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6 Different Ways To Book A Tour Date (Even In Cities You've Never Been To)

How would things change if you could book great gigs in great cities everywhere?

If you could snatch up better venues in less time?

And if you could curse a lot less while doing it?

It’s possible.  I’ll show you 6 ways that any independent artist can use.

But first let me tell you a little about 23 year old Brandon (me) and how he (I) learned an important lesson in efficiency and humility.

10 years ago I moved to Calgary from Vancouver.

From the city of rain to wild rose country – our new Promised Land.

Like everyone else skilled in procrastinating, we packed our tiny basement suite in a little under 3 weeks, tossed everything in 26 foot U-haul truck and drove 12 hours through the better side of the Rocky Mountains (sorry Colorado, ours are definitely better).

15 people showed up to help us pack that truck; family and friendships we nurtured over the previous 23 years.

2 hours later we were done, the truck bulging like a double-stuffed Gordita Supreme.


We hopped in the cab and slowly backed out of the drive way while our friends and family (our life) waved goodbye.

I remember clear as day saying – through a waterfall of tears and awkward laughter – “What the HELL are we doing?!”

But we waved back and pointed the truck East.

Let’s contrast this with debacle of unloading our truck in Calgary…

It was my wife, Tiffany, and I plus one person from Calgary (thankfully my Dad who I met only 4 years before).

15 to help us load and 1 to unload.

2 hours to load and more than half a day to unload.

As we slowly moved everything from the U-haul to our home in the stupidly cold -30 Celsius (-22 F) winter – on December 31st because we were young and dumb – it sure would have been easier to have help.


Isaiah (my oldest) and I back in 2005 wearing the most stylish winter hats (toques).

You might say we like a challenge, but you would be wrong.

I could have done any of the following…

  • Hired some movers
  • Hired some local guys struggling for work to move my stuff
  • Talk to friends in Vancouver who had friends in Calgary
  • Talk to family in Vancouver to see if we had family in Calgary
  • Called a random in Calgary and said “We’re moving, anything we should know about your town? Weather? Road conditions?”
  • Done ANYTHING but roll up to the freaking Arctic Circle unprepared!!!

Even though we had plenty of options, we just showed up with our truck in the snow and slugged it out on our own. (Did I mention I didn’t even own a winter jacket???)

In the next few months it turned out we had PLENTY of friends-of-friends and distant family members who could have pitched in.

Even if they couldn’t help us move (though I know many of them would have) they could have supplied us with some info to make it easier.

In hindsight we had lots of opportunities and options to make the transition much much much easier.

So how is this related to independent artists?

Well, for starters, don’t book gigs like I move houses.

I’ve seen the way artists book their out-of-town gigs, and it’s almost silly. Why are you making it so hard on yourself?

Don’t be Brandon 10 years ago.

And to help you not be me, here are 6 ways you can book a gig in another city better/easier/more efficiently/successfully.

Booking a tour? No problem, take this advice and multiply it by the number of stops on the tour.


** In traditional Brandon style, I’ve created a bunch of bonuses you can grab at the end.  If you want to skip right to them, click here.


So, you want to book an out-of-town show or tour and rather than rolling into the bleak unknown with no help, you want to do it right and double your chances of playing a great show.

Now what?

Well, you could start out making a bunch of inefficient cold calls or you can do something a little more fruitful.

I’ve talked A LOT about networking (here and here, for example) and this scenario is EXACTLY why I do.


Here’s a solid no-brainer.  You have a family and a bunch of friends who love you (most of the time) and want you to succeed.

Do you have friends or family that…

  • hail from the city you’re targeting?
  • knows venues and venue owners in that city?
  • knows someone who knows someone who knows that city well?

If you have a big Dutch family and a poor memory like I do this can be tough to keep track of but it can be sourced with a pretty simple email:

family and friends


Note:  When it’s friends and family like this, I don’t mind sending out a mass email.  I wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t because a personal email will ALWAYS get you better results.  If you know for sure that a friend or family member has a contact or 2 in a city you’re booking, they deserve some personal attention with a personal email.

Another Note:  I’ll give you this and the other emails to use as a template when you download the bonuses.  Grab those at the end.


This one’s “No brainer #2,” but for many reasons artists never think about engaging their fans like this.


  • Because we want to appear to have it all together (whatever that means!)
  • Or because our stupid pride says, “we’re a big deal, dammit!” and shouldn’t have to ask for help
  • Or we’re so used to providing content for people that we forget that relationships are a 2-way street

If you’re building your career right, you’re building a community not just a bunch of customers.

Your fans – especially that core smattering of superfans – love to help you out in time of need because that’s what they do.  Fans support things.  It’s the very nature of what fans are.   So if you’re building your career right, your fans are your greatest activists.

Let’s spend a little more time thinking about this to dispel the stigma that you can’t ask your fans anything…

  1. Involving them gives them a way to give back
  2. Involving them gives them ownership in your brand and your success
  3. It strengthens relationships
  4. It takes your connection deeper
  5. It gives them an opportunity to feel like a big deal (who doesn’t like to feel important?)
  6. Their support allows you to succeed which means they have more of you to consume (the cycle continues)

Now, I’m no fool.  I realize that us humans don’t always do things altruistically.  We do lots of stuff because we love to do it or know its the right thing to do, but we also don’t do stuff we would love to or should do because we’re busy, tired, lazy, blah, blah, blah.

So, to provide some extra motivation, consider offering fans incentives to maximize results…

  • Free tix to a show
  • Free merch
  • Signed album
  • Skype call or Google hangout
  • Hand made leather satchel (Indiana Jones wears one)
  • Personal “Thank You” video
  • Personal “Thank You” card

Here’s the thank you card I have right now that I stole from someone who wasn’t using them…



…it’s a superb mix of my lame sense of humor and my love for español.

How do you identify your fans in certain cities?

If you’ve done your email address collecting in such a way that you have location data on your subscribers, this can be suuuuper easy…

  1. Identify the city or cities you want to book in
  2. Identify your subscribers in those cities
  3. Send them a personal email.

If you haven’t collected their location, no worries.  Just send out a blast to everyone.  Why make it more complicated than it needs to be?

Here’s what an email could look like (although you will probably send it from your mailing list service rather than Gmail).

fan email


Social media is also good for this sort of thing.  Send out a blast like “Help me book shows in Calgary, Los Angeles and Akron!  Click here,”  which leads to a landing page with a small form for them to fill out.  Google Forms is free and easy.


In the same vein as contacting friends and family, use the network of artists you’ve created.

Make a list…

  • Who do you know that has played in that town before?
  • Who is FROM that town?
  • Who has contacts in that town?

Send them a quick personal email asking to be connected  to venues or artists in that town.


Like real estate agents, promoters loooooove to make referrals.  They might not make a commission like a real estate agent would but they do earn in karma and IOUs that can be cashed later.

  1. Make a list of promoters/agents you know or could have access to through another contact
  2. Email them (a little flattery goes a long way)

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 7.19.32 AM


It’s not uncommon for a local venue to have a sister venue in a neighbouring city.  When there is big competition in one city, restauranteurs and bar owners look nearby to set up shop.  Having a good relationship in one place will give you an excellent “in” at any other location.

For example.  I looked up a cool bar in town called “1600 World Beir Haus” who employs a fair amount of DJ’s on the weekends.


sister venues 1


From their website I scrolled to the bottom to find out if they had more than one location.  Usually this info is in the footer of the website.


sister venues 2


Bingo.  They are owned by “Group 933.”

Click the link and here we are… the sister venue jackpot.


sister venues


Click the links, check out the locations and go from there.

At this point you can do 1 of 2 things.

  1. Ask for a referral from your local joint
  2. Call/email the sister location

Start with #1.  With a good referral you’re as good as in the door.

If you have to lead with #2 tell the sister venue you have played [insert name of local venue] and you know their staff well (name some names).   You’ve played there X number of times and have brought in X patrons each night.  If you have a great testimonial such as “Laura, the manager said they haven’t had this many people show up on a Wednesday night in years!” then make sure you work that into the conversation.


I’ll admit this isn’t my favorite option but when you’ve run out of better options, sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves and do stuff you don’t like doing.

Here’s what I do:

1. Start with “live music [city name]”

2. Click “More” and note down the top 5-6 venues.

live music 1

3. Pull those venues up on the web and check out their social media profiles.  See how active they are and look for patrons tagging the venue in their pics (A good sign the venue has appeal)

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 7.38.59 AM

5. Check out Yelp, Urbanspoon, Google and Trip Advisor reviews to get a full picture

6. Make a list for each city and rank venues from preferred to least preferred (a spreadsheet works great for that)

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 7.45.26 AM

7. Start emailing or calling each venue

Note #2: is a good resource for those looking for places to to play.  They maintain a large list of active venues.  Seems like they’re growing and adding new venues pretty much every day.


How would it help you if you could book tours with better efficiency?  What would that do for you and your band?

To help you answer those questions I’ve put together some bonuses.

  • All the email scripts I mentioned in this post
  • This post in PDF version (so you can save it and re-read it later)

Grab those bonuses right here.


About Brandon Waardenburg
Brandon Waardenburg is the founder of Apparatus (an artist accelerator providing music advice and education to independent artists) as well as a musician, songwriter, “musicpreneur” and consultant. After receiving his Bachelors in Music back in 2011 he began working alongside independent artists, songwriters, producers and engineers in their quest to retain creative control. Sign up for his free email newsletter here and get open-source ideas and actionable advice for your career.



6 Different Ways To Book A Tour Date (Even In Cities You've Never Been To)

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