Opening Band Etiquette

[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.]

 

I’m currently reading Meet Me In The Bathroom; an excellent oral history of the rock and roll resurgence in NYC at the turn of the century, written by Lizzy Goodman. Aside from the havoc that existed then, as the swan song of the “glory days of the music industry” were playing out and my own nostalgia for the culture of New York City at that time, one thing has really stuck out to me in the book thus far; The Moldy Peaches.

The Moldy Peaches were an outlandish, anti-folk outfit that came up in New York City during the 1990s. They also happened to be good friends with The Strokes. As the Strokes were on their way to becoming the biggest band in the world, they invited The Moldy Peaches to open several of their big hometown shows as well as on a few tours. The Strokes even went as far as to persuade Rough Trade Records to sign their friends.

While Kimya Dawson + Adam Green (the two artists behind The Moldy Peaches) now have sustainable careers based on their own talent, they owe a lot of their success to that early help from The Strokes. Which is why we are talking about “Opening Band Etiquette” in this post. If you’re one of the fortunate few acts that is given the opportunity to open for a more established band, it’s important to make the most of the situation. If you known how to finagle one turn of good fortune into another, you can find yourself building a career and headlining bigger rooms a lot quicker.  

Here are some tips on how to do so:

Headliner is King (or Queen)

Whether you’re the local opener for a touring band or actually on the road with someone, the headliner will set the tone. There will be certain things that they require pre-show and you should make sure to adhere to their wishes. The less their pre-show routine is interrupted by your own, the more likely they’ll be to invite you back, especially if your performance is awesome.

If you only have a few guest list spots, make do with that. Worried about getting an extra case of water? Forget it for now. When you’re drawing enough on your own to be the headliner than you can look for more guest list spots and extra water in your green room. For now enhance the headliner’s experience, it’ll pay off in the long run!

Stick to The Schedule; You’re Part of the Team

This point ties closely into the “Headliner is King or Queen” subject. However, it is the single most important thing you can prioritize in order to successfully stick to that rule and thus deserves it’s own separate mention. The headliner will create a schedule that works best for them. You will work your schedule around theirs. Most importantly, it’s imperative that you are on time for everything.

If you are running 15 minutes late to Soundcheck, that could push their own allotted time. Even a slight delay there could end up putting a rush on any press interviews they need to take care of before the show, potentially rob them of the chance to get away from the venue for dinner or disrupt another important aspect of their pre-show routine.

Do Your Own Promoting for the Show

The more tickets sold you are responsible for, the more value you will have to the headliner. Make sure you’re looking for your own press ahead of the show, promoting on social media and getting out on the street to flyer if it’s a local show. If you bring enough people, it’ll get you noticed. Not just by the headliner, but by the promoter as well.

Support the Headliner

Even though they’re probably further along in their career than the bands that are opening for them, a headliner is still out there touring to make new fans and create opportunities for themselves. Don’t forget to bring as much attention to them as possible. Whether it’s tagging them in your social media promotion ahead of the show or thanking them from stage and asking fans to visit their merch table, shoutouts will always be appreciated and often reciprocated.

Network! Network! Network!

One common thread you will see in every post about optimizing a situation is networking. It doesn’t matter what industry you work in, networking is key. Whether it’s introducing yourself to the headliner, getting to know the promoter for the event or hanging out at your merch table interacting with fans, the relationships you take away from any opportunity is what’s going to be your biggest asset moving forward.

The music industry is built largely on word-of-mouth. Do everything you can to build a network that wants to help spread the word about your band and you’re increasing your chances to succeed infinitely.

 

5 Questions Musicians Should Ask When Choosing a Venue

[Editors Note: This article was written by Adam Young. Adam is the founder and CEO of Event Tickets Center. He loves taking in live music at venues ranging from underground clubs to massive arenas.]

There are myriad factors that go into choosing exactly the right place for your band’s next performance. Music venues come with many nuances that affect the overall quality of a show, from sound and layout to physical location and audience demographics. Before booking a primetime slot at a spot that looks great on paper, ask yourself these questions. They may just save you from a less-than-stellar experience.

1. Is the venue in the right part of town?

You don’t want to perform just anywhere. Your style of music and the size of your fanbase will help determine where you should play.

It goes without saying that a location in a major city center is going to bring in a bigger crowd. And the closer your venue is to any big transportation hubs, the better the accessibility for potential attendees. When the venue is highly accessible, more people who rely on different means of transport can attend your show.

Pay attention to the fact that outside noise could infiltrate your space. Check out the venue during its quietest time, and listen to what you can hear. Does the proximity to the airport mean airplane engines overhead? Maybe a city park’s amphitheater offers a better opportunity than that downtown lounge with too much street noise. These are crucial factors to consider when considering the location of a venue.

2. What type of audience does it draw?

Reaching the right audience is crucial, and booking at the right venue can get you there. If you’re a toe-tapping jazz duo, the local EDM club isn’t going to be right for you. Do your research, and see the other musicians that have played at the spot before. Are any of them like you? The best venue for your audience is a familiar one, where they’ll be comfortable attending, and happy to see you perform.

3. Does size matter?

Yes, capacity is important. (You want there to be plenty of space for your fans to be able to come to the show, but also consider if you qualify to play larger spaces to begin with.) But the reason to consider size is less for attendance, and more for sound quality. For example, if a room is very large, the sound could be dissipated, and therefore hard to hear. But if the shape of a space reflects that potentially lost sound back to the audience, then no harm done. The size isn’t as important as the acoustics within the space you’re playing.

4. So the layout is really what matters?

Architecture has the power to make or break a performance. Inside arenas and stadiums, for instance, sound waves can bounce off various surfaces or become absorbed before reaching the ears of fans on the floor. In order to know how exactly this is going to impact your performance, the best thing to do is to go listen to a performance in that space. How does the band sound? Does the space match your style of music? Maybe where the local philharmonic performs isn’t best for your indie rock or punk band, but they’d sure have a tough time fitting into the small, underground space best for headbanging and guitar solos.

5. What about technology?

The technological power of the venue is almost more important than its acoustic capabilities. A good sound setup can minimize, if not eliminate, any flaws within the venue’s size and structure. (You should make time to find out if the venue has monitors or other equipment useful for determining your noise-exposure levels.)

And, if you’re the hottest DJ on the rise, it’d be wise to find a venue that comes with all the lighting necessary to host a stellar rave. Knowing the lighting capabilities of the venue can be vital to the performance you want to give.

Next time you’re trying to decide which music venue is right for you, remember to ask yourself the right questions. In summary: know your audience and know your sound, and choose a venue that’s suitable.

Road Hazards: 5 Challenges Of Touring and How To Avoid Them

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

 

For young, ambitious bands, there’s nothing more exciting than hitting the road for a national tour. There’s something timelessly exciting and relatable about a band traveling from city to city in hopes of getting the world to care about its music. But while tour is capable of bringing huge benefits for artists as far as opportunities and industry credibility goes, touring can be tedious, thankless and even downright dangerous for some bands. In this article, we’ll highlight some of the road’s more serious challenges and show you how to cope with them.

1. Physical Inactivity

If you’re someone used to exercising regularly, touring for long periods of time can be especially brutal. Unless your band is raking in the dough and traveling in a big tour bus, you’ll most likely spend the majority of your days on tour crammed in a car or van. Long-term physical inactivity is hell on your body, and the longer you stay sedentary, the more your risk for things like depression and heart disease increases. One two-week tour isn’t a big deal, but if you’re a serious musician intent on touring over the course of your career, inactivity can lead to massive problems.

The only solution here is movement. Make every effort you can to move as much as possible throughout the day. Encourage your bandmates to get a gym membership at a national club and to reserve an hour or two each day for exercise. Easier said than done, of course, but if you don’t take care of yourself on the road you simply won’t be able to do it for very long.

2. Excessive Drinking and Drug Abuse

Partying is simply the funnest part of tour for some musicians, and while it’s not our place to judge here at the TuneCore Blog, booze and drugs have caused musicians more than their fair share of problems over the years, so we think it’s worth mentioning. Whether it’s a tedious eight-hour drive through the midwest or the lengthy period between loading in and performing, there’s a ton of time to kill on the road, so it’s no wonder musicians drink and use drugs to pass the time. But while casual drinking or drug use is completely harmless for some people, it can be hugely damaging for others.

Moderation is the key here for some musicians, but if you find yourself getting out of control when you drink or use drugs, it’s time to stop and even consider getting off the road altogether. Assuming that you tour because you’re a serious musician, the main goal of touring is playing well on stage and making connections on the road, and this is going to be much harder if you’re drunk and high constantly. If drinking and drugs are keeping you from being your best on the road, consider cutting down, taking a break or stopping completely.

3. Strained Relationships

Maintaining relationships out on the road can be a huge challenge whether you’re touring for the first time as a young band or are a seasoned touring veteran. Relationships are essential to the happiness of most people, and this is one of the main reasons why so many serious musicians become depressed and eventually burn out. If you plan on being a serious musician for the rest of your life, you’ll have to learn how to make relationships work on the road.

Nothing can replace the time spent away from a loved one, but there are things you can do maintain relationships while you tour. Scheduling and sticking to daily calls, FaceTime and Skype chats is one obvious option. Bringing your loved ones with you on the road for certain legs of your tours is another, though that’s not always an option for some musicians. No matter what you decide to do, just remember how vital your relationships back at home are and proceed accordingly.

4. Financial Hardship

Touring is a huge financial investment that never quite pays off for some bands. This means weeks or months at a time away from jobs and a steady source of income. There’s no way to tell for sure, but money problems have probably caused the untimely demise of many bands, and it’s not difficult to see why. Musicians are accustomed to making all sorts of sacrifices for their craft, but there’s a point where lack of money makes it impossible to keep going.

To avoid burnout over money issues, conversations need to happen long before you hit the road about your resources and limitations. Lots of bands set out with lofty goals for tour without having this conversation break up when they realize they can’t be on the road for months and pay their bills at the same time. Communication, realistic expectations and planning will help you be able to tour and keep your personal bottom line intact.

5. Lack of Sleep

Everything from the bad food to excessive drinking on tour can be hell on your body, but the lack of sleep can be especially pernicious. Not getting eight hours of sleep a night while you’re on tour might not seem like a huge deal for some bands, but sleep loss can cause everything from obesity to depression. Again, on a short tour this isn’t a problem, but it’s something that serious career musicians should address.

A major factor in sleeping issues on tour has to do with the fact that most bands can’t afford hotel rooms every night on the road. What can you do if the house you’re sleeping at has a party raging till four or five AM? Doing your best to find accommodations before you embark on a tour is essential if you hope to get good sleep on the road. Stay with friends and family when you can, and communicate your needs, even if it’s awkward to do so.

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.

Is Touring Still Relevant In the Digital Age? Yes, Actually – More Than Ever.

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

 

In 2017, there’s never been more ways to experience the world around us on our computers and smartphones through the omnipotent lens of the internet. The internet’s effect on how music is now being created, discovered and distributed is so profound that it’s hard to remember a time when listeners discovered new music from friends and record store clerks rather than music blogs and playlists.

For bands coming up in an era when seemingly everything can be done, seen and heard through the internet, it’s tempting to question the real value of something like touring. Is touring still relevant in the digital age? Yes, actually. More than ever before.

Where are you right now? Are you reading this article on your laptop at a coffeeshop? Or maybe you’re thumbing through it on your smartphone on the train home from work.

Look around you. Everyone’s eyes are constantly glued to some kind of a screen, and this is why the live music experience is more vital now than ever before. No amount of technology can replicate the experience of seeing a band performing their music right in front of your eyes in real time. Live music will always be a distinct and powerful experience because it’s something that can’t be translated to the world of screens.

Yes, at any given moment there’s thousands of bands live-streaming their performances from every corner of the globe that you could watch whenever you like, but that will never substitute the feeling of being there in the venue and experiencing it all for yourself in person. As our culture becomes increasingly reliant on the internet for everyday things, the need to experience nature, visual art and music right there in the moment will become more important than ever. And here’s where your band comes in.

If you make great music that you can pull off well in an engaging performance setting, people will go out of their way by rearranging their night and by paying to see you. Yes, touring is an experience filled with challenges, risk and even financial hardship for some bands, but if you’re viewing what you do as a sort of business, investing in the touring experience might be your best shot at actually earning money as a band.

Many of the fans who’ll jump at the chance to see you play live in their hometown won’t drop a dime on your new record. This is a difficult thing to accept, but it’s true whether we want to blame streaming services like Spotify, rampant music pirating or the shifting attitudes toward the value of media in the digital age. Yes, you’ll probably sell more music if you release your records on vinyl, but even with those increased sales, the days of small bands making a living purely from selling their music are pretty much over now. The live music experience will always be valuable because it can only be experienced in person, and if you’re able to present your music in a truly unique and thrilling way, there be a higher demand for your performances.

But the benefits of touring in 2017 are more than just financial. Hitting the road with your band not only builds tightness and more confidence musically, it can also give you priceless connections with other bands/artists, new fans and music industry folks that you simply couldn’t have established by releasing music and strictly playing shows in your hometown.

Yes, maintaining a social media presence can help with these things, but nothing can substitute the value of human interaction. Talking with a fan after you’ve just gotten off stage is an experience that can’t be matched with a tweet or Facebook comment. And maintaining a constant presence on the road tells press and industry people who might be interested your music know that you’re serious about what you’re doing.

Trends in music come and go every day it seems, but touring is here to stay. Unfortunately, this doesn’t change the fact that a band has to make huge sacrifices for their touring efforts to be worth it. Hitting the road for two weeks over the summer to play a few cities in your region might be fun, but it won’t make a significant difference in whether your band gains traction or not.

If you want to get the most out of hitting the road, you’ll have to book multiple tour routes a year through cities where you think you have the best shot at building a presence in. You and your bandmates will have to walk the thin line between obligations, like careers and relationships at home, and taking the time and energy to build a national presence by frequent touring.

It’s not easy, predictable or simple, but if you’ve been at this game for awhile, you probably already know that nothing in this industry is.

6 Things You Can Do To Get Your Fans to Take More Photos At Your Shows (And Why That Matters)

[Editors Note: This blog post was written by Hugh McIntyreHugh writes about music and the music industry and regularly contributes to Forbes, Sonicbids, and more.]

 

These days, everybody is taking photos…of everything. Now that cameras are everywhere and anyone can upload their latest capture to the world wide web in mere seconds, there is no stopping the deluge of images that continues to grow larger and larger by the hour. Some musicians are upset about this, as it distracts them when they are performing and they feel audiences aren’t paying the sort of attention they want, but none of that is going to stop how people act nowadays, so why not make the most of it?

As a working musician in a social media-focused world, you should always be on the hunt for great content. You will find yourself constantly needing something to post or to save for another day, and snaps from a concert can be the perfect filler. If you’re in the beginning stages of your career, keeping a photographer with you at all times (especially when touring) probably isn’t an option, so why not rely on your fans to supply you with the pics you’ve been looking for?

Here are a few ways to get your fans to take more photos of (and with) you, and then to share them in a way you can find them easily and repost them…with their permission and proper crediting, of course.

1. Pose!

Young people these days don’t always need to be told to take a photo—it’s in their nature by now. Most under the age of, say, 30, have extensive experience with smartphones, and the vast majority of them have become used to taking photos of almost everything in their day-to-day lives. This is the generation that has had to think of everything in terms of content, be it for Facebook, Twitter, or especially Instagram, and they have a mind for this sort of thing. If you do something fairly obvious that says “take my picture!,” chances are they will understand the message in no time.

Pose for a moment on stage, stop moving for a minute or so, put the spotlight on just you, stand with your bandmates before taking a bow at the end of the night…you can be as creative as you want with this idea, but it’s really, really easy, and you may be surprised how popular those few seconds will be in the photos you search for later.

2. Make A Special Moment

Every concert and every performance should be fun and special in its own way, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go out of your way to do something extra during at least some of your shows. What this might be differs for every band or artist and it should vary by staging, but if you do it right, you could wind up with plenty of photos and perhaps even some press.

Shoot confetti out of cannons, bring a fan up onstage and sing to them, gather two fans together and arrange a marriage proposal (this is always a crowd pleaser), use a funny prop during one of the songs, or bring out a special guest that those in the crowd might recognize, if that’s possible. Any one of these would likely end up being the highlight of that particular performance, and it just begs everybody in attendance to whip out their cameras.

3. Create a Photo Booth

This option might not yield any photos of you and your bandmates doing what you do best (performing), but it can supply you all with a different kind of picture, which can wind up being useful in its own way.

Work with the venue before you arrive to set up some sort of area specifically designed for photos. This can be a “photobooth” of sorts (though you might not want to shell out the money to rent an actual photobooth just yet), or perhaps something as simple as a backdrop. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to make this a reality, though it might cost your band a few dollars to have something printed with your band’s logo all across it, like what red carpets are lined with. If you’re meeting fans afterward, why not make sure to do so exactly where you want to, with this added bonus? It might help push a new song or album, or maybe just a hashtag you are trying to promote.

4. Suggest A Hashtag

Speaking of a hashtag, that is something else that younger music lovers are already familiar with, and once you’ve given it to them, they know exactly what to do with it (usually). You can print the hashtag, which should be easy to understand, make sense, and be as short as possible, and people will see it. Show flyers, event reminders online, and perhaps even posters placed throughout the venue can all feature the phrase, and you can even mention it while performing, but don’t be annoying here, because while most young people don’t mind being asked and reminded about a hashtag, especially if there is any incentive to go tweet it or Instagram it, they can very quickly become a nuisance, and once that has happened, nobody wants to be a part of the movement.

5. Post On Social Media

Since you are looking for pictures to share on social media later on, why not use the medium to influence more fans to start taking pictures in the first place? Start posting on your accounts telling everybody flat out that you are on the hunt for some really excellent snaps. This will let those who catch the missives know to go out of their way to do so when they are at your next show, and you never know what pics are already out there sitting on phones or in folders on computers, just waiting to be unearthed by those who are into your music who might not have realized anybody was interested in their digital souvenirs.

Also, once you begin posting pictures shot by concert attendees and tagging them (and thanking them in your tweet), it won’t take long for people to get the idea and start sharing openly. Who doesn’t want a little recognition for a well-framed picture and a thank you from a musician or band they like?

6. Ask Them

If all else fails, or if you’re feeling particularly lazy—or perhaps if you just want to be direct and honest with your fans—why not just ask them to take some photos and share them? While you’re on stage and chatting in between songs (if that’s your thing, which isn’t the case with every artist), casually mention that you love seeing pictures from your shows on social media.

You don’t need to beg or plead, and please don’t be obnoxious about it (nothing is worse than someone bugging you to snap an excessive number of pics of them), but if you’re doing a good job and entertaining those who paid to see you, and since some of them will already be taking photos on their phones anyway, nudge the rest of the audience to do the same, and you may be surprised to see how many come flowing in over the next few days.