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« Marketing Plan Tactics For Independent Musicians - Part 1 of 3: New Album Preparations | Main | Why Music is Less Valuable Than Expertise and Information...? »
Wednesday
May162012

How to Book a Tour: Unconventional Advice

There’s plenty of advice out there for booking a tour. In fact, I’ve written on it a few times (including this step-by-step guide). People generally talk about the same kind of stuff: how to approach a venue, where to book, promoting, etc. However, I want to cover some of the territory that people don’t talk about, the pitfalls that you’ll come across along the way.

When the Promoter Wants You to Fill the Bill
Some promoters/venues prefer that you pitch them an entire show (with locals) before confirming the show. It makes their life easier (they don’t have to find bands for the show) and local acts make booking a touring/unknown act a safer bet. So if you don’t have any contacts in an town far away, who do you find band?

Three easy solutions:

  1. See who is already playing the venue on a weekend
  2. Look up bands in the city’s alt-weekly paper
  3. Post an ad on Craigslist.

When you can’t fill in a date or run out of venues to ask
Sometimes it seems that everyone in town is booked or no one is interested. You don’t have many options because you’re on a tight tour route or have dates/before and after that are already confirmed. These things happen. When they do, this is what I usually do:

  1. Use Google, Google Maps, Yelp, City Search, or Four Square to look up “live music” and the city name. Sometimes, there are places that host bands that don’t pop up in the usual venue databases. You might also try contacting a store or organizations that would suit your ideal, target audience. Examples include: skateboard shops, youth groups, non-profit fundraiser, goth clothing store, music store, independent record store, etc.
  2. Contact: breweries, wineries, colleges, and fans in the area.
  3. Use Craigslist and search in the “Gigs” section. Often times, new bars/venues will post there looking for live music, as well as people throwing house parties, fundraisers, or events looking for a band.
  4. See what shows are booked and ask the bands on those bills if they’d be willing to add you to the bill. Be sure to pitch how you will get them new fans, make more money, or bring people to the show.
  5. Consider doing an acoustic version and do some busking. I know some acts who busk in Santa Monica, CA and make $200-$400 per day in donations and CD sales. You can also contact the local Occupy Movement encampment about working with their cause by performing (if there’s one there).

When You Don’t Know Anything about the Venue that You’re Booking

It’s always a good idea to know what kind of situation you’re booking into: Will they have an adequate stage? Will they have a sound system and engineer? What kind of audience is there? If you’re booking a venue that you haven’t worked with before, do a quick search online about them. Check out their website, see what kind of acts perform there normally. Look up reviews on Yelp. Ask bands that are on their calendar.

 

These are just some of the areas that few people talk about when giving advice about booking a tour. What have you run into that you’d like advice about? What areas can you speak to for other bands?

 

Simon Tam is owner of Last Stop Booking and author of How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements. Simon’s writing on music and marketing can be found at www.laststopbooking.com

Reader Comments (9)

Good ideas. I heard of other people trying to set up house shows, can be more spontaneous but I suppose difficult to pull off unless you already have somewhat of a fan base.

May 16 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

What a crap of an article! Giving "advices" to search for bands to book on the internet craigslist (what's that?).
The internet is a planetary network, it means people all over the world are reading it! If you you are posting an article on the internet, at least make generic/global references in it, instead of using region specific things like 'craigslist'.

There's basically nothing new here, not even something useful for that matter.

May 16 | Unregistered Commentersomeone

Hi Matt,

It's true though if you just have a few friends/fans in an area, they could easily help with setting it up. Pretty much I think that it's better to have a show on tour, even if a bit intimate, than now show at all. :)

May 16 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Tam

I agree it is a poor article, there's nothing unconventional in there at all.
And nothing that I would not think of first thing.

May 19 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi

Good suggestions Sam. This sounds a little more bent towards touring bands, but touring solo acts....there's another little known venue that can be a good fill in, for the right entertainer: unitarian and unity church services. 1) most positive (non-cussing) music works, 2) they have a budget to pay (usually a 2-3 song gig) with a captive "audience", 3) what else you going to do on a Sunday am? (so there's no conflict) and 4) you'll be on the road by noon! Search in the area you'll be playing sat night, and see if you can stick around.
Happy touring. Http://jeanmann.net http://www.reverbnation.com/jeanmann

May 19 | Unregistered CommenterJean Mann

Heidi-

Most booking advice covers ground focusing on traditional venues, promotional efforts such as mailing posters or social networks, etc. I wanted to get some of the more "unspoken" ideas out there. It's great that you're already incorporating these practices in though. I still get an average of about 75-100 emails per week from artists asking questions in this area (how to find local acts, what happens when they're out of venues or promoters to contact, etc.). Clearly, you're already ahead of the game there.

May 19 | Registered CommenterSimon Tam

Hi Jean,

True - if there are spiritual inclinations, most churches or ministry based operations pay quite well (and their constituents tend to support the artists with gifts, donations, merchandise purchases, etc.). Which just reminded of me several other opps - will be updating the article now.

May 19 | Registered CommenterSimon Tam

Hi everyone,

Apparently I can't make edits post-publishing. Anyway, here are some additional ideas when one runs into dead ends in the booking realm:

- Contact local art galleries (works great especially for acoustic acts, solo artists, and other visual performers). For instance, in West Hollywood, there's a great creative arts space called "The Strange."

- When in a bind but you know you have a solid following in the area, you could consider renting out a venue (old theater, event hall, etc.), getting the line up of locals, and just paying out after your expenses are re-couped. In fact, this is a great way to have an event built around other festivals (SXSW, CMJ, etc.)

- If you're really out of venues in a town, look for a rehearsal hall for bands and film do a live "online show." You can film in the practice space and use a free service sch as Ustream, ask for donations online from fans, and even sell merch through an e-commerece site so you'll have some more cash for the rest of your tour.

Anyway, hope these ideas help!

May 19 | Registered CommenterSimon Tam

You can always fill weekday shows with open mikes too. Many accomodate full bands. There are usually musically appreciative people there, and you may sell some CDs/merch. Openmikes.org is a good site for this. Indie on the Move also posts last minute show openings, etc.

May 22 | Unregistered CommenterGary

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