What To Expect When You’re Expecting…To Book a Tour

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the Director of Public Relations and Creative at NGAGE.]

 

So you’re band is killing it. The crowds at your hometown shows are getting bigger and bigger and you’ve dipped your toes into playing ‘out-of-town’. You just put out a new record and you really want to bring it, along with your increasingly dynamic live show, to as many people as possible.

Seems like it’s time to hit the road! It’s a long, arduous process to put a tour together independently, but it’ll be worth it. You’ll get to see new places, find new ears for your music and begin laying the foundation for actual booking agents to start paying attention.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning your journey.

The Internet is Your Friend!  

Yes, playing live is about forging connections with fans away from the internet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it to help plan and book your tours. The best way to get contacts for venues outside of your range of familiarity is to do a bit of internet research. Find out where bands that are equivalent to your size are playing and grab the venue contacts either from those band’s or the venue’s website.

You can also use the internet to find bands to tour with. Linking up with a band from another area you’re planning to hit up ensures that you’ll have at least two ‘homebases’ on the tour. This will be incredibly important considering if it’s your first tour you might be playing to some small crowds (or even empty rooms).

Make sure all your dates are up on the internet using BandsinTown or Songkick, as well, and reach out to people via social media that you think might be into your band letting them know you’ll be in their city.

Think Regionally!

The idea of booking a month long national tour seems like a dream come true. The truth of the matter is that it’s not feasible. The longer you’re on the road the more expensive it’s going to be (don’t count on making a ton of money this time around) and the further away from home you get the less people will probably have heard anything about you. The best course of action is to start out small and regional.

Book a 5-10 day run hitting neighboring cities. If You’re a New York band book dates in Jersey, Philly, Baltimore, DC, Connecticut and Boston. It also helps to order your dates geographically so that you’re cutting down the amount of extra-long drives you have to do.

Treat It Like a Local Show

Last month I wrote an article about making the most of each gig you book. I spoke more to local shows for it, but a successful DIY tour will treat each gig like it’s a local show. Stay in touch with the promoter, make sure they’re pushing the show through their marketing channels. Be professional in your interactions and do everything online and in real life you can to make sure you’re drawing as much attention to your upcoming performance as possible.

Don’t Forget The Merch Table

Make sure you have something to sell on the road. Chances are you won’t be making much money from the shows themselves. However, if you can sell a couple of CDs, Download cards or T-Shirts that might make the difference between breaking evening for the night or losing money.

Can You Stay With Friends?

Another important aspect of tour is figuring out where you’ll sleep each night. If you don’t have to book a hotel room you’re way more likely to be able to afford to take the band to Taco Bell for a treat after the show. See if you or any of your bandmates have friends in the cities you’re performing in that would be willing to let you crash on their floors. I can’t stress this enough as lodging will likely be the most expensive part of the tour.

Look for Press!

Chances are you’re not going to get a big write-up in local papers when you’re just starting out. Still, show listings can be a good way to help spread the word and start a relationship with the outlet. Invite writers out to the show and make friends with them. Even if you don’t get a write-up this time around, if your music is special and you forge a good friendship with the journalist you have a much better chance of getting some coverage the next time you’re in their city.


Being able to take part in DIY tours when I was younger is one of my fondest memories. No matter what comes out of your musical career, you’ll always cherish the times you spent on the road with you band and the experiences you’ll have along the way. So take the risk and book a tour. If you’re serious about being in a band for a living it will be one your biggest assets in terms of creating a bigger buzz and getting the sort of booking agents, managers and labels that can help you reach the next level to start paying attention.

Making Music After a Major Life Struggle

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Patrick McGuire. Patrick is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.]

 

I used to admire how some of my favorite artists could seamlessly convert the most difficult challenges of their lives into incredible songs. But I found it nearly impossible to do just about anything, let alone write music, in November 2016 after my right elbow was shattered in a hit-and-run biking accident. Realizing that the process of pulling potent lyrics and memorable melodies out of my sudden intense pain and turmoil was going to be anything but easy and straightforward, I’d stare at my computer screen for a few minutes and retreat back to bed after using my good arm to set up my small MIDI keyboard that I planned on writing melodies and bass lines with.

Yes, making and experiencing music can be a powerful agent of therapy and comfort in all things – not just life’s unexpected traumas and setbacks – but it can be hugely difficult or downright impossible to keep writing songs after experiencing death or loss, or any other significant trouble. After undergoing the first of two surgeries I’d eventually need to bring full functionality back to my arm, I soon defiantly returned to songwriting in a percocet-induced haze, but the ideas I managed to eek out seemed uninspired and forced to me.

‘I’ve got plenty to write about,’ I thought. Why isn’t this working?

After a major setback, we’re often eager to make something good come out of a horrible experience, but that’s not always the way it works. For me, I couldn’t make meaningful music again until I was able to fully process and cope with what had happened to me. Yes, I needed and still need a consistent songwriting practice to feel happy and fulfilled, but I was woefully preoccupied at the time with more pressing matters like simply staying afloat as a human being.

Depending on your situation, you simply might not be able to find the time, energy and resources to make music after the trauma you’ve experienced, and that’s okay. That’s not a failing on your part or representative of you as a person. This can be a really difficult thing to accept if you’re a person who uses music-making in your life as a means to stay sane and creatively productive; but like with most things, the passing of time is the only thing that can get you back to doing the things you love.

It took me months before I was able to start making music again at full capacity. The most obvious challenge in writing and producing music after my accident was the temporary loss of my right and dominant arm –– I play guitar and keys –– but depending on your unique trauma, you’ll face an entirely different set of hurdles that need to be cleared.

If you’ve experienced the death of someone close to you, the act of creating music might be something that loses its meaning for a while.

For someone experiencing financial trouble like the loss of a job or an unforeseen medical expense, you might be forced to choose between finding time to make ends meet and making music.

But like with everything after experiencing a huge setback, it’s paramount to keep trying to get back to a sense of normalcy. Maybe you’ll be able to make some incredible music after your trauma about what you’ve experienced, but a more realistic goal is to return to your usual songwriting process whenever you’re able to. This way you won’t have to deal with your problems while facing pressure to create a masterpiece out of them at the same time.

Some musicians are able to completely immerse themselves in their work as a means for coping with life’s struggles, but you shouldn’t be discouraged if you’re someone without the means and inspiration to do the same thing.

Stories of how artists make music inspired by death, breakups and other traumas are good for dramatic bios and press releases, but they don’t reflect the often tedious difficult work of songwriting. If the music you make after a life struggle isn’t emotionally raw or moving, that’s okay. It might take a long time for you to make compelling music again, but you should do everything you can to be kind to yourself and to celebrate your songwriting efforts after experiencing hardship no matter what sort of music you manage to create.

It’s coming up on the 12-month anniversary of my accident, and my songwriting isn’t the same if I’m being honest. But how could it be? I’m a little better after what happened to me in some ways and noticeably worse in others. That’s life for you, right? All I can do is move forward the best way I can and be grateful that I still have the desire and means to still be making music.

How To Book A Gig Yourself…and Be Invited Back

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the Director of Public Relations and Creative at NGAGE.]

No matter what anyone tells you, we have yet to figure out a digital musical experience that can equal the fan connections a band can conjure through their live show. There is something in our DNA that is profoundly impacted by live music. Maybe it’s the shared experience with those in attendance or the nostalgia a concert can create for a certain time in our lives.

Or maybe it’s something more primal; the process of syncing our natural rhythm to live drum and bass as it pulse through our bones. Either way, performing is still undoubtedly the best way to create loyal fans and combat the current “musical-flavor-of-the-week” culture we live in.

Still, developing a live following is no walk in the park. You’re going to need to dedicate hours-upon-hours of time to tightening your set and tirelessly promoting your shows. It’ll get tedious, and success won’t happen overnight, but if you work hard you’ll eventually graduate from dingy bars and VFWs to better rooms. On top of that, I can honestly say nothing can match the indescribable feeling you’ll get from performing in front of a room full of people and, if you’re lucky, the dedicated following you’ll gain from gigging out.

Here are some tips on how to book that first gig, and how to get invited back!

1. Be Professional In Your Pitch

Yes, the promoter knows that you’re self-booking. They still want the comfort of knowing you will take the night seriously. Keep in mind that they’ve probably gotten a few hundred other “booking inquiries” that week. Ask yourself what’s going to make them offer you a slot on one of their nights over those other bands? Some ways to be professional include:

  • A succinct, clear subject line (i.e: Booking Inquiry – The Beatles October Date @ MSG?).
  • Be informative in the body of the email. You should include a description of your music, where you’re from and any performance history. It is also necessary to include a link to where the talent buyer can listen to your music and check out your socials.
  • Don’t have typos!
  • Follow up approximately 3-5 days after reaching out if you don’t hear back. Also don’t hesitate to pick up the phone. Sometimes that’s the best way to cut through the clutter of acts hitting up a promoter.

2. Stay In Touch with The Promoter Ahead Of Your Show

Nothing makes promoters more nervous than booking a band and not hearing from them again until they show up at the venue night of. Give the promoter updates on what you’re doing to get people to come see your band. Also share any promotional assets such as Facebook events or flyers with the promoter as well. This way they can take comfort in the fact you’re promoting and maybe even help get the word out as well.

3. Promote On Socials and Ask Your Friends

Actually promote, don’t just show up! Be active on both yours and the band’s social media accounts. Also don’t discount the value of hanging flyers (particularly in the venue) and calling/texting your friends. Sometimes those IRL invites are more memorable than a Facebook invite.

4. Help Book The Bill

This isn’t as important as a lot of the other points on this list but it’s definitely a plus. Promoters are usually booking a bunch of dates at once. If you can book the rest of the band’s on your bill it takes the work off of the promoter’s plate and gives a better chance of the bill being cohesive.

5. Bring Your A-Game

Put in the work before the show to have a great performance. At the end of the day that’s what’s going to ensure people want to see you again and get your band invited back to play on better bills.

6. Communicate With The Promoter Night Of

Introduce yourself to the promoter when you get there and thank him/her for having you. Thank him/her again at the end of the night and let them know you’ll reach out about subsequent dates.

7. Follow Up After You Performance

Give it a couple of days after the show and then email the promoter. Thank him/her again for having you and then see what upcoming dates he/she has available. If you can get in this routine with a few different promoters, you can put a nice little circuit together for yourself.

8. Don’t Overbook

Space out your dates in any given market! If you play too much in the same area, you’re going to most likely divide your draw. Obviously when you first start playing, do as many low profile gigs as possible to find yourself as a performer, but once you’ve achieved a level of confidence in yourself that you care about draw, try not to play your own market more than once per month.

Promoters will not be happy if they find out you’re playing next door in a week. Neither will your friends and fans be as inclined to come out and support if you’re ALWAYS playing out.


Keep these eight things in mind and you’ll be well on your way to building your live career!

A Hitchhiker’s Guide To Releasing an EP

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the Director of Public Relations and Creative at NGAGE.]

 

A Quick Look at the Assets Needed and Suggested Timeline for Releasing An EP as an Independent Artist

One of the hardest thing for an artist to do is wait. Good musicians will spend a year or more writing and recording five or six meticulously arranged tracks. They know when to subtly sneak a guitar solo or drum fill on stage and how many bars to spend vamping on it. But when the time comes to share the music they’ve poured their life’s blood into, release day can’t come soon enough.

Much like the journey shared by Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, putting out music should be experienced in volumes. They had the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy to help them plan. The goal of this article is to provide something similar; albeit simpler. By taking these things into consideration, your music will be given the optimal chance to reach as many ears as possible with or without the assistance of a Babel Fish.

Stage 1: Life, The Universe and Everything…Gather Your Assets!

Okay, so after all this time writing and recording, your EP is ready. You’re just a few short steps away from sharing it with the world. Before you decide just when that date will be, let’s talk about what else you’re going to be doing to promote the record.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself at this point:

  1. What’s my budget?
    How much money am I able to spend on this record? Is there enough to hire any help or am I better off going at this alone? Knowing the answer to this question will help figure out an initial content plan. It will also give you an idea of how much time you should spread the release over. The more you’re handling yourself the more time you should give yourself to accomplish everything.
  2. Will There Be More Money Coming In Once The Release Cycle Starts?
    Are you going to be doing any touring? Have you had any luck, or is there any demand, for merch? Album sales are tough and streaming income is great, but the numbers dictate that a considerable number of streams are required to actually generate income. Since you can’t bank on that income, ignore it for now. Other more concrete opportunities for generating cash should be what you’re trying to estimate in this step. This will help you decide if it’s worth elongating your campaign a bit to allow for more content creation or additional help once the first single is out.
  3. What Content Will I Have?
    In addition to the music, will there be remixes, music videos, live content or behind the scenes stuff? Also on a related note, you will need artwork and social media “skins” and “copy” ready to roll at this point.

Stage 2: And Another Thing…Set The Timeline!

You should start pondering timeline once the music enters the mastering phase. However, dates for an independent artist shouldn’t be committed to until you have all assets in hand (or at a minimum deliverable dates). Once you’ve gotten to that point, though, it’s best to nail down when you want to release everything.

  1. First thing to consider are singles. If you have a five song EP, I generally recommend doing two singles ahead of the full release. This will allow you to start generating a buzz leading up to release week.
  2. If you did any videos, you need to decide if you want to do separate audio & video campaigns or premiere the song initially alongside the video. If you feel the video is so integrated into the song that people will appreciate the music best with the visual accompaniment then, by all means, put your best foot forward. If you want to save a few assets for after you put out the EP, it might be best to do them separately and release the video a little deeper into the campaign. Keep in mind that you can’t “premiere” a track from the EP after the whole release is out, so having a video or, depending on genre, even a remix gives you a bit of a longer tail on marketing post-release date.
  3. When coming up with a timeline, you should also consider how much time is needed by your distribution. For instance, if you’re using TuneCore three weeks advanced notice will be required to make use of their “Features Submission” form. There is usually an element of advanced deliverables requirement for most streaming and download services as well.

Stage 3: The Restaurant At The End Of The Galaxy…Time To Release!

Congratulations! You fought the urge to just throw your music up online all willy-nilly-like and, as a result, your release is doing well now that it’s finally out. What’s next? Here are a few things you can do to continue promoting your EP.

  1. Play Shows! –  I can’t stress how important playing live is when you’re trying to establish yourself. There will be thousands of artists putting out new music ON THE SAME DAY that you do. Developing a personal relationship with an audience in a live setting will help you establish loyalty with fans and bring them back to your digital presence.
  2. Continue to Reach Out – Your music is out now, so premieres and “first looks” are off the table. That doesn’t mean that you can’t keep looking for new press. Keep digging for contacts and find people writing about music that may be into your sound. If you’ve had a couple of good press clips at this point, you now have quotes from other tastemakers in your toolbelt to convince this new wave of writers to cover you. Same principal applies to Spotify playlisting.
  3. Get Social – You can always use social media to promote your records and attract new fans. Just because your music is out doesn’t mean you have to stop posting about it. I never recommend coming off as sales-y with your digital presence, but if somebody writes about your music, post it and thank them. Do some live videos you can get up on Facebook and Instagram. If nothing else, keep posting to show your personality. Every little bit helps.

Hope you found this little guide useful as you prepare to put your new music out. Until next month, So Long And Thanks for All The Fish!

Industry Navigation Tools for Songwriters

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by TuneCore Artist Skela. Enjoy her tips to better network, collaborate, and engage was an independent songwriter in the music industry!]

You have to work very, very hard for a just a little bit of luck in the music industry. There are so many beautifully talented artists in this world, and it’s so easy to become overwhelmed by the idea of being one small fish in what feels like many oceans. Instead of being intimidated or striking up ugly green competition with your counterparts, use the multitude of likeminded artists around you to your advantage.

Songwriters are special creatures. We are spectators, empathetic beings, and constantly translating emotion onto paper. You may not know it yet, but one of your greatest strengths can be the ability to connect with others.

So do it.

Interact with the musicians around you. You may have written your best song alone in your bedroom, but it’s about more than that. Creating a long lasting career takes a village – or, people who support one another. Here are a few navigation tips I wish I knew in the beginning of my career:

1. There is no way of knowing who is going to be plucked from the bucket next.

Don’t cling to the cool kids. Don’t pursue people that you think are going to be the next big thing. Find the artists whose work you admire and connect with them. If you vibe with someone’s music, there’s a good chance you’re going to work well with them. Find your people, not your posse.

2. Go to your friends’ performances.

This seems obvious, but you would be surprised how many people don’t show up and support their music making peers. It’s important to show face because there is going to come a time where you need heads in a room and the favor returned. Also, buying tickets to concerts is what makes the industry go round. Most importantly, seeing someone in their element live is inspiring and always an opportunity to learn something new!

3. Never, ever stop writing.

If you’re going to be “something” in this world, then be the best damn “something” there is. If you’re going to call yourself a songwriter, then make sure you have an arsenal of material ready to work at any given time. You never know what session you might be asked to hop in on. Make sure you have it together so you don’t miss any opportunities to work with people.

4. Don’t burn bridges.

Again, you never know who is going to make it next in this industry. There is no foreseeable timeline attached to musicians so don’t write them off just because they’re not growing parallel to you. There’s a way to speak to people and a way to end relationships amicably. Lead a relationship by good example and leave the future open not barbed with past fallouts.

5. Speak up!

Just because you’re not a producer doesn’t mean that you should sit next to a producer in the studio silent. No one knows the sound you’re after better than you do. You might not know the technical aspect of how to create the palette and structure of a song, but you should know what it takes and be able to find the appropriate references and language in order to properly articulate your vision.

I know that working with producers can be intimidating. When I first started working with producers, I was just so grateful to be working with anyone at all that I nodded my head in agreement to almost everything. If you know what you want, don’t be afraid to speak up. The sooner the better, trust me.

6. When you know, you know.

Don’t force relationships. They should come naturally. It’s impossible to have a strong connection with every musician you meet. Take the session, try it out, and if it doesn’t work, both parties are going to feel something is off. Maximize your time by listening to your instincts when it comes to producers, songwriters and instrumentalists.

7. There is no such thing as an overnight success.

It is so easy to be jealous of others who are finding success in the music industry, but know that the people who are excelling probably worked extremely hard for their bite. It doesn’t come easy or without struggle. If one of your friends is finding success, it means that you’re surrounded by the right people. It’s a good thing when another musician starts to make traction. Your time will come because there is no expiration date if you don’t give up.