New Year’s Resolutions for Musicians From Bandzoogle & Sonicbids Part 4: Tour Tips
So here’s the final blog post of our New Year’s Resolutions series. Now that you’ve got your budget and funding together and your online presence is looking tight, it’s time to hit the road! But before you do, check out these tips from Bandzoogle and Sonicbids.
Oh the places you’ll go: Decide where you’ll play
Before you hit the road, it’s important to map out where you’d like to play. There are a couple of things to consider including your draw in certain regions or cities, how many shows you can afford to play and the location and timing specific festivals or venues that you hope to play.
While it’s always great to explore new parts of the country, if you don’t have any fans or connections with bands on the opposite coast, it may make more sense to focus your tour on cities surrounding your hometown. Starting close to home can help build up fans in your region and it’s easier to get back out for extra shows! If you’re ready to hit the road in far off town, think about gig swapping (see below).
Now that you have a budget together, it’s important to try to stick to it. That may mean touring in towns where you have friends to crash with (save costs on hotels) or only traveling for 10-days at a time. Get together and talk about the challenges for being on the road, where will you sleep, how much money can you spend on food each day, how will you pay for gas. Once you’ve got a plan, the tour will go much more smoothly.
Playing festivals or specific venues can help put your band on the map – and it’s a great excuse to build a tour around those dates. Before hitting the road this year, think about what larger gigs you are hoping to book and map out your travels with those dates and locations in mind.
Band tip: When you are looking at venues or festivals you want to play consider what level your band is at. If you haven’t played for more than 100 fans, you may not get booked for a festival like Bonnaroo but there are plenty of other festivals that you could be a great fit for. Also, before submitting to festivals, do your research and think like a booker. Will your sound fit in with the likes of the headliners? Will you be able to draw to that location?
Going on Tour: Tips for getting your band booked
So you’ve identified the cities and venues that you want to play and now it’s time to start booking the shows. Here are 5 tips to give yourself the best shot at getting booked:
1. Think at least 4-5 months in advance: Most venues are booked several months in advance, and the more popular a venue, the further in advance you should contact them.
2. Keep it short: When contacting a booking agent, keep it short. Bookers get a ton of emails, so try and keep the email to a couple of paragraphs, and include the following info:
- Your band name & date you want to book, and any other bands who will be performing
- Link to music that they can listen to (if linking to your website, make sure your music is easy to find), or simply link to your EPK.
- Link to a live video, if not already contained in your EPK. Band tip: Unless requested, don’t attach large files to your email. Simply include links to music, photos and videos.
- Brief promo plan: How are you going to get people out to the show? You don’t have to write a full promo plan, but mention things like a media/publicity campaign/hiring a publicist, or if you have data of how many mailing list subscribers, Facebook fans, and Twitter followers you have in that city. Band tip: Use TweepsMap to find out where your Twitter followers are from, and for Facebook, use your page Insights to see what cities your fans are from.
3. Be honest: Whatever you do, don’t lie about your draw. You’re better off being honest with a booker about what your draw really is rather than stretching the truth and disappointing them.
4. Follow-up: Bookers are very busy people, so be patient. If you didn’t get a response right away, chances are they just haven't had time to check out your music yet. Follow-up to see if your message has been received, but whatever you do, don’t try to rush them or sound annoyed that they haven’t gotten back to you. Be persistent, but always be polite.
5. Team up with a local band: When playing in a new city, it always helps to play with a local band who is known to the venue.
Speaking of teaming up with local bands, let’s talk about gig swapping.
Get Swappy: Gig Swaps
Gig swapping is a fantastic way to build your fan base and help bookers build out a night of music, rather than trying to figure out where to schedule you. Here’s how it works:
Research bands: Check out bands in other cities with similar sounds to your band (aka you’d be great on a bill together). Check out their fanbase on social media and the types of venues they regularly play.
Reach out: Connect with the band to see if they’d be interested in opening for you in your hometown in exchange for an opening slot at their next gig in their town.
Band tip: Not only are you making friends in the industry (being friends with bands is better than competing with them) but you are making it easier for a booking agent to fill their bills.
Fulfill your promise: Make sure you promote your local show so the other band has a chance to play to some new fans and make a great impression. After all, you want the same in return. Get some tips on promoting the show below!
Stay in touch: Beyond gig swapping, you never know when you need to borrow gear or have a place to crash so keep the door open.
Getting the word out: Promoting your tour
Once your tour is booked, it’s time to start getting the word out. An entire blog post could be dedicated to tour promotion, but here are some key areas to focus on:
Media & Publicity: If you plan on doing your own media and publicity, start doing outreach to media as soon as shows are booked. You can use resources like the Indie Bible or Musician’s Atlas to find newspapers/radio/blogs/podcasts to contact. Services like StoryAmp and StereoGrid can also help you connect with the media. And if you have a budget, you can hire local or regional publicists, but keep in mind that they can charge anywhere from $500 to over $2000 for one campaign.
Newsletter: Send an update to your whole mailing list with the full list of tour dates, then schedule reminders for each city, targeting only mailing list members from those cities.
Blogging: Keep your fans informed on your tour’s progress with stories from the road, show reviews, show previews, etc.
Video: Create video blogs, post live footage from tour, or even promo videos for each show.
Photos: Post photos on your website, Facebook page, and Twitter from shows. Photos from the road, from shows, photos of fans, fan-submitted photos, etc.
Facebook: Again, entire blog posts can be written about Facebook promotion, but be sure to cover the basics:
- Facebook Events: Create an event for each show and encourage fans to share it with their friends for each city you’re playing on tour.
- Regular updates on your fan page: Post photos from shows, blog posts, and videos on a regular basis to help create some buzz about your tour.
- Facebook Ads: Facebook Ads can help create awareness about shows, but don’t blow your budget doing this. Some bands find it helpful, others not as much, so proceed with caution, it can be easy to spend a lot of money.
Twitter: Post regular updates from the road, show reminders, links to blog posts, links to any press you’ve received, photos, links to videos, etc.
Contact fans individually: Last but not least, reach out to people on your mailing list, your Facebook Fans, and Twitter followers individually with short reminders about the upcoming show in their city. Even if you just do a little bit every day, it all adds up, and this personal touch will no doubt bring a lot of those people through the door.
This is just a quick overview of some of the promo you can do for your tour, but the bottom line is that you’re going to have to hustle and work hard every day, doing whatever you can to get people out to your shows. It’s a lot of work, but the thrill of packed shows and connecting with new fans will make it all worthwhile.
Another blog series has come and gone but we hope you have found some tips and tricks to making 2012 the best year yet for you and your band. And of course, we are always looking to share more tips so leave your questions and comments below. Here’s to 2012!
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