SMS Marketing for Live Events: How to build an SMS program that delivers.

Dip your toes into building a direct communication channel with your fans, and see if SMS is right for your audience.

We’re just going to come out and say it: if your marketing mix doesn’t include SMS, you could be missing out on a massive opportunity.

Yes, it’s another program. Yes, there’s no doubt that we’re regularly overloaded with requests to “explore new channels.” But if you’re working within the Live Entertainment industry, an SMS program can work extraordinarily well to move tickets, get fans primed for drops and cut through the noise.

Experimenting with any new channel is a huge lift, so below we’ve laid some general recommendations on how to build an SMS program for your team. All of it is based on recommendations and results from our partners in sports, music and entertainment.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick of it:

  • SMS should be short and sweet. SMS may not be the right medium for the message if you need to write a paragraph.
  • Work through your (existing) channels: to bring SMS to your fans, build your opt-ins into your highest traffic areas
  • Know your Milestone Moments - moments with high fan engagement are great moments to supplement with SMS.


First thing’s first - what does SMS mean for our industry?

Roger Nayden from Twilio said it best: “Messaging isn’t just about reach - it’s about driving action with relevant communications.”

It’s one thing to talk to your audience. It’s another to make them listen.

As you build up your database of reachable fans, keep in mind SMS’s intimacy. It can be obnoxiously direct, and it would be a strategic slip-up to come out of left field. Some advice? When it comes to direct messaging, people want an easy read, a clear point of view, and a reason for being. They want something from you.

These are practical ways we see SMS being used by our partners:

  • Conversions: SMS is known for its high response rate, with 45% of fans who opened the message responding to the text. Use this to your advantage for driving ticket sales, streams or merch sales.

  • Retention: Once fans have agreed to receive your direct messages, reward their loyalty and support with exclusive offers, rewards, or loyalty programs.

  • Re-engagement: SMS is a powerful tool since its medium is fans’ mobile phones. With a quick notification and simple text, fans will be reminded to reopen your app, re-subscribe to your loyalty plan or check in with what you’re up to.

Who you gonna [text]? No one if you haven’t laid the groundwork.

If you’ve bought into the idea of SMS, this is where you begin your journey: the database.
You can’t text anyone until you have explicit consent and lists of phone numbers.

Our advice is to:

  1. take advantage of your existing high-traffic platforms to drive SMS sign-ups.
  2. invest in integrations and a place to centralize all of your opt-ins and fan profiles.

Your process for driving opt-ins doesn’t need to be flashy. It just needs to be aligned across your departments (hence the integrations and centralization), and very clear to your fans why they should sign up. Here are a few examples on how/where to drive opt-ins:


A great place to start is your website. This is where fans seek information about the season, the lineup, tickets or merchandise. Take advantage of timing & their interest to encourage SMS opt-ins. Most of us would rather get a text for a festival we’re interested in, than check up on the website regularly. Pop-it up as fans land on your homepage, or depending on your season, match it to their intent. If you’re sold-out, hit fans with a waitlist for new ticket drops.

Engagement Campaigns:

With our platform, it's easy to add additional entry fields for people to opt-in to receive SMS messages. This is a great way to get new fans to opt-in during your “Milestone Moments” -we’ll dive into this a little later on.

Ticketing & Merch Purchase Flows:

When fans are purchasing tickets or merch, they are filling out an entry form already. So, if your ticketing provider lets you, why not add in an opt-in option for those fans that are (evidently) already interested?

Pro-Tip: Clear opt-in communication is everything - both for your fans and for your own SMS authority. Make clear opt-in options for different streams (email vs. SMS). Depending on your legal team, you can do this through a single check box (make sure to include opt-in details in your terms and conditions), or if you have strict requirements, lay out what fans are signing up for - i.e. you will receive X messages that relay X.

Milestone Moments

Okay, now that we’ve covered the where let’s go over the when

Before spamming your fans with multiple messages, think back to times when your fans’ interest and engagement were at their peak. These could be pre-sales, lineup announcements, drops… whatever it may be for you, this is where SMS comes in.

As you just start out your SMS program, the most effective way to get it off the ground is to pair SMS with your regular marketing milestones. This gives your team the opportunity to recycle the copy for ads, or other marketing initiatives you’re already running, and distribute them through a new channel.

Essentially, you can tackle your budding stages of SMS with no extra lift for your team.

Let’s take a look at our partners at Outside Lands as an example:

To promote the 2022 festival, Leesa Allmond and her team attached SMS to their key on-sale moments, lineup announcements, and closer to the festival, their “know-before-you-go” information. SMS was used as a more direct reinforcement of their regular digital ads.


Outside Lands’ strategy was a huge success. Their Eager-Beaver Pre-Sale knocked it out of the park this year with an ROI of 104 times their initial investment. The positive response not only benefited the festival this year but opened the conversation to expand next year's SMS budget for future festivals.

That’s the quick introduction to SMS marketing for Live Events. If you’re interested in learning more, or in hearing directly from industry professionals - check out our recent webinar, the SMS Masterclass.

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