How to Book a Successful Tour: Tips from Ground Control Touring’s Jim Romeo

Jim Romeo first began booking tours in 1990 as an assistant in an agency that booked some of the 90's biggest alternative acts like Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr , Liz Phair, and The Lemonheads. Jim later started his own agency — Ground Control Touring — and relocated to Carrboro, NC (just outside of Chapel Hill). Today, Ground Control represents some of the biggest names in indie rock and pop, including Belle & Sebastian, Grizzly Bear, Neutral Milk Hotel, Sleater-Kinney, Bright Eyes, Superchunk, She & Him, and Kurt Vile.

What is the best way to begin planning a tour? What elements does a band need to consider?

JimRomeo

Ground Control Touring’s Jim Romeo

A tour is generally planned around an album release, but not always. Typically a tour would start a little after the release date and initially start with larger cities first. Since this is usually the start of the band’s touring cycle, it is a good idea for the band to pace themselves a bit, as they will likely be looking to tour worldwide. In other words, if you’ve never toured before, or haven’t toured in awhile, you don’t want to get into touring with a month-long string of dates across the country. Start slow with a few out-of-town weekend runs and work your way up.

How does a band make money on tour? Should an artist be willing to lose money for the sake of touring?

When bands are first starting out it is hard to make money, there’s no way around that. So at the earlier stages, touring is more about promoting their music (and themselves) and trying not to lose too much. Keeping costs down is key. Staying at friends’ houses, touring with less gear to avoid renting a van, bringing merchandise to sell, doing a lot of free (or cheap) social media promotion for each show, etc.

When should an artist stop touring?

I think when they have covered as much territory as they able to. If their initial tour was successful and it seems apparent they could return to some cities and play larger venues, then there’s reason to continue to tour. Or sometimes an opportunity will present itself to get in front of a different audience presents itself (such as opening for a larger act). So as long as things are growing, it’s good to stay out there. If that starts to level off or fatigue settles in (which it will), sometimes a break from touring is very necessary.

Whose responsibility is it to promote each show on tour? (The artist? The venue? The promoter?) What can an out-of-town band do to promote each stop on the tour?

If you’re involved in the show as either an artist, the venue, or the promoter, you have an equal stake in making sure it’s a great show. Everyone needs to be promoting on social media (make Facebook events for each tour stop and make sure the venue and promoter have access) and other traditional methods like local radio, flyers, and posters.

What comes first — a record label or booking agent? Do booking agents work with artists who aren’t signed?

Typically a record label or at least a release (be it with a label or self-released) will come first, but some bands can create a big buzz with just a few songs. Sometimes agents will pick up bands who are not signed but feel very strongly that they will be signed fairly soon.

Let us know about your own tips and experiences with booking a tour in the comments!

Learn more about Ground Control touring here.

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KevinHow to Book a Successful Tour: Tips from Ground Control Touring’s Jim Romeo

5 comments

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  • Emery - December 5, 2015 reply

    Interested in getting more information on siting up tour

    Sam - December 7, 2015 reply

    Thanks for writing in, Emery. Are there any specific questions you were looking to have answered?

  • Drea - December 11, 2015 reply

    The proper PR for a tour can really help. http://bit.ly/1OXnP6d

  • Omega Fade - December 26, 2015 reply

    Thanks for writing this. I am a one man band who has never toured before. Is there a place to find the best bookable venues in the Pacific Northwest? What I mean is; are there companies that can do this for me, so a venue would be more likely to book me?

    Sam - December 29, 2015 reply

    Hello! Glad you enjoyed the post. We recommend checking out the Gig Finder service under the Tools menu in your artist Dashboard. That will allow you to find venues in a certain geographic area, as well as tailor your results by what genres they accept, who has played there before you, and more options. Hope that helps!

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