Armchair Booker- Get Your Programs, Get Your Programs!
I need to preface this article with the fact that I am not a "booker" or connected to wrestling any more than a tertiary connection with a client I work with through my PR firm (S7PR). I have been a fan since the early 1980's and enjoyed countless hours of wrestling in person and on television and only want to see the shows get big again, bigger in fact. I want more people to be able to enjoy the suspense of real life like only wrestling can.
This article stems from an experience I had with the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) at their 4th of July taping for Summer Clash in Benton Arkansas. It goes deeper than that though as this is a problem for all indie wrestling companies from what I have learned about how things are done. The WWE has a huge edge advantage over the local, or national, indie wrestling company- fans are invested in the people in the ring before they even purchase a ticket to the show. Sure, getting on TV can alleviate some of that problem but television is expensive all around. There is a much cheaper method to getting fans invested in the men and women in the ring without costly television contracts and additional cameras recording multiple angles (if any cameras are available at a show at all). It is your program.
For most indie wrestling companies, the program is a simple one page affair that only gives the "card" as it was advertised. We all know that the "card is subject to change" as most conveniently tell you at the bottom but that program is not working as hard as it can for you and your fans. If all you are doing is printing a single page flier that is the same as the flier that you are sharing on Facebook, Twitter and other places around the Internet and charging $5 for it then you are doing it all wrong. Way wrong.
First, that flier you are charging $5 for is a perfect "cover" for a magazine/program. What do you put inside this magazine? Information on the wrestlers expected to be at the show such as height, weight, special moves, a brief history highlighting key matches they have had and championships they have held. If you have a champion appearing at the show, provide a couple of pages explaining the heritage of the title and the champions that held it. Basically, use the program to further the storylines that the fans will be participating in that night- if fans have a bit of an understanding as to who the wrestlers are they are more likely to join in and show emotion.
That last part has gotten me in a bit of an argument with a, to remain unnamed, NWA star on Facebook. His stance was that if the wrestlers do their jobs right, the fans will know when to cheer and boo and who to do so with accordingly. There is a lot of truth to that, fans should react to the context clues provided in the ring- the good guy won't scratch eyes or kick an opponent while they are down. The problem is, for the most part, the whole "good guy/bad guy" style of wrestling has been obliterated thanks to what is commonly referred to as the "Attitude" era of wrestling that Extreme Championship Wrestling (former NWA affiliate) ushered in and the WWE capitalized on in the mid to late 1990's. There is no real good/bad guy anymore, it is common place for the good guy to rake the eyes of a heel as is a "face" (good guy) pulling down the top rope so his opponent tumbles outside the ring.
The "Attitude" era was big because fans were tuning in to watch and discussing the events. Guys like Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock were able to build off of their previous appearances knowing more and more fans were tuning in. WWE knew how to market their stars. It is time indies, that don't have a television deal, learn too.
Back to the program. For most fans, hitting the indie scene is a once in a while event. That is not because the indie scene is not worth checking out, it is because for the most part, indies tour to areas around the state, region or even country to reach more fans. That means there may be a lot of fans that see only one show when it is near them (4+ hour one way drives are simply not feasible in today's world for most fans). I live in central Arkansas, there is no indie company servicing this area, at least not within 4 hours of driving each way. Most reading this will say I am not a true fan if I don't put in the miles like the wrestlers do. That is fine, everyone is entitled to their opinion, hell, this article is essentially one big opinion.
By putting some effort into your program, as much as goes into the show itself, you may find that you have an unknown source of not only additional income but new fans. You may be asking how do fans that can't attend the shows get the program? That is the next part.
Use print on demand services to provide the programs so you are not printing 150 programs for a show that, realistically, won't sell 100 tickets. That is a waste of money. The print on demand service I prefer is Magcloud. They charge 20 cents per page. They print when someone orders a copy. That means, no money out of your pocket (outside of paying writers and layout people).
If you are charging $5 for a one page flier, it is time to see how charging $10 for a 24 page magazine can be feasible for your indie company.
I already mentioned that Magcloud charges 20 cents per page, that includes the cover, it is every page of your magazine. For $4.80 you can have a 24 page program for your show. Add in $2 shipping per issue and you are at $6.80 total. For $10 per program at the show, you are making $3.20 profit. Shipping times are three to seven days depending on day the order is placed. If purchasing 20, or more, copies you will receive a 25% discount which will nearly save you the shipping costs ($1.70 on a $6.40 program). There is also a discount on the shipping when ordering more than one copy to be delivered to the same address.
Your front and back covers count towards your page count. Using your flier design as the cover eliminates having to make something unique for each show while still using available resources. The back cover can be used to promote the next show or DVD sales or whatever- it is not a good place for content relevant to the program though. If possible, sell advertising to local businesses that may be looking to sponsor your event. This can offset the costs of printing the mag and turn the show programs into nearly a 100% profit machine.
For shows that have a history of good sales, or a show that has a decent marketing budget, there are services that can lower the price of programs to less than a few bucks each. MGXCopy.com can turn the same program out for about $2.53 each, with a $30 shipping fee for the bundle. That is less than $3 each but it requires upfront payment, again for shows that have sponsors, a strong fan base and a decent marketing budget this could be the better option. Turn around with MGXCopy is also about three days if you choose the $30 shipping option, faster than Magcloud’s similarly priced offering. Keep in mind though, that price through MGXCopy is for 100 copies of the program that is, by its very nature, only good for that one show. This could open up post show sales though for fans that decide later they wanted a flier but forgot to grab one.
By using a service such as Magcloud you don't have to purchase a minimum and you are not out thousands of dollars. Magcloud also offers digital purchase options for computers and for iOS devices. What this means is, don't take the program down, leave it up, leave it so that fans that may have missed it at the show (it happens, people aren't prepared financially, etc).
Treating your program as your access to the fans can expand your fan base if used properly. The problem is, most indie wrestling companies are stuck in the old days prior to the Internet- it is time to put the Internet to work for you. Starting with your programs, you can.