off, a once-in-a-lifetime talk where Michael Pollan and Will Allen, two giants of the sustainable food movement discussed current food issues, took questions from the guests and ended the evening with inspirational visions for the future.

As a farmer, father and lover of life I feel this kind of movement is essential to our survival.  It was an absolute honor to work with so many passionate and involved members of our global community.  The memories and knowledge taken from this conference will fuel those in attendance to go out and make our food systems better.

Revolutionary Fee-Free Donation Tool Gives More to Good Causes


donationtoolgraphicGot a big heart? You’ll love this. Ready, set, raise more money. With our fee-free online donation tool, you can maximize money for good causes, projects and organizations with no service fee taken from Brown Paper Tickets. Zero. Zilch. Nada. No contract. No deadlines. No limitations. No charge from us.

$667,047 has been raised to date by more than 1,000 community centers, non-profits and individuals using our fee-free tool for online fundraising. Donor money goes to a heart-felt cause instead of a ticketing company, donation tool or crowd-funding platform.

Prepare for Giving Tuesday. Use our tutorial.

1. Collect Donations without Selling Tickets

Create an event and add donation pricing. Then promote the page and watch the goodwill grow.

-Support a friend, family member or community through a hard time
-Raise funds for indie bands, art and theater projects or to save a local venue
-Schools can use it to fund new programs, equipment or uniforms
-Find charity event ideas

$44,000 was the record raised from one single Brown Paper Tickets donation-only event page using the fee-free donation tool to buy clothes, food, blankets and other items for Brooklyn shelters after Hurricane Sandy. A current fundraising page is for Feather Note Music Project, a philanthropic program to prevent suicide in Native American youth by teaching and giving them tools to record music, stories and languages of their culture.

rusted-root-commoncare2. Collect Donations and Sell Tickets

You can also organize a charity event, fundraiser, or benefit and allow event attendees to contribute donations when they purchase tickets.

Ticket buyers will still be charged $0.99 plus 3.5% of the face value, but when you use your own processor Brown Paper Tickets will only take $0.99 + 1%, leaving you with 2.5% to help offset your processing fee. No fee is added to donation levels, only to tickets. Official 501©(3) organizations that qualify for a lower credit card processing rate with PayPal or their credit card merchant find that Brown Paper Tickets’ gift of an additional 2.5 percent of the face value of every ticket often covers 100 percent of their PayPal or credit card merchant fees.

-Host a black-tie fundraising dinner or wine tasting
-Organize golf tournaments, roller derby charity bouts and other sporting events
-Ask your favorite local band to play a benefit show
-Find fundraiser event ideas

A benefit music concert featuring band Rusted Root worked well for Heather Rangel, San Francisco Bay Area event organizer of a $100,000 fundraiser benefiting CancerCommons. Supporters bought tickets, donated funds or both in the same transaction. “I couldn’t believe that Brown Paper Tickets would do this for us for no fees; it felt like there must be a catch, but there never was one,” Rangel said.

Rangel’s fundraising event was held in tribute to a friend who lost her battle with cancer in fall 2014. CancerCommons, a nonprofit that educates patients and doctors about cutting-edge treatments and research, received all funds directly. Rangel was so pleased with her event success, she just created a new $1 million fundraising campaign.

Brown Paper Tickets offers a lower fee for ticket buyers than competing ticketing companies offer to 501©(3) nonprofits. Low ticket fees and zero donation fees is a social ROI example of our Not-Just-For-Profit business philosophy. “We are the first to offer free tools and service for anyone to forge a direct connection between donors and the causes they care about without taking a cut,” said Steve Butcher, CEO of Brown Paper Tickets. “Fundraising is a selfless act. We honor fundraisers by putting the financial rewards of their labor directly in their hands, where it belongs.”

20 Creative Ways to Use Your Restaurant Space


Restaurant High restaurant lease? Don’t fret. There’s more than one way to use your restaurant space. In fact, there are at least 20. Patrick Nelson, our Food and Beverage Specialist has helped thousands of event organizers all across the industry, from kitchens to restaurants, underground restaurants, gardens, small farms, breweries and distillers. Below, he imparts some ideas on attracting new customers and publicity with your restaurant space.

1. Teach Classes
Chop, dice, blend. Just as there are tricks to making the perfect bisque, cassoulet or grilled cheese, there are methods to making your class a rewarding experience for both student and teacher. Have a lesson plan and start small – teach basic dishes with limited ingredients. Create handouts students can take home. Be engaging and encouraging throughout the class.

2. Pop-Up or Underground Restaurants
It’s the latest thing. Chefs from all over the world are popping up shop in all sorts of places, from tiny dining rooms in Brooklyn to warehouses in Los Angeles. Eager foodies flock to these exclusive supper clubs to converse with interesting people and nosh on off-the-menu items. Many are private events and therefore, immune to the rules and regulations that normally apply to regular restaurants. Plus, they can be held anywhere with space for tables and chairs.

3. Pairings
Wine + cheese. Beer + bacon. Tequila + tacos. Whatever pairing party you choose, it’s a great way to partner and cross promote with local distilleries, breweries and wineries. 

4. Mix and Mingle
Fill your restaurant with professionals by throwing a networking event. Stimulate sales with free or discounted snacks and drink specials. You may also benefit: for example, if you had a distillers’ mixer, you might meet the right folks to partner with on other events.

Tip: Talk to people you know are well-connected to help organize the event. Professional event organizers could also help. If you already have a large mailing list, start with that. After a few events, the followers will start trickling in.

5. Trivia Night
Bring out the beer-drinking brainiacs. Host a trivia night and find out who among your customers are “Cliff Claven” types. If you lined up a trivia MC, you’re in good shape. The next step is building your customer base. Consistency is the key to developing return business, so have the event at the same time every week.

6. Beer or Beverage Release Party
Spread the word about your new brew. Whether you are a budding new brewery or have been successfully crafting for a decade, throwing a release party can foster excitement, awareness and some well-deserved attention. Get the scoop on how to throw a rockin’ beer release party.

7. Cook Offs
Top Chef,” “Iron Chef,” “Chopped” and others have made competitive cooking part of the main stream television diet. Bring the competition to your restaurant. Invite local aspiring cooks to try their hand and test their skill. Pack the house. Gain exposure in the food community. Create a one-of-a-kind trophy and title for the victor. The competition will get fierce and food might just fly, but keep things light and fun.

Tip: Turn the cookoff into a fundraiser and show your love to a local charity. Giving is not only personally rewarding, there are lots of wonderful causes that need help. And as a bonus, your good deed may result in added exposure.

City Growers Farm to Table Benefit8. Tastings
Go local. Put together special tasting menus that features local products, anything from wine to craft soda pop or cider. Or host your own whenever you update your menu or wine list. Mix it up – have your patrons vote on new dishes. Use the built-in market research to keep your menu current.

9. Private Events
You might already host weddings, birthday parties, but why not make it part of your business. Boost your value to customers by offering a catering menu and event registration support.

10. Tournaments
Pool, darts, bocce ball…when it comes to bar or restaurant tournaments, the opportunities are endless. Even beer pong is in play. Register your leagues and use Brown Paper Tickets to collect the dues.

11. Internal Training
Show newbies the ropes. Hold training sessions on food safety, etiquette, procedure and anything else your employees need to know in your space. This is also a great way to update their menu knowledge.

12. Holiday Parties
Dazzle your customers with your own soiree or arrange parties for customers. Offer event registration to make organizing the night a breeze.

13. Poetry Nights/Open Mic Nights
Host an open mic night and find the best minds of your generation. (If you get that reference, you’re well on your way.) Everyone wants to be heard, so open the floor to the community. If your space is small, you might not even need the mic.

14. Community Meetings
Offer to let community groups host meetings and functions in your establishment. Hold an appreciation event for one or more of these groups, offer food and drink specials or even a catering menu tailored to their event.

15. Customer Appreciation Night
Reward your regulars. Create a preferred customer program and show your appreciation for return business with discounts and the occasional appetizer on the house. Feature entertaining activities (trivia, bingo, raffles) and free snacks.

16. Industry Shindig
Get familiar with fellow associates in the food and drink industry by holding special functions for restaurant industry workers. Provide free snacks and drink deals with a valid food handler’s card or liquor license.

17. Singles Mingles
Fan the flames of love. Register attendees for your single’s night. Give out name tags and have plenty of pens and paper available for phone number exchanges. Create aphrodisiac-themed food and drink specials (Cupid Cocktail, anyone?) or line up tables and chairs to turn the evening into a speed dating event.

18. Game Nights
Drinking and gaming go together like beer and pretzels. Pictionary, Outburst, Apples to Apples, Jenga are all perfect choices for group games over drinks or snacks. Organize a large tournament and register players ahead of time.

19. Fundraisers
Pancake breakfast. Spaghetti dinner. Lobster lunch. Throw a charity dinner to raise funds for a good cause. Chat with your purveyors and ask if they will donate some of the food so you can maximize the funds raised.

20. Farm to Table

Go Green Acres. Invite local farms to show off their lovingly grown products with a special menu featuring their ingredients.

Whew. Got more creative uses for your restaurant space? Or have a question about food industry events? Comment below.

Photo credit, 1st photo: Martin Abegglen

5 Tips to a Happy, Profitable Derby Holiday Season


Derby League Marketing Tips - HolidaysFor most, derby season matches the “when weather sucks most” of the four seasons. Cold winters, insanely hot summers, basically when people search for indoor entertainment.

One exception: the holidays. I don’t care if November through December has terrific weather in your area, the holiday season is the best time to make money, raise funds and promote your league.

“Really Bob? Everyone is running around with holiday parties to attend, family functions and shopping to do. Where does roller derby fit?”

1. Don’t Go Without an Event During November or December

I understand you’re skeptical. But consumers spend more money during the holidays. Lots of money. How much?

Enough that retail stores live or die by their fourth-quarter results: sales and profits October through December. In the U.S., holiday sales of consumer goods are as high as 40% (dollar value of annual consumer purchases). And you wonder why retail managers develop nervous ticks. As a retail manager, I recall a single day our department store was to make (raise pinky, make Dr. Evil face): one million dollars. Today, that same store probably projects seven days with sales that high.

Chalk it up to holiday cheer. Remember, you are a business and need to make money. Is that what derby is about? Of course not. Yet as we hear continual stories of leagues in financial trouble, we know money can bring security, keep skater costs low and the league can increase charity contributions if it does well. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy profit.

“Seriously Bob, with the parties, family gatherings and shopping, how would we draw a crowd?”

Don’t let the grinches fool you. You would be surprised how attendance for the arts, professional sporting events, concerts and even alternative sports thrive during the holidays.

Two personal examples:

Twice in my son’s 14 years (good lookin’ like his dad; smart too), the man in red surprised him with event tickets as his main gift. Did he feel slighted? Nope. We had a blast. Last year, the boy wonder’s gift was trip to Minneapolis to see Nitro Circus at the Target Center. This three-hour show featured 50 X-Game professionals and many performing tricks. Best gift ever.

Nitro Circus changed my view on how showmanship, announcing, and production planning can propel an alternative sport from a mall performance to attracting enough people to fill an entire arena. The thrill of the atmosphere turned the audience into immediate fans. Patience, smart marketing and well-executed promotion can accomplish anything. The most interesting part?

It was planned and practiced about three years before it was brought to the U.S. They shot for the long run and it paid off. The shows were sold out worldwide in 2014 and already selling for 2015.

Patience could be 18 months of recruiting, training, business planning and networking within the community before ever skating a public game. What do you think the odds are of long-term survival between a league who practices patience and one whose first game is five months after forming? Who’s to say derby wouldn’t attract large crowds if planning was better? It used to. Derby once sold out Chicago’s old Comiskey Park. Over 50,000 fans.

2. Create a Fun Holiday Game


Derby can achieve success all the way into mid-December. And who’s to say a New Year’s Eve game and after-party won’t work?

A holiday game is a nice start. It could be the first home game scheduled or an exhibition game. Exhibition games, with amusing themes carried through in all of the little details are a blast.

I worked a handful of these. The theme dictated the entire production. Teams created boutfits for the event and had names related to the holidays, with a twist: Sugar Plum Scaries for example. Yeah, it was kind of a warped twist, but a fun one. In one instance, each skater created a name just for that night. An announcer’s dream (sarcasm alert).

Money flows during the holiday months. So consider what a game during this time could mean to the league. Then do what’s necessary so both skaters and the fans have a blast. Do some silly things with penalties, change the rules you don’t like (it’s not sanctioned) and win over some new fans.

 3. Remember, it’s the Most Wonderful Time of Year…for Selling Tickets and Merchandise


The gate is always important, but less so for a holiday event. Gauge ticket sales and give as many tickets away as you near the date. Why? They will spend money.

Again, the holidays have people in a buying mood and it’s not just for others. If properly planned for, it could be a boon for merchandise, season passes and you’ll love this: a single game ticket voucher.

Every league I know who has instituted the single game voucher has had success. Why wouldn’t they? Season passes sell during the holidays, but the one receiving the pass must either be at the game or know the recipient has a derby habit. I noticed leagues almost getting the idea by offering advance sales for specific dates.

Most people don’t have any idea what game-dates the recipient can attend. Make it easy. It’s simply a ticket good for one admittance to one game during the specific home season. Amazing stocking stuffers. Have them on hand and make sure announcers mention them a thousand times.

Better yet, sell them cheaper than usual game tickets. Why? Many of them will never get used. A sizeable portion of vouchers will get lost, forgotten, so sell more of them. Sell them online too. Use ticket blitzing to push sales. If you use Brown Paper Tickets, call our Client Services department who can help you create these.

Merchandise Ideas

League shirts are always important, but make sure you have plenty of standard merchandise inventory, dig out any outdated merchandise, mark it down, separate it from the new stuff, and use your creativity from there. Create a “Stocking Stuffer” section at the merchandise area. I’ve seen league craft clubs make a killing on handmade, one-of-a-kind things with or without the league logo.

Don’t forget kids. Though kids clothing is not always an easy sell and the range of sizes is a real investment, look through sites selling promotional items and find kid-friendly merchandise. There are a million different, inexpensive things you can have made with the league name on it. Never forget your profit margin goals. Choose items that will handle a healthy markup. Kids rule how parents spend money; so make them happy with cool, age-appropriate goodies. A multi-pack of team pins and stickers is perfect for kids and adults.

4. Don’t Take the Holidays Off from Public Appearances

“Well, everyone wanted the time away so we’re taking November and December off. We all need the break.” Yes, you do. Everyone deserves a break, but one or two league commitments during that time isn’t much to ask.

Think about it. Every mall is looking for groups to wrap gifts. Fill a few shifts and have girls in their boutfits. Hundreds, maybe a thousand people, in larger malls, could be easily exposed to the league. Bring schedules if your season starts shortly after the New Year. Go caroling in subdivisions where the fan base is low.

Don’t forget local holiday parades, various charities or supervising a toy drive or giving tree. If you work with a charity, promote it. These activities could produce interviews on TV, photos in the local newspaper or promotion on the radio. The closer the league is to the community, the more success you will always have.

5. Have a Happy Holiday Season with Family and Your Derby Family

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Roller derby is not a hobby; it is a lifestyle. We all know this to be true. Though this blog may sound like I’m a proponent of a never-ending season, that’s hardly the case. I get it. I know the time commitment. My balancing act between derby and my family commitment outside of the sport isn’t easy.

That said, I have a derby family too. You can do fun parties and activities with your derby family while maximizing your holiday marketing efforts.

November and December is my down time as well, yet I help the league take advantage of what the season provides us. Those holiday derby events and functions account for many of my favorite moments. So make it memorable, enjoy each other and if everyone helps a little, you end one year with setting up a better next year.

Peace, love and wheel grease.

Photo credit (1st photo): Papa Razzi

Top 5 SEO Tips for Event Planners


search-engine-optimization-events-1George Freitag swooped in to the Brown Paper Tickets community space to teach event planners search engine optimization. He wasn’t wearing a cape, but we’re pretty sure he’s some type of SEO superhero.

Exhibit A: he has a wealth of experience listed on his website. B: He works for Portent, Inc. an 18-year-old digital marketing firm based in Seattle. C: He gave free advice and tools event planners and promoters can use to achieve higher rankings, sell out shows, kick butt online. In short, he knocked our socks off. Then just as quickly as he appeared, he vanished into the gray Seattle sky, not even helping himself to a doughnut.

SEO Basics for Your Events

1. Be online
Be findable. It may seem obvious, but nonetheless, it is a good place to start. Your event needs to live on a permanent website or page, so fans and prospective attendees can find you. Create a website or page or at minimum, fill out all the fields when you create your event page.

You’re not done yet. Make sure your website or page has text, as search engines like Google cannot read text on an image file, so simply uploading your band’s flier to a website won’t do much to improve organic traffic.

Freitag’s test: see if you can copy and paste the text. If you cannot, search engines won’t be able to read it.

2. Be useful
Details, details, details. Add the event name, date and time, location and other need-to-know information. But don’t copy and paste the description from one site to the next – search engines see this as spammy, useless duplicate content. Craft new event descriptions for every page and site listing your event.

Add a call to action (CTA). Visitors to your event page need to know where to buy tickets, so make sure you have a nice bright button or text link. Buy Now. Register Today. Sign Up for This Crazy Awesome Event. Brown Paper Tickets lets you embed a CTA button or text link right onto your webpage.

When setting up your event, you can put one of these buttons right on your site:


You can contact us 24/7 if you need help setting up your event on our site.

3.  Be relevant
Say you just got back from Paris where you learned to soufflé with the best of the best and you now you want to teach a French cooking class.

How will prospective attendees find your class? You have to talk the talk. Use words in your descriptions people will use to search for classes. In the SEO-sphere, these are called keywords.

How do you find keywords? Search on Google for “French cooking course” and scroll to the bottom to see suggested search terms. Or use Ubersuggest to see popular searched-on terms. Look for terms that get a lot of traffic, but aren’t too competitive. Find out whether it’s better to use the term “course” or “class” or other words in your event title and description.

Don’t overuse keywords though. Use them naturally – sprinkle them in.

Don’t do this: Want to come to my French cooking class? Please come to my French cooking class. My French cooking class is January 3.

Freitag recommends Google Webmaster Tools so that you can check in on your SEO efforts, conduct keyword research and understand how others are finding your site.

4. Be popular


After the workshop, we practiced “being popular.” Follow us on Twitter and join in on the fun.

Search engines favor popular sites that have a lot of high-quality links, mentions, shares. A few marketing and social media efforts can help you become naturally popular online.

Link your event page on our site to your web page. Have a good PR plan in place to attract media attentions and mentions from journalists. Submit your event to calendar listings. Freitag said to “get as niche or regional as you can.” He also advises to include display buttons, so your friends, fans, and others can share your Zombie flash dance, punk poetry slam or whatever you have going on.

5. Be pretty
Freitag said, “Yes, we mean be pretty in the most superficial way possible.” Make sure you have clean event titles that use 50-65 characters. Title tags have a direct impact on your rankings (how high you are on the page), so pick a title carefully. Your meta description does not have an impact on your ranking, so you don’t need to worry so much about keywords, but make sure it’s grammatically clean and includes all the important details because it will be pulled in when people search for your event.

Use the Portent SERP Preview Tool to preview what your event listing will look like in search results.

And remember, the more “popular” you are, the better. So make sure when people share your content, it’s looking sharp. Freitag recommends Twitter Card to beautify your content when it is shared.

And more:

Freitag gave event planners so much useful advice, we couldn’t possibly list it all. View his whole presentation and comment with your own thoughts on SEO.



The Best Derby Marketing Tool You’re (Probably) Overlooking


Derby Business Tips - AnnouncingBy now, I hope your league knows its best marketing tool: announcers.

This blog is not self-indulgent nor written to over-justify the role of announcing. It’s to dispel the myth that announcing isn’t all that important. I am going to tell you how a lack of good announcers can hurt your league, what good announcing looks like, why “borrowing” announcers isn’t the solution and one way to try out announcers.

What Happens When You Don’t Develop Announcing

A heck of a lot. Six things that could happen if your announcers are underdeveloped or do a poor job:

1. The crowd disconnects from the game. Announcers connect the game to the crowd. Don’t downplay this idea. If you do, please ask someone to kick you. Kicking yourself is totally ineffective. I’ve tried. Takes balance. Doesn’t leave a mark. ‘Nuff said.

2. Nobody knows who you are. The crowd may not know your name or it may be pronounced incorrectly, enunciated poorly, or purposefully “played on” all night. For example, imagine the horror of fans yelling, “Lyin’ Fart” instead of “Lyin’ Heart.” And heaven forbid if the league’s name is never mentioned.

3. The game remains a mystery. The crowd has no idea what’s going on.

4. Spectators will not return. If spectators leave not knowing anything about the game, league or skaters, odds are they’ll never return. Spectators are one-timers while fans come back. Sure, you get their money once, just not twice. Spectator and fan retention is at an all-time low.

5. Long-time fans leave. A change to less-developed or less-known announcers could alienate long-time fans.

6. Sponsors will not renew. Let’s just say, solely as an example, your sponsors never hear their names (I know, that never happens). Worse yet, the name was pronounced incorrectly or used as part of a “harmless” comment. (Now I’m swinging with full sarcasm.) But it’s important. You lose revenue and the goodwill of a local business.

“Bob, What IS Good Announcing?”

I’ll forever feel strongly about my time with the Mad Rollin’ Dolls, ten years go. Our co-founder understood the importance of announcing. The league absorbed Baam Baam, my highly esteemed co-announcer and me. We had roles within committees and league operations open to us, and I loved it.

Based on my routines and ideas adapted from announcers all over the world, here are three ways I define good announcers:

 1. They come prepared. It takes me 8 hours to prepare for Brewcity league night. I compile all the information into one document with everything in the evening’s timeline. Rosters, order of introduction, the charity (including what they represent), team records, standout statistics on skaters, every sponsor (with reads, not just names), names of staff, the entertainment for all three halftimes, upcoming games and appearances. I also add news regarding the travel teams, groups in attendance, anyone we should thank and even the name of our national anthem performer.

Having all this prepared and in order of flow means Doc (my co-announcer) and I rarely miss anything.

2. Good announcers not only know rules, they know the officials’ hand signals. Every announcer should know these. They can be found as rules appendix at the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. Knowing the signals allows announcers to explain the infraction.

3. Great announcers explain the game. There is so much focus on explaining what skaters can’t do (fouls), it can overshadow explaining the game. Explaining the game can be done without coaching from the mic. Early on, announcers were hounded about knowing skater names, rules and penalties. I realized we were leaving out why the skaters did certain things: basic dynamics and strategy. Since then, most of the compliments I receive from fans go something like this, “I learned so much about the game.”

Announcers with great emcee skills own the crowd. By pitching what’s next, keeping excitement levels high and entertaining the crowd, people are less likely to leave early and more likely to return. Plus, they always push merchandise, another under-utilized profit center I’ll cover in an upcoming post.

 How Announcers Learn the Game

Derby Announcing
I have a saying, “You can’t announce what you’ve never seen.”

If you close practice to your announcers, how on earth do you expect them to reach their potential? It’s impossible. An announcer’s ability to learn the game relies on the league. I’ll defer, again, to the Mad Rollin’ Dolls who gave me total access to practice. In fact, coaches allowed us to step onto the track as they were teaching skating techniques, moves and strategy. I would never have known nor continue to dig into the game if not for that experience.

 “Bob, we solved the issue. We borrowed good announcers from up the road.”

Here’s where criticize my own. Most dedicated announcers work for too many leagues. They love it, find more opportunities and hone their skills. So why am I being critical? It’s OK for a while, but it hurts the growth of the overall announcing pool. They take the place of others who should be developed. Eleven years later, I bet the sport still does not have enough accomplished announcers to permanently staff half its leagues.

Borrowed announcers are not yours. An announcer’s home league takes priority. If your game conflicts with the home league, you’re stuck.

Worse, after years of travel, many burn out and stop. Remember, they don’t have a travel budget either. They love you; you show them more appreciation than their home league, who is used to their excellent self (yes, that’s a “Bill and Ted” reference), but you will wind up back at square one.

My rules? I only do events for my home league (Brewcity in Milwaukee), and will help Madison on occasion (my first league and in my backyard). Otherwise, I will only announce for a league if it’s their first-ever bout or if they have dedicated announcers to train. I will arrive early and talk about roles, bring them training materials, work with them that night and be available to mentor at any time. This way, I’ve fixed the issue, not contributed to the problem.

Finding Permanent Announcers

roller derby announcing Don’t give the job to anyone, not even dedicated league members. Every role has a different skill set. Advertise on social media, your site and even in the newspaper. Have tryouts. Be creative.

One of the more popular ways is to get the league together for a night at a sponsor bar. Bring in a DVD of a recent bout and give every applicant a set number of minutes, or jams, to call the action as they see it. It’s not about accuracy; it’s about how quickly they think on their feet. Hand them some sponsor reads to throw in between jams. You can teach them the game later; just make sure they have the skill and personality first.

Training Materials

Make sure every new announcer understands the rules. Download the WFTDA/MRDA rule set. The Association of Flat Track Derby Announcers (AFTDA) also has some helpful material, including the official Announcer’s Handbook (an invaluable resource), which can be downloaded from the front page. It provides an expected code of conduct, and the forums are a great place to learn of upcoming events, to ask questions and keep up with derby changes. They also certify announcers, a requirement to work major WFTDA events.

If questions go beyond that, simply contact me at bob [at]


Bob Noxious is a Doer specializing in roller derby for Brown Paper Tickets.