The Musical Artist’s Survival Guide Part 3: Touring

In my last entry this was one the things I didn’t mention about promoting an album, well this and the importance of making a video (mainly because I assumed most bands have videos on you tube of performance and regular MTV style music videos). Touring is a very necessary and effective way for bands to build a more solid fan base and insure that album sales will increase, if done correctly and effectively. Many bands have an unenthusiastic opinion about touring or unrealistic expectations. First off the word “Tour” doesn’t necessarily mean 3 months out on the road packed in a van, but it can mean that. You can actually take trips to separate cities and come home each time and consider that a tour too. Either way the goal is to play in as many different cities as you can in order to strengthen your fan base and album sales. But of course it is wise to KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS in this case it pertains to how many places you can afford to travel to with your budget and the time allotted to you and your band. I for one don’t have much full on tour experience, with the exception of shows in each city in the North Eastern United States. So I decided to ask some questions you may have about touring to my friend Jimmy Gnecco, best known for his work as a solo artist and with his band Ours. Here is what he had to say:

What is the hardest thing to get used to about touring?

Jimmy: “For us the hardest thing besides being away from family is trying to find a way to make the show run as consistently as possible from city to city and venue to venue. The sound changes every night, and so does the cast, so it’s very challenging to get comfortable on a whole.”

What unexpected events(good or bad) did you have while on the road?

Jimmy: “I would say that an audience can surprise you. Never underestimate an audience or phone in a performance just because it may be a small turnout. Sometimes they are very mighty in spirit!”

What is your favorite and least favorite things about touring?

Jimmy: “Favorite thing is the structure that it provides in life. The ability to play music for a living is a wonderful gift. Least favorite these days is all of the driving.”

What advice do you have for a band that is about to go on tour for the first time?

Jimmy:“Be safe out there. Don’t underestimate the road as far as how dangerous it is to be traveling. Just because you’re a band and having the time of your life, it doesn’t make you invincible. Enjoy the time, be present, give everything that you have to the performance, but don’t be reckless.”

Jimmy & his Band OURS just released their latest album “Ballet the Boxer 1” for information on that and their upcoming tour dates, please visit the Official OURS Homepage

Before speaking with Jimmy I didn’t realize how much driving was involved in touring, but not every part of playing music is fun(which I’ve learned the hard way) However it is rewarding work. “Well for starters, its easy to get wrapped up in the drugs and too much partying new bands on tour get sucked into that because they are touring and get into the whole rockstar thing” Says Dan Castiel. Dan is a founding member of the band Voo Doo Terror Tribe and currently does Artists relations for Redwood Entertainment. I also asked Dan: What does a booking agency look for in an Artist? He said : “Well [selling] t shirts and cds at shows are a great way to increase income. Agencies usually wont pick up an unsigned artist that’s pretty much it. I mean the agency, if they take on an artist they are essentially investing in them so the band needs to be very marketable”

Hiring a booking agency, if you are able will ease the burden off the band itself in terms of building a rapport with a venue or promoter, negotiating a fair guarantee for each show and ensuring that you will be playing a venue that is not only reputable, but the right fit for your band. Not to mention saving yourself hours of time NOT spent researching venues and calling each one.

If you decide to take the reins and book your own tour there are some things you should keep in mind to ask when considering a club to try and set a tour date with. Before I get to that I want to stress one important point: Avoid any promoter making you pre-sell tickets to an event.This is usually done on a local level so promoters can cover the cost of renting the club for the night,by making you go out and do the work plus it is illegal and musical industry professionals don’t pay attention to any shows or venues that follow these practices. Even if a major act is playing. So no you will not get a record deal by going and nagging people to buy tickets off you while a promoter is sitting at home devising his next scheme.

Anyways, back to the real business of booking shows: for starters clubs usually have a certain protocol in terms of how they book shows, most book at least 2 months in advance so I would suggest contacting some clubs while your album is still in the production stages (in order to build a rapport with each venue). I can not stress this enough, Learn&Follow the clubs booking procedures. For example some clubs do not except phone calls for booking shows, you will learn this when you are researching a club. Some clubs only allow calls for bookings on a certain day of the week, most likely because the person who handles the show bookings is only there one day a week (I don’t know how many times I have “cold called” a place and heard “this is the bartender”). And ask if they except press kits in the mail, or will they take information via the net.IMPORTANT: when sending any emails pertaining to your band make sure they are brief and to the point and that all spelling, grammar and punctuation is correct. Also make sure that you proof read your email and even print it out first before sending to take a good look at first. Any information you gather about a club should be written down or even put into a spreadsheet like on Microsoft Excel or something. Find out the name of the “current” person handling the booking and document that too(plenty of information you will get on a club and their staff is outdated, so it’s best to ask who does the bookings for safe measure). And of course be courteous, and again try to be quick and to the point (these clubs get dozens of calls about bands daily,so be quick because you have dozens of clubs to call as well) also thank them for their time. Never be rude with anyone when calling these places. For all you know you are speaking to the owner or a family member. Even if you are denied a booking for whatever reason (which will happen) still be thankful for their time (your professionalism will be remembered) and ask “Can I try back in few months and see if things change?” and “Can you recommend another club in your area?”. Also, if you are turned down, don’t get discouraged. It’s just one club think of it as job hunting, do you pout and complain if you apply for twenty jobs and only get three callback for interviews? And a no is a no for right now after all, if you are an unknown in the area the club is taking a big risk. So just keep playing and keep in contact with each club that you had a good rapport with and make them aware of what you are doing. It took me two years in some cases to get booked by certain promoters and I did exactly what I am telling you to do.

So where do you find these club you ask? As I had mentioned in part 1 of the Musical Artist’s Survival guide: the music business and promoting yourself Their is a book called The Music Atlas, which is printed every year that you can find out all the information about clubs you need. Their is also a great webpage you can go to that has information about clubs geared towards independent bands, as well as plenty of insider info on clubs such as rating and reviews from bands that have played their previously called Indie on the MoveAfter you have researched a club do find out how they accept information on bands(yes I know that I’m repeating myself but it is very important to follow the club’s booking procedures) after sending them your information give them about a week or two to review and then call back when you know someone will be there to speak to you or reach them via email. If the club is interested try to plan accordingly with your other tour dates to allow yourself enough time to get to said venue, time to rest between shows and negotiate a guarantee of payment. When doing so it is best to use the Booking Equation. Any professional venue will handle bookings this way, so make sure you follow this to a tee and ask the right questions. In order to do this equation you need to know 2 important variables: 1-the capacity of the venue and 2-how much is the average admission price. You should base your guarantee on how much the club will gross when the room is at 65% capacity(which is a realistic capacity to reach for at most events). For Example, say the venue holds 100 people and charges $10 per person. At full capacity the club would have made $1,000. So at 65% capacity the club would have made a profit of $650 (FYI- you are dividing the total amount that the venue would make at full capacity by .65, so get out those calculators!) this is what you will ask the club for in terms of your guarantee. Of course the promoter may not automatically agree to this. However, you must assure him or her that you have the same goal that they do: to fill the room and that you will be helping to promote the event as well (hopefully using some or all of the methods I suggested in my previous entry: the musical artist’s survival guide part 2: releasing your album). If the promoter still does not budge then take a lesser guarantee, say $500. Make sure you stress to them that you want it agreed that if the club does in fact go over the 65% capacity mark that your band would like a percentage of the whatever is made at the door. At this point you should also find out when the club wants you to load in your equipment, when they want you to do your soundcheck,will they provide a sound engineer,floor monitors, backline of some sort(also make them aware of what equipment you will be using by creating a Tech Rider and Stage plot)and if they can provide you with any amenities such as a dressing room, water, food and other drinks. All this must be put in writing before you set out to play any club. This is not a trust thing, think of a contract as a road map to how the event is being planned and what each party expects from the other. All reputable clubs will agree to signing a written contract after the terms are discussed, if they don’t just say thank you for your time and document it in your notes (or put a big X on this club’s info since they just wasted your time) If you are doing a full tour try and get all your contracts and tour dates in order first so you can have time to promote. A good example of a performance contract can be found By visiting this page and you may want to visit Docstoc as well. See this link for an example of a Tech Rider See this link to learn how to create your stage plot

It would also be a good idea to before you do any of this to gauge where your appeal is now from the start. Put out some feelers, see where your hits are coming from by asking your fans where they are from. Reward those fans who are most helpful with free downloads and other goodies such as pins, stickers, shirts and the likes. Fans will appreciate it and should know that they are appreciated, not to mention they will be more likely to be in attendance when you come to their city since you reached out to them personally (and if they do and you get the chance to meet them be friendly and agree to any autographs or pictures they ask from you and thank them for coming to the show-Good impressions will keep people coming and listening, bad impressions make people say home and throw your music in the garbage). Also look at the demographic information on your Reverbnation and Facebook pages. Here is another way to find out where the “demand” for your band. Set up an account with Like other sites that you can use to promote this page will allow you to post shows, but the great thing is that when you do your fans in that area will get an email if they demanded you. This widget may put all this demand stuff in perspective :

Yes I used my band’s own widget and you can see where people have demanded us so far. If you click demand you will see that you are asked to demand my band in your respective city, you demand us and get an email once we post our show on this page, so the work is done. And as a fan other bands (including major acts) you can find out as soon as show date is book and when tickets will be on sale.

Well I hope that this gives you some real insight into how touring is done and took out lots of the guess work for you. Remember: you are only as good as your last show, so make each one count and enjoy each moment it while it’s happening (believe me the audience will know if you are or not) and before you know it you will at another venue playing. I will let Metallica do the rest of the talking for me. Thanks again for reading. Best always, Nate

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