It can be tough being a professional musician, however, this blog is all about making it a little bit easier. So, let’s get started with three tips to help you get on the road and touring. The touring scene has evolved. I did it in the 80's, 90's, then after a small break, I did it again. The scene has changed and if I was to do it again I’d do it a little bit differently.
Take responsibility for putting the tour together. If you are waiting for an agent or promoter to see the light and book your act, you will be waiting for a long time. It’s your job to make the case and prove the concept. We are going to learn how to be the agent/promoter and do the job ourselves. The great thing is that whilst doing this you are going to pick up transferable skills.
If you can make this work in a competitive area whilst innovating and doing things uniquely, it will set you up as an independent touring musician for the rest of your life. You will become an expert in digital marketing in one of the most competitive industries. If you can pull this off you will have another income stream and string to your bow.
Start locally, make one gig a success and export the principle. In your hometown I can guarantee there are loads of bands but what's in short supply will be leadership, drive, and energy. These are the virtues that will separate your band from the competition.
- An amazing set: Make it killer, around 45 minutes in duration. Dynamics and a bit of production will go a long way.
- Make sure the bill is logical: Include support acts that will attract the punters.
- The reason for the gig: Think like a journalist, give it a bit of spin and a cool title. The masters of this are “Earache Records” when they do combined bills there are always great names for the tours.
- Signage: Make sure you get your posters and flyers out there.
- Design: It has to be awesome - people are going to decide whether the event is cool or not based on aesthetic.
- Think ahead: Book a cool venue - location is everything.
- Local press: This should be a quick win. Generally, in a small area not much goes on and so this could be a big local story.
- Social media: Realistically these days, your organic reach is a little bit squashed so you may need to bump up your posts a little bit.
- Give yourself plenty of lead time to sell tickets: Don’t book a gig for next week. Give yourself 4 to 6 months to create a buzz.
- Establish a sales network: Local record shop, your website, mates, cousins, mum, dad, dog etc. Doesn’t matter who it is the key thing is to get a few people selling tickets. All band members need to take responsibility - if there are five members in the band you all sell 10. That's already a successful local gig.
All this good energy is what you are selling, remember you are an entertainer. You need to sell the mood and a certain type of energy. No one wants just another gig, they want a cool event and that’s where you come in. This is a great opportunity to learn some extra skills. Hiring a venue, doing deals and selling tickets are amazing life lessons and this stuff is never lost. It’s not just about that one gig but setting you up for a lifetime in music.
Take this principle and expand nationally. Most people schedule their tours around long weekends, three dates here and there. This way you can tour around your day jobs (or study) minimise costs and do drive backs to reduce travel costs. Also, you can look at the composition of your band and strip down your backline. The ideal scenario is that you can tour in an estate car, play the gig, come home and consequently incur very few costs. Now, if you make money on your merchandise, jobs a good’un.
Headline swaps are always useful for establishing your band in new territories and doing the same reciprocally for other acts. If this all sounds a little bit obvious, well, that's because it is. It just boils down to energy and work. This old fashioned approach, combined with social media and a DIY ethic does work. This is the way that the big bands are coming through and you need to emulate it.
Now, if you are putting in all this effort and you are not building an audience then it may be painful, but you need to look a little bit closer at your music. You will need to go back to the drawing board and reassess what you are doing. I can promise you that this system works. This is the way to do it.