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Good Lesson Learned from an April Fool's Gag Gone Bad

I know I'm a month late, but I have to tell you about my April Fool's joke I played.

My group, the Brobdingnagian Bards, has been together for a bit over a year now. We've played Renaissance festivals, nightclubs, pubs, weddings, corporate parties, coffeehouses, and street corners. You name it, and we've pretty much done it. Over this time, we've built up a nice sized following and a decent mailing list. Most of the people on the list, I think, seem to enjoy it. Most absolutely love the music, but don't really make it out to gigs. Most don't buy CDs from us unless they hear us play. Most are not to keen on the idea of ordering a CD online...until March 31st when I learned something new about marketing.

So on March 31st, I decided to play an April Fool's joke on the Nagians (the name for our fans). We were getting ready for the last weekend of the Excalibur Fantasy Faire, our home faire. My plan was to send out an email on the 31st and then on April 2nd, tell every "April Fool's!" Didn't quite work that way though.

On the 31st, I composed the message "So Long and Thanks For All the Fish." I told the Nagians that we had decided we actually wanted social lives (as if they'd believe that), and that we were calling it quits. Come out and see our last performances at Excalibur...while you're at it, help us clear out our inventory.

The first phone call came from my dad. "Aw, I'm sorry." April Fool's! Then an email from a Nagian I'd never heard of before. "I came to see you a few months back and love to hear you. You will be well missed." Then more emails, including one from our Booking Agent (make sure your Agent is informed when you do something stupid). And more phone calls, "I thought everything was going great for you guys. Man, that sucks!"

I'm not sure about my partner, but I got about twelve phone calls and about thirty emails from people. One group that puts on the Madrigal Dinner here at UT was so bummed they were wondering who they would book next year. One gig almost lost. The news spread like rapid-fire... This is day one.

Then a cool thing happened. We got five orders for our CDs. Mind you, we had maybe two in the year the website was up... Now all of sudden we received five orders when we decide to break up??? Che sara, sara.

Well, by the end of the evening, I sent out an apology and big "April Fools!" I offered discounts on my CDs and got a couple new orders. And I finally realized just what happened.

People like our music, but they need motivation to buy it. When you play live, the motivation is I don't know where I'll be able to get that CD in the future, but when all you have is a mailing list, you have to make up a new reason.

Now, mind you, I'm not very fond of Machiavellian Marketing, I prefer giving people their money's worth at all costs, but the tactic worked. We sold eleven CDs in all from that little prank. And the only complaints I got were about the joke, not the sales tactic.


Marc Gunn is an actual working Celtic Geek musician. He was nicknamed “The Celtfather” for his incredible support of indie Celtic music and his award-winning Irish and Celtic Music Podcast. He has helped 1000s of musicians make money with their musical groups through The Bards Crier Music Marketing Tips. Now you can get FREE “how-to” music marketing and promotion advice, plus tips on how to sell more CDs when you subscribe today. Subscribe at www.bardscrier.com!

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