There’s a few blogs I like to follow to get ideas and inspiration. People who most of you have never heard of, but are living well as independent musicians. They treat this like a business. It is a business. Most people think the goal of a tour is to get famous. That’s sort of true. The goal of a tour is to get more fans, so in essence the more fans, the more fame. Even so, the reason you want fans is because you have a story to tell that you believe is worth listening to.
So, how do you accomplish this?
For starters, you need to have merch to sell.
CDs, stickers, shirts, mugs, whatever....just have something with your bands name on it that people can buy, and they will buy, at your shows. If you don’t have a CD, don’t go on the road. Seriously. Don’t do it. It’ll be a waste of time and money. Get your little butt into the studio, any studio, and cut at least three songs. You can make a good record for less than $5000...Less than $1000 if you have friends who are willing and wanting to help. We’ll talk about that in another blog.
Next, you need to be realistic.
You may think that Facebook likes and Twitter followers translate to genuine fans, but you need to recognize who your target audience is, and what kind of real following you have. You’ll know the difference because they are the ones going to your shows and buying your music. You may have 300 fans online, but do you have 300 fans showing up to your gigs locally? If not, then you have some work to do before you hit the road. Start with getting a head count of everyone who comes to your shows, even if it is just your mom.
Once you’ve determined what your actual following is, this is where you put some thought and work into planning a tour. Use the interweb to check out all the hot spots for breaking new artists are nearby each place you want to go. Read the reviews on each place you find. Reverbnation and Indie On The Move are a couple of great resources for looking up venues to play. Make sure you look for venues that are genre appropriate. I’ve played my singer/songwriter sets in heavy metal bars...no one shows up and it’s embarrassing. Worst of all, you don’t get paid!
When sending out emails or making phone calls to book the show, don’t waste the bookers time.
Keep it short and simple. They don’t care about your cool new sound, they want to know that you can bring people into their venue - at least 50 people, so Ari’s Take points out. Read more on his blog HERE to find out some tips on how to get 50 people to your show. (Make sure to read his blog about paying to play too. NEVER PAY TO PLAY A VENUE)
Make sure you are rehearsed.
It’s a no brainer, but you’d be surprised. If you want anything to be successful you have to put in the time to make it great. Even when it is great. Work harder to make it even better than that!
Be flexible, but not a doormat.
People can be jaded, but if you’re kind and willing to work with them, believe me they will work hard for you - especially the sound guys. Do what you can to make their lives easier and they will make you sound the best you’ve ever sounded. A little kindness goes a long way.
Set aside what you’re going to give away at your shows and give no more than that.
You are running a business. If you do not see this as that, you will eventually find yourself unable to do what you love doing. It drives me crazy when artists say they’re not in it for the money. I’ll nod along and say, sure, sure you’re not in it for the money, until you get fired from your part time job and are unable to fund your next album. You need to make money to continue buying the supplies to make your art. *Side note - you’re also in it for the fame. You have a story to tell and you want as many people to hear it as possible. If you didn’t you would sing to your wall and demand no one listen.
And the most important thing you can do, is put a budget together.
Plan out meals, lodging, gas, equipment rentals/maintenance, etc. You need to make at least that much in expenses to break even when touring. It can seem expensive, but it puts everything back into perspective. Yes, you are an artist, but you are running a business using your art as the product. Most venues will pay you very little to play at their facility, so you can’t count on that as your bread and butter on the road. You need to count on merch, and you’ll actually double and triple your profits. Be conservative with your spending, try to stay with people you know, and remember where you are at this stage of the game. If you are a small singer/songwriter, moody lighting, and a great outfit go a long way. So does a bag of almonds and some fresh apples...buy snacks to take with you so you don’t stop every two minutes at the closest taco joint.
It’s a lot of work to tour, but it’s so worth it. I know that Jessicca, my manager, and I had such a great time touring the Southwest US last month, and I look forward to hitting the road next year as well!
Now, get out there and go have some fun. AND MAKE SOME MONEY, WILL YA?! ;)
Take care of each other and listen with your heart,
Until next time,
~Listen With Your Heart~