5 Reasons Teaming Up With Another Band Means a Mutual Boost on Tour

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Jhoni Jackson, a music journalist and Puerto Rico-based venue owner.]

 

Heading out on tour with your band has the potential to bring everyone in it closer together. Co-existing and constantly collaborating, playing together night after night—becoming a tight-knit troupe in the process is almost inevitable. But why not double the bonds you could solidify by bringing another group into the picture? Organizing a joint tour means you’ll connect with even more fellow musicians—and that’s not the only benefit, either.

The notion that there’s strength in numbers is inarguably true for independent and DIY bands. Touring is one of the toughest parts of the gig; in that effort especially, you’ll accomplish more working together.

1. You’re sharing fans

Even if you hail from the same city, chances are you don’t share the exact same fanbase with any other band. That means pairing up in any capacity is an opportunity for exposure to new listeners; touring together is a maximized version of that.

Whenever possible, tag your tour-mates in related promo and other posts—and they should do the same, of course. Collaborate as much as you can: Both bands should be reflected in promo material like tour posters, promo videos announcing dates, Facebook events, and so forth. Every time you promote together is another chance to appeal to each other’s fans.

One result of two separate camps collectively pushing the promo could be increased show attendance, and there’s some strategy within that for increased effectiveness. If either group has toured before, include spots in your schedule that one has played and the other hasn’t; the band visiting for a second time can help carry the newcomer in terms of pull. Even if both bands are embarking on first-ever tours, though, you can also use Insights on your Facebook page to learn about the demographics of your fans. Their locations could help you choose which cities you visit, or what kind of marketing effort will work best based on your existing (or yet-to-be-built) audiences.

2. You can pool resources

Lug around less by sharing gear, particularly the bulkier items like amps and drums. Go in on groceries together to save money, and share the burden of cooking and preparing meals by rotating responsibilities. Depending on how big your group is, you might even travel together in a single vehicle, so there’s only one gas tank to fill to be split among all of you. And when you’re reaching out to friends and acquaintances as you line up places to crash on tour, more musicians in the mix means a greater potential number of generous hosts.

3. Two networks are better than one

Maybe one of you knows a booking agent in a particular city and the other doesn’t, or perhaps you’ve established a rapport with certain outlets that your touring mates haven’t. Knowing the right people in any given city can be a boon to a DIY tour. Whatever the effort, your connections combined are obviously doubly powerful.

4. Collaborating sparks creativity

Working together on any type of creative strategy, the sharing of influences and obscure discoveries, even casual conversations about art and music—something special happens when separate imaginations meet. New ideas pop up seemingly from nowhere; you gain fresh perspectives about other people’s work and your own.

Creativity fuels creativity, and in the close quarters of tour life, there’s no doubt you’ll find inspiration in collaborating—and practically living together—throughout the trip.

5. Through the camaraderie, you strengthen community bonds

Touring together is one of those shared experiences that facilitates deep connections and meaningful, lifelong friendships. The struggles, triumphs, exhaustion—incredible shows, bad turnouts, strategizing for press, the perpetual uphill battle of financial sustainment—are all collectively endured or celebrated.

Camaraderie develops naturally, and that, in turn, helps you strengthen your overall ties to your scene, whether that community is local or built around a genre and spread throughout different cities.

5 Tips & Taboos to Remember at SXSW

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Jhoni Jackson, a music journalist and Puerto Rico-based venue owner.]

 

Planning is key to a successful SXSW experience, but there’s more to prepping than booking shows and finding a place to stay. Understanding what you could potentially get out of your time at the fest is equally important as accepting what’s very unlikely to happen; whether you’re a first-timer or returning band hoping for better results this year, this guide can help lay the foundation for your plans.

1. Tip: Set realistic networking goals

Getting noticed by important industry folk at SXSW would be a career-boosting dream, of course. But for most bands and artists, even if they’re on full display at an official showcase, enamoring a label rep or booking agent to a point that they sweep in and offer a massive deal that changes their lives forever—that’s simply not reality.

While the ultimate winning scenario isn’t impossible, your time at the festival is much better spent focusing on realistic networking goals. Instead of hoping for the ultimate opportunity, seek out connections with all types of people regardless of presumed influence. The founder of a tiny label you hadn’t heard of before, the blogger who’s there as official press but is covering events on their own accord, that person in the crowd who took a video of your set—any of these people could potentially help you in some way, big or small. Networking as a independent musician isn’t just about moving up the ranks, it’s about finding your people within that community, cultivating those connections and collaborating together to elevate each other’s work.

Taboo: Being obnoxious

Don’t let your eagerness to talk with someone in the industry obliterate common sense. Interrupting a conversation, grabbing at a passing person to get their attention, forcing a chat to keep going despite sensing the other party is trying to move on—all of these things are as unacceptable in industry networking as they are in any social setting. Being excited to meet someone and super-hyped by the possiblity of working together is not an excuse for being annoying or making other people uncomfortable.

2. Tip: SXSW is not just about networking

Don’t forget so wrapped up in making connections that you forget the festival is a stellar opportunity for growing your fanbase. If you’ve landed an official showcase, congratulations—but don’t ignore the unofficial parties. If there’s no stipulation in your contract against playing outside the official fest, then definitely, absolutely look into official shows.

Music passes cost between $800 and $1,000; not everyone wants to or has the option to spend that much for access to legit SXSW events. Naturally, the overflow of unofficial parties is immense. Those crowds are real opportunities to grow your fanbase. If you’re not already playing an unofficial event, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to hop on an existing bill at this point. Still, you can search for shows featuring likeminded bands—go check them out, meet people, watch other bands perform, and talk about your band and pass out CDs or cards with download codes when you can.

Taboo: Forgetting the unofficial shows

Seriously, it’s where the action is. As an independent artist, putting too much importance on official showcases and dismissing unofficial shows altogether is basically sacrilege. If you weren’t contracted for an official showcase, you can still play these unofficial shows and have a productive experience.

3. Tip: Prepare thoroughly

If you’ve got a lot of shows lined up, your time at SXSW will inevitably be chaotic. You already know it will be incredibly crowded, and schedules are incredibly compact, packed to the gills with back-to-back sets. The more prepared you are, the less likely you are to crumble under the festival’s inherently stressful pressure.

Map out your schedule, taking care to allow for time spent traveling from set to set. Whenever possible, include extra time for the possibility of fighting through a mass of immovable party people. Grabbing a bite seems relatively easy in theory, but the crowds can cause serious delays so you’ll want to figure in some time to eat, too.

Carry a snack on you, just in case. Bring along a refillable water bottle, too. Lastly, keep a portable phone charger handy, bring back-ups like strings and cables and, unless you want to feel miserable for the bulk of your trip, consistently use sunscreen during daylight hours.

Taboo: Freaking out when your schedule goes awry

No matter how meticulously you plan, it’s very possible that some outside factor will negatively affect your schedule. Do your best to adapt to whatever changes you encounter. After all, if a situation is out of your control, the best you can do is minimize additional damage: try to be constructive, but above all else, stay calm.

4. Tip: Use SXSW as a chance to try something new

Is there an idea you’ve been holding onto for fear of it not working in your local scene? Sometimes the habits you develop working your city’s circuit—even the positive ones—hold you back from trying new things. You’ve established a certain rapport with your crowd; suddenly switching things up could put off existing fans.

Handing out flyers with your social media info and album download codes in your own city might feel like overdoing it if you’re under the impression that anyone who wanted to check your band out already knows you exist. Austin during SXSW, totally jam-packed with people who’ve never heard of you, is an ideal opportunity to employ that promo strategy.

That’s only one example—you could incorporate new ideas almost anywhere, from your live setup, to how you deliver a particular song or the kind or cost of merch you sell.

Taboo: Not being yourself

Trying out something new is generally a positive thing, but you shouldn’t go so far as to present a version of yourself that isn’t genuine. It’s a fine line between entertaining a possible change and forcing one. Trust your instincts—you know when something feels insincere or contrived.

5. Tip: Enjoy yourself!

As stressful as SXSW can be, you should still be able to have a good time. Following the aforementioned tips will help you avoid major let-downs and stay chill in times of trouble. You’ll make the most out of the fest if you employ all of them—and you can still do that while having a good time.

If you don’t pile up so many expectations about networking, you’ll find it more enjoyable to connect with people. You can make new connections while hanging out and watching bands at an unofficial show—and that should be fun, duh! And that water bottle you’ve been lugging around will prove especially useful in moderating the effects of booze consumption.

Taboo: Having too good of a time, i.e. getting totally sloshed

It should go without saying that if you hit the booze (or whatever else) too hard, you’ll weaken your chances of making SXSW a productive experience. In a too-wasted state, you could screw up a set, miss an opportunity to talk with industry rep or give a music writer a really terrible first impression. Know your limits, and stick to them. The fest is good reason to party, sure—but don’t forget why you’re really there.

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.

Top 3 Reasons You Aren't Getting the Gig

[Editor’s NoteThis article was written by Jhoni Jackson, an Atlanta-bred music journalist and venue-owner currently based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was originally featured on the Sonicbids Blog.]

Not getting a gig you’re pining over can be incredibly frustrating. It’s especially disheartening when you can’t figure out why you’ve been turned down, whether you never received a response or simply got a blunt nope. Like record label execs, promoters and venue owners don’t always have time to explain their logic. Even fewer have the time or desire to coach you through a better chance of scoring a show. Instead of getting angry or giving up, instances of rejection should invigorate your independent spirit. Get proactive by studying these three reasons you might be denied a gig. Employ your DIY initiative in learning from them – and keep trying.

1. Your inquiry was too vague

Did you include enough information about your band? While this might seem like common sense, it’s unfortunately not common practice. I’ve received countless emails that look a lot like this: “Hey, I’m looking to book a show for my band at your venue. What dates do you have available?”

First off, what band? No right-minded venue is going to reserve a night for you without knowing anything about your music. A brief biopress photo, links to tracks via sites like SoundCloud or Bandcamp, and social media accounts are basic tools for thoroughly conveying who you are.

We’ve stressed this before, but it’s worth mentioning again: Sonicbids can help you with your electronic press kit. And, while an EPK isn’t the be-all, end-all for approaching venues and promoters, it’s definitely an industry standard that makes things easier for both booking and contacting press.

2. You approached the wrong venue

Picking a venue based solely on the fact that you like the atmosphere or that bands you admire have performed there is an easy mistake to make. What you should really be considering is whether or not that spot is a good fit for your particular band.

There are venues that cater to specific genres, like coffeehouses that host acoustic nights or bars that regularly book rock ‘n’ roll acts, and others that are open to a variety of styles. As much as that matters, so does size. All of these details can be found by reading about the club, checking out its website or Facebook page, or visiting it in person.

Objectively think about your band: How many people will you draw? Is your set loud and abrasive? Or is it soft enough to suit a small, hushed setting? Once you’ve nailed down what exactly it is that you can offer, you can narrow down your list of potential venues to only those that are truly appropriate.

3. You weren’t convincing

Yes, an EPK is tremendously helpful, but whether you include one or not, you still have to tailor your inquiry to the venue in question. Before they even hear the music, they’ll read your introduction. Make it a persuasive one. If all you did was introduce your band with no regard for the club’s style or regular patrons, you probably haven’t done enough to sway anybody.

What is it that they’re looking for, exactly? A promise that you can pull a sizable crowd carries a lot of influence. You can prove this with social media numbers, evidence of previous shows, or a promotion plan that includes a massive push of a Facebook event combined with nicely done flyers and posters that you’ll strategically spread throughout the city. Really, a mix of all three is your best bet.

In any case of rejection by a venue, there’s always this last-ditch option: Offer to play for free. This shouldn’t be a recurring event, of course. But when you’ve never played at a venue before and none of these methods work in winning them over, you can always propose a free performance – and prove your worth by playing a stellar set to a crowd you single-handedly drew.