Ken Wesler heard about a big opportunity last September.

An agent contacted the CEO of York's Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center about John Legend's availability. The Grammy-winning singer booked an April show in Washington, D.C., and was looking to add more regional tour dates.

Wesler said the Strand is part of a block booking group with other venues. Most of the theaters put in offers for Legend's concert. Then, the tour started to narrow down dates.

On Dec. 20 -- just as the Strand was shutting down for the holidays -- Wesler got a call to confirm that Legend was coming to York Tuesday, May 13.

Show sells out

In the new year, the Strand's team worked on marketing material. Even though Legend's name sells itself to audiences, Wesler said a venue can never count on that.

But Legend's star power worked. About half of the tickets were snapped up when the Strand sent its first eblast in late January. The show sold out as soon as the show went on sale to the public Feb. 11.

Wesler said there are many variables that effect how a show sells, the strongest being ticket price. He worked with Legend's tour to match the price with what customers would pay. He said he needed tickets for less than $100.

That formula fit with local customers. At $80 to $90, tickets to Legend's show Tuesday are about $20 higher than other Strand shows.

Legend's show was typical in the time between when it was book and went on sale -- and when it went on sale and hit the stage.

Wesler said he can sometimes book big names at the Strand with little lead time. After 19 years of trying to book Chicago, Wesler heard about an opportunity about two months ago.

He booked the band for a May 6 show, which also sold out.

Bringing new people downtown

While the Strand might not know the demographics of its crowds, it can tell if it attracts new customers.

Wesler said the venue uses a database to track first-time and return concertgoers. He said Legend's show attracted new visitors. And during the past few years, Wesler said the venue has seen 27,000 first-time patrons.

Local businesses have also noticed the increased foot traffic. Some downtown bars and eatiers will open or amend their hours around a big Strand show.

Wesler said research has shows that for every $1 customers spend on tickets, they'll spend up to $14 more within the local economy.

He said that businesses and venues can form symbiotic relationships to build the downtown scene.

Marketing strategy

Sometimes, fans do the Strand's marketing work -- by sharing concert news online and by word-of-mouth.

Wesler said social media gives him a first read about how a show is going to sell. If people are tweeting, he knows that tickets might go fast.

Legend created the biggest social media buzz Wesler has seen to date.

One show doesn't boost a venue's future appeal, Wesler said. But offering a consistent level of service to tours and artists can help the Strand build a good reputation in the industry.

That can include taking calls on West Coast time and paying attention to rider requests.

The goal is to avoid what Wesler called the "11:30 p.m. call." He said it's a call an artist makes after a show to complain about a venue.

"If an agent sells a show to a promoter and they never get that call, they notice that," Wesler said.

Creating a positive experience includes service, audience enthusiasm, ticket sales, date and a myriad of other factors. If things line up correctly, it could sway a future tour that's choosing between two venues.

"Every little thing helps the equation," Wesler added.