[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.
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.