What do you do when you don't sell enough tickets?

Have you had an event fail through lack of ticket sales? Did you cancel or go ahead anyway? how do you bounce back after a disheartening result?


Our first year with Eventbrite and its not looking very good for us. When we were with another ticket company for our 2017 festival they did email blasts in geo location areas for 9 months in the run up and we sold out. For 2018 we are more than 30% down on tickets and we have stepped up promotion. In fact, only 30% of tickets sold so far were through Eventbrite. This has been our worst start ever and this will be our 4th year. I’m afraid that if sales do not improve then I will not be putting on another festival after 2018 and yes, I do think Eventbrite could do more to support the event. Really poor efforts so far.

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I’ve been in a situation a month out where ticket sales didn’t pick up as expected and the client brought in extra people, found additional budget and we did a lot of comping. It was a particularly tricky audience to mobilise and the key media were tied into competitor events… But we pulled it off!

It’s generally tricky to judge until you’re almost on the event because people book later and later. Not all audiences respond to ticket offers but if you’re going that route I’d recommend getting the best offers out early & putting a time limit on them. Then working back from that.

On the one occasion I’ve experienced the dreaded tumbleweed in the aisles, we did a stand drop with an apology letter to exhibitors and promised to look at the format going forward. Not fun but I think most people have had that one event which didn’t work due to circumstances beyond their control.

That’s worrying. Were they sending them to their own database? What promotion have you started doing yourself?

That’s really interesting insight. How did the exhibitors respond to that apology? How many rebooked and were they looking for discounted rates for committing again?

We have ran a one month radio ad campaign (internet radio with thousands of listeners, the station I own). We’ve had a poster campaign on Facebook and Instagram boosted for 2 months. We have done flyer drops up and down the country with bands, pubs, tattoo shops, festivals etc (5,000 done and out). Plus an email shot to everyone who has been to any of the first 3 years. We have also done several press releases that have gone out on major music media websites. Our own website totally up to date with latest news. Facebook campaigns pushing like mad.

With the previous ticket company they gave us several home page promo’s, they did email shots out into geo locations within 100 miles of the event and even social media promo. It all worked.

All I can see is eventbrite promised that if we dropped our other ticket partner and had them exclusively that they would make sure we got the best promotion. I have emailed and had no replies from them. I think the service has been really poor and if they do not respond in the next 7 days I will be pulling Eventbrite from my festival. I cannot stand companies that lie and go back on their word. Its disgusting.

@Marino is there someone in EB sales/customer service who can help Jay?

@Belinda_Booker Yes, absolutely. Someone will reach out to Jay as soon as possible

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The exhibitors weren’t pleased but essentially the part of the show which didn’t attract the audience we wanted was an extra and the established part worked. The organiser had tried to bolt a consumer show on to a trade show and it just didn’t work. We highlighted all the promotional support we’d done so they could see we’d put a lot of effort in. The show was then sold so I don’t know what happened after that.

Hopefully EB can offer you some more support. Out of interest, what kind of response did you have from previous attendees? Did fewer buy again than previously? Would it be worth surveying those that haven’t bought tickets this year to find out why - there could be other factors at play?

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Ooh that sounds like bad strategy to put a consumer and trade show together. At least you weren’t to blame!

Also wondering whether the bands can done some promo if you haven’t gone down that path already.

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We had an event earlier in the year that ticket sales just didn’t pick up, the event had run for about 18 months and we’d made some big changes to the format which I think had caused some of the drop. We ended up inviting a number of our clients on a complimentary basis so that we had a full room still and the event didn’t look like a flop. Everyone had such a great day that it should give us what we need for next year.

It’s always difficult because usually by the time you realise you’re struggling with tickets it’s hard to fix, so the question you need to ask is - do I want to run the event next year? If not, then just let it be, if you do then invest in the event as you would and see it as marketing budget for the following year’s event.

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That’s excellent that you were still able to get the attendance (paid or not). As you say, it’s about appearance - if it looks popular it becomes popular. Maybe event organisers need to have a ‘rent a crowd’ in their little black books so they can get them in at the last minute in the event of an emergency!


Some of the organisers I’ve worked with have offered comps to friends & family of employees and agency staff for certain exhibitions. You can sometimes get some out there via exhibitors/sponsors but need to be careful that you’re not looking desperate to get visitors. I’ve comped to members of the emergency services before now as a “thank you” for all their great work - always good to have them on site just in case anyway even if they’re not on duty!!


Much has been said here Jason, great advice throughout. I also believe with the advent of mobile ticketing, our lives are so busy, thinking so far ahead rings alarm bells for many. I work with traders on a daily basis with a site I run in the UK, and we’ve seen a dramatic shift in the last three years with pitch take up time to being more last minute. We are all victims of cash shortfalls, so our disposable income is not what is was and its difficult to save, however, that being said…

May I offer my pennyworth?

We all need to remember Eventbrite, ticket master or even selling tickets in a pub or library, are only the tools to get to market. If the offer is right, then people WILL hunt your tickets down!

Maybe its time for a bigger picture look from a complete outsider? Happy to help.

What event/s do you aspire to be - and better them? How are they ‘playing the marketing game’? What do they do that you don’t?

What market are you trying to attract and why? Attracting a broad spectrum does not work. Be more specific.

Is your event inspirational or aspirational? Each needs a different slant on the marketing. Scatter gun marketing is old hat and does not work anymore.

Is your marketing joined up and branded? Could it be better - loads of advice on Eventbrite.

Is your event delivering on its promises? Working with traders is my speciality, if you want me to look over your trader offer just get in touch.

Dwell and spend time. Are the activities at your event what your visitors actually want? How do you know this?

Ticket price - again - if the event is so fantastic people will pay and hunt tickets down - within reason of course.

Have you any feedback from previous years from your visitors and traders and if so, presume you addressed their comment and told people about what you have done to improve, on your website?

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All great points Julie. Agree that the trend is towards people committing more last minute. How can event organisers manage that? If you don’t know how many people are coming until the day before it makes planning extremely challenging and much more risky.

Who knows Belinda, this last minute.com approach to life can only make it more difficult for us event organisers. The days of folks venturing out on wet days days donning wellies and brollies are numbered. Even indoor events can see a poor turnout - getting to and from a vehicle in bad weather seems to be a put off. I blame central heating, eating out and too many home entertainment choices :wink:

I think the outdoor events sector is much more at risk than the indoor events with this situation too.

With the UK weather having been so tempremental in recent years, I’ve seen too many, otherwise great little events, pull the plug as they simply cannot risk having no footfall.

Events held on grass, especially on public land are usually faced with heavy ‘ground repair’ bills too.

Insurers will no longer insure them. One agricultural show I know ended up selling all their competition silverwear, of over 100 years, just to settle the bills when their insurer failed to pay out when they were rained off. So sad. I was hit too by Storm Desmond the other year with my large Xmas event. Ouch.

Despite advances in washing powder to combat muddy clothes, and pulling in celebrities at great cost to appear at our events, I am at pains to think of a one stop shop way to re-encourage the ‘fair weather only’ visitor brigade? It seems hosting undercover is an option to increase the numbers, but boy, as I found out, it’s so expensive.


Tough times! Indoor is not weatherproof either. I’ve worked on several indoor events when there has been good weather and visitor numbers have been hit and I worked on the London Boat Show one year when there was a lot of snow but people still came in their thousands. Think you have to cover all bases, keep promoting until after the doors have shut and cross everything!


How very sad about the agricultural show. Why did the insurer not pay out? Did they have event cancellation insurance?