Category Archives: Touring

Maximizing Facebook Ads On an Indie Budget

[Editors NoteThis is a guest blog post written by Don Bartlett, owner of No Door Agency, an Austin, TX-based boutique management and marketing agency. Don also hosts a monthly seminar titled “Facebook Marketing For Musicians.]

Independent artists are constantly looking for ways to eke maximum value from very limited promotion budgets. As Facebook continues to solidify its position at the center of the social media ecosystem, many conversations revolve around taking advantage of their incredibly powerful advertising tools.

The primary hesitations about the platform tend to be some combination of “it’s too expensive” and “we don’t see results”, but by sticking to a few core targeting and budgeting strategies you can take advantage of Facebook’s promotional benefits without going broke in the process.

In our experience you don’t need to spend a lot of money on Facebook advertising to get concrete results. However, if you’re working with a modest budget, it’s even more critical to structure your campaigns in a way that delivers the most value.

To this end, start with a premise: The bulk of your “results” – ticket sales and album sales in most cases – are going to come from your existing fans. Using Facebook ads to increase this pool is a separate topic entirely, but once a show is on sale your focus should shift to those who have already identified themselves as fans.

The most effective way to spend money on Facebook by a wide mile is reaching this group of people. On the surface this seems like a very easy concept and in many ways it is. So why do so many bands have a tough time getting results from their campaigns? In many cases, they’re spending too much.

Let’s look at an example…let’s say a band has 500 Facebook fans in Chicago, and they have an upcoming Windy City show scheduled that they’d like to promote:

Assuming a typical ad cost of about $10 per 1,000 people reached, a budget of $10 will reach all of those fans, likely twice each.

Since these 500 people are our most-likely ticket buyers, we always suggest reaching them three different times leading up to a show. However, these three campaigns should to be separated from each other by some “dead air” time where people won’t be seeing your ad.

Think of it as a reminder. This is a group of people who already likes your band, so they don’t need to be persuaded – they just need to be reminded. And if you remind someone about something five times a day, they’ll be annoyed. If you remind them every week or two, they’ll appreciate it.

So ideally, the band creates three different campaigns budgeted at $10 each, for a total of $30. It’s important to note here that this is very different from a single campaign for $30.

With the 10/10/10 model, they’ve got 100% coverage of their fans a few different times, but not to the point where they’re being bombarded six times a day for a month.

So to reach the 500 fans in this example $30 is not only all you need to spend, it’s all you SHOULD spend. Unfortunately many bands think that by pushing the budget up to $100 is going to give an extra push to ticket sales, when the reality is that it won’t help – and often it hurts. When people see your ad too many times they often will block or hide the ad posts, which negatively affects your page’s organic reach down the line.

There are certainly ways to put an additional $70 to good use, but that isn’t one of them. And the bulk of actual ticket sales are always to your existing fans so spending the $30 is critical, but spending the additional $70, even when done correctly, is far, far less critical.

Which brings us to another critical component of campaign structure: Your ads to existing fans should always be separate from any other targets.

As your most-likely ticket buyers, you want to ensure 100% coverage of this target. With other targets, you’re just looking to reach as many people as possible within your budget. So instead of running one campaign to “fans of our band, fans of Band X and fans of Band Y”, you should run one campaign to “fans of our band”, budgeting to ensure full coverage, and then a separate one to “fans of Band X and Band Y”.

To be sure, there are plenty of other elements that go into successful Facebook Ad campaigns. But following these targeting and budgeting strategies will put any campaign in a much better position to maximize the value of limited budgets.

3 Tried & True Methods of Negotiating Higher Pay From Venues

[Editors Note: This article was written by Jhoni Jackson and originally appeared on the Sonicbids Blog.]

Upstart bands and artists in the early stages of cultivating a fanbase often encounter opposition when booking. From a business perspective, it makes sense: if a talent buyer or venue owner isn’t sure you’ll draw a crowd, then handing over a potentially big-bar-sales night to you is a risk. And when you do land a gig, he or she might insist on minimizing that risk by offering you a super low pay rate – or no pay at all. How do you convince that person you deserve more?

When looking to negotiate higher pay from venues, these three strategies can actually yield results, especially if you work hard to promote your shows. Really, these methods mean opportunities to genuinely earn more if you put in the extra effort. Talent buyers and venue owners can appreciate that, and most will pay you accordingly.

1. Show your worth with numbers

Bands often reference what they’ve been paid before when suggesting a guarantee or percentage. That’s a somewhat futile method of negotiating, as no two venues are exactly alike financially. What works for one in terms of payments won’t necessarily work for another.

Your best tools of persuasion here are found on social media. How sizeable is your online fanbase? For your last show, how many responses did you get to the Facebook event? It does matter, of course, how many actually showed up – but if you don’t have crowd shots (use them if you do!), then the closest thing to proof of great attendance is those event responses. Send over your social media pages as well as past events to show the strength of your following.

This won’t work for everyone, of course. Obviously, if you’ve never played before, you don’t have any previous Facebook events to use as examples. Additionally, not everyone trusts the prowess those numbers supposedly signify: an impressive online following doesn’t always translate to in-person devotion.

2. The plus deal

This is sometimes referred to as “back end,” though that’s technically the name of the extra profit you get. Here’s how it works: you’re guaranteed a certain percentage or dollar amount, but you also get an additional amount after a certain point. That marker can be a number of tickets sold, or the talent buyer’s bottom line.

For our purposes here, we’re talking about bands and artists who aren’t getting much pay to begin with, so let’s work with relatively low numbers.

Example one: $50 guarantee plus 10 percent back end after 50 tickets sold at $5 each.

In this scenario, you’ll get your $50 either way. But if more than 50 tickets are sold, you get more. Let’s say the cover count is 100 – the door has raked in an additional $250. You’d get $25 extra.

Example two: $50 guarantee plus 10 percent after $250, with tickets at $5 each.

This could be a situation where there are four bands on the bill, and each is guaranteed $50. If the door money reaches more than $250 – meaning more than 50 tickets sold – then 10 percent of the surplus goes to you. (And probably 10 percent to each of the other bands, too.) So at 100 tickets sold, you’d get your $50 guarantee, plus $25 more for reaching 100 ticket sales.

These numbers are somewhat arbitrary; they’re intended not as standards of negotiating, but rather as examples you can adjust to fit the exact situation you’re in. Talent buyers and venue owners might be more willing to accept a deal like this because there’s little risk on their part. They don’t think they’ll make enough from the door to pay you more than X amount, and you agree to that amount – but you get a little more if you prove them wrong.

3. Prove your draw, then up your rate

Did it take a lot of convincing to get the gig? If the talent buyer or venue owner is dubious of your ability to pull a crowd, he or she might ask you to play for free. When you’re just starting out, that’s okay, but you should always be looking toward the future. You should only perform at no charge when it means it’ll get you closer to paid, or at least better quality gigs. (Or if it’s for charity.)

Agree to play for free (or cheap) once, but ask them to commit to another gig if you draw X number of attendees. Post-show, if you can, talk with whoever booked you. What did he or she think about the performance? The turnout? If the right person isn’t present, follow up the next day via email or whatever form of contact that person preferred in the past.

Send him or her a clip of your set if you’ve got one, and mention the fan response as a way to help him or her see that your next show can be even more successful, and that you deserve some level of payment. Try to actually book a follow-up gig before the conversation goes stale. (Booking several months ahead is ideal, anyway.)

For more on transitioning from free shows to paid gigs, check out this interview with a seasoned musician who’s successfully moved into making a living off her music.

Jhoni Jackson is an Atlanta-bred music journalist currently based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she juggles owning a venue called Club 77, freelance writing and, of course, going to the beach as often as possible.

5 Tips to Make Your Local Shows More Successful

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by David McMillin, singer, songwriter and frontman of Fort Frances (check out their latest release, “Alio“). He holds several songwriting awards and has helped to soundtrack shows on PBS, NBC and The CW.]

Every band wants to experience the glory of the road—seeing new towns, meeting new people and feeling the thrill of a new stage night after night. In most cases, though, the first steps toward success are only a few miles from the front door. Before building a national or global profile, it’s important to create the buzz that turns you into one of the most talked-about bands in your town.

If you’re aiming to climb to the top of the scene in your market, here are five tips to make your local shows feel like major events.

1. Book Small

Tom Windish, founder of the Windish Agency, offered some expert advice in a Los Angeles Times interview last year. “The right place to play is the place that sells out,” Windish said.

Every band should aspire to play the legendary clubs in their respective towns, but it’s important to balance ambition with reality. Selling tickets is super challenging. My band worked our way toward selling out our favorite 200-capacity club in Chicago, and we decided to make the leap to the 500-capacity room we all loved. We weren’t ready. We sold 260 tickets. We made less money—due to much higher production costs—than the smaller room, and the half-full show felt like a bit of a disappointment. After that mishap, we played our next release show in a sold-out 300-cap room.

The lesson: when you’re at home, you don’t want open seats. You want a line waiting outside the door to get in.

2. Think Big

You may be booking a small room, but you should strive to make your show feel massive. In fact, don’t think of it as a show. Consider it an experience. Don’t just go play your songs. Bring them to life in a bigger way than you might be able to at the other end of the country. Since you’re in your hometown, your overhead expenses are much lower. You’re not paying for gas or a hotel. Invest that money in something that will make the evening more special for everyone in attendance. When we’re touring outside of Chicago, we’re a four-piece, but our hometown shows are a six-piece that includes a horn section. It’s become one of the favorite pieces of the night for our fans.

Think about what can take your show to the next level. Can you hire someone who really knows your songs—the hits in the chorus, the tempos, the out-of-time sections, etc.—to run lights? Have you always wanted to have a string quartet on your acoustic songs? Is there a special guest you can bring out to appear in a verse?

Whatever that piece of extra magic is, your hometown show is the place to make it happen.

Fort Frances TuneCore Blog
Fort Frances playing a local gig in Chicago

3. Get Personal

As you’re putting in extra care for how the evening will sound and feel, there’s another area that needs your focus: marketing. In your hometown, promotion shouldn’t simply rely on mass communication. Your social media presence is a critical piece of building your community, but you need to use a more intimate approach to connect with your friends, family and neighbors. Set time aside to send individual emails to everyone you know.

Make them feel special with a personal note about the new record you’ve been working on and why you want them to come to the show.

4. Act Confident

One of my favorite books that I regularly consult on my coffee table is The Musician Says, and it includes some wise advice from Marilyn Manson: “If you act like a rock star, you will be treated like one.”

You may be playing a show for an audience that includes 30 of your closest friends, your cousins and your roommates, but when you take the stage, remember that you are in a coveted place: on the stage. So let yourself go. Embrace the spotlight. Dance. Sweat. Shred. Do whatever verb is best done to your music.

Because when your friends wake up the next morning, you don’t want them to say, “I went to see my friend’s band play last night.” You want them to tell their friends, “Holy shit. I saw the next [Bob Dylan/Beyoncé/The Beatles/whatever Hall of Fame-level comparison that makes sense for your act] play last night. You have to check them out.”

5. Be Scarce

Once you start finding success in your hometown, it can be tempting to accept every offer that comes your way. It’s good to get on-stage as often as possible, right? Wrong. You need to create some demand around your shows. If you’re playing in town every other week, it becomes easy for your fans to say, “I’ll just catch the next show.” Give some healthy distance between your dates, and each time you play, do something different.

Debut new songs. Learn unexpected covers. Crowd surf your way to the stage to start the night.

Make people cry or scream or pump their fists to your songs. Be unforgettable, and they’ll always come back for more.

10 Ways to Book More House Concerts

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Joy Ike and originally appeared on the Bandzoogle Blog. Joy is a Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter and the founder of the music business centered blog Grassrootsy.]

House concerts: everybody loves them, but most artists don’t know how to get them. They are the most-coveted type of gigs for singer/songwriters and acoustic bands. They don’t require a lot of promotional effort – which means less time behind your computer, and more time behind your instrument.

Yes, in the ecosystem of gigs, house concerts are king! So how do you book them? Here are some simple ways to make it happen!

1. Play out…a lot!

Public shows are your key to private ones. And house concerts are essentially private shows. The more you play out publicly, the more people know your music, and the more fans you have to pull from. More fans equals more potential house concert hosts.

If you do this right, 99% of your house concerts will come from people who already know you and have heard you perform live – not some house concert booking site that you have to pay to become a member. Playing out guarantees you’re getting your name out there and connecting with the very people who will ultimately book you in their homes.

2. Build Your Email List

Ok, so you’re playing out. What next? Well, take full advantage of the fact that these people are just sitting there listening to you for an hour, or two. Pass your newsletter around during your set. The following day, send an email welcoming new subscribers to the mailing list. Include a short paragraph at the end inviting people to consider hosting you for a house concert. You may not always get someone to bite, but you will get them thinking about it.

3. Just Ask.

Facebook! It’s where all your fans and friends are, right? Drop a note on your wall and let people know you’re currently in booking mode for your upcoming tour. Tell them you’re filling holes for a few dates on the road.

If you’re sticking close to home, make an announcement about playing fewer public shows and the fact that you’re trying to do more intimate acoustic events. If you’re not posting about house concerts on social media, you’re not using your most powerful marketing tool (second to your newsletter, of course).

4. Explain What A House Concert Is

This might sound unnecessary, but you need to explain what a house concert is. Some people have never been to one and have no idea what you’re even talking about when you say the words “house concert”. And people DO NOT like to step into unknown territory unless they know what they’re getting into.

Break it down and spell it out. One of the most frequented pages on my website is What Exactly Is A House Concert? (if you borrow any content from this link, please credit me with a link back to I stick a link in my welcome newsletter (for new subscribers) and in my monthly e-blast. I send it to anyone who tells me they’re considering hosting one. I send it to people who ask me questions that I’ve already answered on this page. This page comes in handy a lot.

5. Be Accommodating

People don’t think they can host a house concert unless they have a ’’reason’’ to. That’s not necessarily true, but for people who need a reason, let them know house concerts are great for birthday party gatherings, anniversary events, summer BBQs on the back deck, and even benefits concerts.

One of my all-time favorite concerts was put on by a group of 10 guys who wanted to give their wives a memorable and sentimental Mother’s Day. They cooked lunch for the women and hosted an afternoon concert in one of their homes.

Another memorable house concert was for a teacher in Washington D.C. who wanted to raise money for a program she was doing with her high school students. 50% of the funds raised went to her program. The other half went to me.

6. Talk About it From the Stage

“NEVER underestimate the power of suggestion.”

You don’t need to give a speech, but sharing a brief sentence or two (or three) about why you love house concerts will go a long way towards getting a few on your calendar. Having a page on your website to discuss the ins and outs is really helpful, but talking about it in person really helps fans to capture the essence of what a house show really is. NEVER underestimate the power of suggestion.

7. Create Postcards

Tag-team your on-stage pitch with a stack of postcards at your merch table. Spend $50, print a bunch of 4×6 handbills (front and back), and make them available.

This is the 3rd most effective thing I’ve done to generate house concerts. When your show attendee takes a handbill off the table, it usually means they want to sit on the idea and mull it over for a bit. They may even need to convince a fellow housemate or spouse of the idea. Handbills are a great visual reminder. They’re a tangible version of your speech from the stage. Here’s what mine looks like (front and back):

Joy Ike House Concert flyer

8. Ask Your Friendly Musician

Seriously, ask your friend. If you see your friend playing a house concert series, ask them to connect you with the host. This works best with established house concert series that are always scouting out new music to add to their lineup.

This does not necessarily work for a regular homeowner who only hosted your friend because they are his/her superfans. For them it was a one-off, not something they are looking to do monthly.

9. Recruit On-Site

People who are most likely to be house concert hosts are people who have been to one before. While you are at a house concert, take that opportunity to find your next host in that same city. It only takes a little effort. Example:

“If you’re having a good time tonight and would like to host something like this the next time I come through town, please let me know. I’ll be happy to take your contact and reach out next time I’m booking in this area.”

If you want to take it one step further, you can create an email sign-up page specifically for people who want to be contacted about hosting.

10. Social Media

Last but not least, post, post post! Snap and post a photo of the Welcome sign at the front door – the one the host’s 4-year old made for your show. Or post a shot of the potluck spread before the show…or a photo of the awesome Victorian house you’re playing in. Or post a photo someone took from the audience perspective.

Again, don’t overdo it, but when you post about your host concerts, you begin to create an association between your name and the house concert concept. It’s called branding. And these posts will serve as tiny reminders to your social media followers – reminders that they can host you too. Here are some cool example posts I found on Instagram. I searched the #houseconcert hashtag.

via @eugenioinviadigioia

via @allysonreynoldsart

via @jdeicher

via @widadmusicusa

The moral of the story is that house concerts are literally everywhere. And your fans really do want to host you if you’re willing to take the time to educate them, be accessible, and show them how much fun a house concert can be.

Good luck!

SXSW 2016: On Networking & Making Connections

Right now as I type this, thousands of indie bands, solo artists, and songwriters are gearing up for a trip to SXSW 2016. Also gearing up for this trip, though with slightly different goals and agendas, are tons of music industry professionals – from label folks and publicists to booking agents and managers.

While these excited artists may have their sights set on playing as many shows as possible and getting their name in front of as many new music fans as possible, a major part of SXSW throughout the years has been the ability to network and make connections. We’re talking career advancement, here, people! But when you’re soaked in sweat (and maybe beer), running from venue to venue with drums and guitars in-hand, some artists may feel these ‘opportune times to meet’ escape them with each passing minute.

I chatted with longtime Austin resident and music industry vet Amy Lombardi, who was hired by TuneCore as Manager of Entertainment Relations, about navigating SXSW as an artist. She’s managed artists like Neko Case and Kelly Hogan and spent time in the music PR game, founding companies in each category herself.

In other words, she’s got some cred.

“Making connections at SXSW happens when you’re off stage, too,” Lombardi says. “Meeting industry professionals and fellow artists, and developing relationships happens all over Austin, even in line for tacos.”

But what about those artists who are truly just starting out – unsigned, lacking huge internet buzz – it’s understandable to be a little nervous when approaching a publicist or A&R pro, right? Of course. But as Amy points out, if you link up with folks in advance via email, it’s a lot easier set something up knowing you’ll both be in town. But don’t be discouraged if plans change or get cancelled, she says, as that simply gives you a chance to live in the moment and meet someone else.

“Be a human being first! Most times the conversation will come around to, ‘What are you working on down here?‘ Then have info on your showcases, and maybe share something of note about your band,” explains Amy. “Be professional, and leave out the hard sell. SXSW is high-volume and citywide, but networking is organic.”


You might be wondering, though, who should you be trying to interact with? A lot of artists will be keeping their eyes on connecting with managers and music supervisors. Amy’s advice is to connect with people outside of the traditional ‘decision maker’ roles, too.

“Becoming successful in the music industry takes a village,” she says, “And depending on the stage your career is at, a variety of people can help build your brand and better your operation, such as publicists, promoters, journalists, tour managers, sound engineers, etc.”

If you’re picking up any one thing from what Amy is laying out here, it should be that opportunities to meet people can pop up at any moment at an event like SXSW. Without trying to be too ‘schmoozy’, there’s some key conversation points you (and maybe your bandmates) will want to have in mind for these very moments.

Amy recommends that artists be ready to discuss, “a description of their sound, talking points that might include healthy streams or sales or tour dates (and tour partners) or sync placements. Also if there’s a guy in the band who stands stage left throughout your shows holding a sword or something, I guess that would be worth mentioning.”


What about having stuff on-hand to give out?

“I may be in the minority here, but I like the idea of calling cards (business card-size) or small flyers with links to your website and/or SoundCloud or YouTube and showcase info.” Lombardi goes on, “Also, keep a Sharpie on hand. Personally, I would borrow it to write myself a note on your flyer reminding me where we met and what we talked about.”

Seems easy enough right? Just don’t party too hard and use that Sharpie to write your name all over town. No one’s cool with that. And speaking of things not to do when trying to connect with industry folks, it goes without saying that not everyone was born with sophisticated social skills. That’s fine! Just try to keep some of this stuff in mind when chatting with a new connection:

“During SXSW, I have a few minutes to talk with you about your music, especially if I’ve not yet heard it. Please don’t be offended, it’s a busy time and maybe not always an opportune time to get into discussions about release strategies and marketing plans. Think of SXSW like conversation at a cocktail party, not a camping trip. Mingle!”

Now it’s all over, and you’re on your way home from Austin, maybe you’re doing tour stops. You begin to look back on all the awesome people you met – musicians, fans, and industry pros – and you hope they remember meeting you.

Don’t treat these genuine connections you made like a first date with someone you liked, scared you’ll be coming on too strong if you contact them too soon.

“Having been a publicist,” says Amy, “I consider follow-up to be key and luckily, it’s generally important for success in most areas of one’s life. Don’t be offended if it takes time to get a response. If you don’t hear back after a few tries, maybe that one’s not going to happen, and it’s OK because something else will.”

But be sure to think about what you’re dropping in that email before hitting the ‘send’ button:

“I also think it’s important to consider what your ‘ask’ is. For example, I may not be able to reply with an overall assessment if you ask, ‘What do I do next in my career?‘ but I can review and edit your bio or press release, or suggest markets and routings for a regional tour.”

So there you have it, folks. Some very practical advice from TuneCore’s own Amy Lombardi when it comes to navigating the behemoth that is SXSW. Take notes and enjoy your time in Austin!

UK Artists: 4 Tips For Getting Your Music Heard

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog, written by Louise Dodgson, Editor at The Unsigned Guide, an online music industry directory. Since 2003 The Unsigned Guide has been used by emerging bands, artists, producers and music managers to search over 8,500 UK music contacts across 50 sectors of the industry.]

So, you’ve recorded some great tracks and now it’s time to share them with the world, including the music industry. Check out the Unsigned Guide’s top four tips to start spreading the word and get your music discovered.

Get some gigs

There’s no better way to introduce your new music than by playing live. Contact local gig venues and promoters to book some shows, and once you feel you’ve made an impact in your local scene, spread your wings further afield to another UK city or town.

Getting slots at festivals is another good way to play your music to a crowd of potential new fans. Again, you can check out local opportunities to play festivals but there are also plenty of more established UK music festivals that accept applications from emerging bands and artists. Why not give it a shot?

Send your music to blogs, radio, and press

Getting airplay on radio for your new single, reviews on influential music blogs or in local press and magazines is a huge step in getting your music out to a new wave of listeners.

Starting local is the key. Contact local radio stations who are keen to push bands and artists from the area. BBC Introducing is also a fantastic way for UK bands and artists to get national radio airplay so make sure you upload your track to them.

In terms of blogs and magazines, it’s unlikely you’ll get coverage from the likes of NME and Clash straight off the bat. Focus on creating a buzz amongst smaller, regional music blogs and magazines. Once they are championing your music, it’s time to contact the big guns who will pay far more attention if you already have lots of favourable press and reviews to share with them.

Connect with fans digitally

Every band and artist should avidly work to grow their fanbase. There are a few fundamental things you should have in place to help enable this to happen. An up to date website for your band is somewhere you can direct people to. Social media profiles such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter are also a wonderful way to engage with your existing fans, plus allow your personality and music to shine and hopefully win over some new fans.

Creating an email mailing list is essential for any band. With interaction on social media being so fleeting – if you’re not online when something is posted it can easily be missed – regular emails to your mailing list allow you to keep in direct touch with personal updates. Whenever you meet new fans at gigs or festivals, make sure you jot down their email address and add them to your mailing list so it continues to expand.

Get in touch with the music industry

Yes, it’s time to knock on music industry doors with your new music and there are a number of specialist contacts that will be able to take your music to the next level. Working with a record label will allow you to release your music with financial support, plus their expertise in marketing and the industry.

Music publishers and sync agencies can help get your music featured on TV programmes, adverts, films and games; another great way to get your music to fresh ears. Digital distributors will make your new single, EP or album available across digital music stores and streaming services such as iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and Apple Music.

To get in touch with reputable music industry folks in these areas, you can firstly start by doing research on the web. Also ask around other bands you know or your own existing music contacts to be pointed in the direction of recommended music industry professionals who can help you out.

Alternatively, The Unsigned Guide online music industry directory is a great starting point and contains contact details, all in one easily searchable database, for over 8,500 UK music contacts, businesses and organisations that work with emerging bands and musicians to help further their music careers.

To save 30% on an annual subscription to The Unsigned Guide music industry directory, use discount code TUG30S at checkout. (£20.99 instead of RRP £29.99)

Untitled-1Since 2003 The Unsigned Guide has been used by emerging bands, artists, producers and music managers to search over 8,500 UK music contacts across 50 sectors of the industry.