Life on the Road: Top 8 Touring Tips from Smooth Hound Smith

Smooth Hound Smith, the foot stompin' American roots duo who have travelled over 80,000 road miles and played over 500 shows in 30 plus states, shared their Top 8 Touring Tips with us. From learning basic auto repair to eating healthy, these tips will help you plan a successful tour.

Here are some things that have served me well while on the road.  Some of them are useful for folks just starting out; other things are great no matter how much touring you’ve done.  They’re in no particular order:

  • Learn some basic auto repair and get regular oil changes every 3,000 miles.  (no vehicle = no tour)
  • Avoid fast food like the plague.  Local diners are where it’s at, or take a cooler with you and get ice everyday, stock up on veggies and healthy stuff at grocery stores.  You’ll feel better and look better.
  • Keep track of your merch, your sales, your numbers, as much as you can.  If you want to take touring and playing seriously, you gotta develop some business acumen
  • Pronounce the name of the town you’re in like the locals do (i.e. Lafayette = “laugh-e-yet”, Prescott = “press-kit”).  Get it right.
  • Keep a log of good places to eat, good local radio stations, and good, independent music shops all over the country.
  • Have a lot of material.  Sometimes, especially when you’re starting out, you’ll need to cover two or three sets, or an entire night, so learn some covers, write a lot of originals, and just be versatile.
  • Bring extra everything (cables, strings, mics, foldable merch table).
  • Don’t bring instruments you care too much about or that are irreplaceable, and don’t be careless with your stuff.


What are your top touring tips? Share them in a comment below.

If you missed part 1 of Life on the Road, check it out here.

CaseyLife on the Road: Top 8 Touring Tips from Smooth Hound Smith
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Life on the Road: Touring Tips from Smooth Hound Smith

After traveling over 80,000 road miles and playing over 500 shows in 30 plus states, it's easy to say that Smooth Hound Smith knows a thing or two about touring. We recently chatted with the foot stompin' American roots duo about touring, life on the road, and more.

How do you start planning for a tour?

At the beginning, planning for a tour revolved almost entirely around getting the shows in place.  For the first three-and-a-half years we were a band, I sat at my computer or with my phone for several hours a day and booked nearly everything for us.  I had a system that involved multiple open browser windows: one to find a venue and check it out and see if it was a good fit, one to send the promoter an email (or follow-up email), one of a map I could refer to if I didn’t know how far a drive was between two cities, etc…

The goal was to score an anchor date (a well-paying or high-profile gig), then route the tour around it.  

I would use personal connections and follow up with people who made loose, perhaps even empty offers at our shows. If I didn’t follow up on every potential opportunity that came our way, it would really bother me a lot, like I was missing out on something.

I would use to route our tours, just trying to find venues that were interested in our kind of music and that could offer a guarantee that could help us pay for gas and food.

Planning a tour is different for us now because we have a management team and a good agent.  We still do a lot of prep work because the stakes are a little higher now, and it involves a lot more strategy in regards to where we go and when, and where we play, but it’s also a lot more rewarding.

How do you promote your shows? Do you have different tactics in different markets?

A lot of markets are different, but there are certainly some basic things that we try to do for every show.  Social media plays a huge role in promoting.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and ReverbNation are the big four for us, and now we’re learning that Spotify is an excellent tool for promotion, as well.

A lot of musicians have a problem with Spotify and other streaming services because they don’t see the value and reach they have.  I can only speak for what works for us, and in our experience, nearly every single show we play these days, we have AT LEAST five or ten people who come up to us and say something like “I didn’t know who you were yesterday, but you showed up in a Spotify playlist, and I loved it, so I’m here”.  That’s huge.  And more times than not, those people buy a CD of the music and a t-shirt even though they can stream the tunes for free.  

In addition to having our tour dates linked up with Spotify, we still do old-school promo moves like making sure to send physical posters to the venue (weeks in advance!), or trying to get a good, high-visibility print piece in a local publication where we’re playing.  Those things should never be undervalued.

What is your favorite part of touring?

Playing music for a living is great, as is making our own schedule and seeing a whole lot of the country, but meeting new people every night who we’ve moved or whose lives we’ve positively impacted with our music is just incredible to me.

I love hearing how our album was the soundtrack to a young couple’s first road trip, or that a specific song was a married couple’s first dance at their wedding, or that someone listened to a song of ours and it really touched them, made them bawl their eyes out for 45 minutes while driving around aimlessly.  I can’t imagine that stuff ever getting old.

What are some good ways to save money on the road?

The biggest money-saver we have on the road by far is sleeping in the van instead of paying for lodging every night.  Also, you can save yourself money by saving your receipts for everything and writing it off as a business expense.  If you’re touring, you’re a pro, right?

What are your tips for touring? Share them in a comment below!


Check back next week for Smooth Hound Smith’s top touring tips and check out their current tour dates here!

CaseyLife on the Road: Touring Tips from Smooth Hound Smith
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6 Ways to Build Your Music Career with YouTube

We spoke to YouTube stars Maddie Wilson, Noah Guthrie, and Ali Brustofski about how they used YouTube to build their career. For this post, we've compiled their 6 most essential tips on how to build a devoted fanbase using one of the world's most popular websites.

Quality and consistency are the two most important factors

This was far and away the most popular piece of advice we heard. You have to establish a consistent schedule when posting content for your fans — the more they can come to expect a new video at a certain time each day or week, the more likely you are the draw them back in. And always keep upping the quality of your videos, whether through better equipment or higher production value.

If you’re posting covers, make sure they’re songs people want to hear

When choosing your next cover, make sure that you’re not spending time on something out-of-date or just flat-out wrong for your audience. And if the song doesn’t move you, don’t expect your performance of it to move your audience!

Build a buzz before posting any new material

Before you release a new video, make sure your fans know that it’s coming! Tease out short clips or drop hints for your fans in the days leading up to your release, and don’t forget to post about the video again after your first release it. You need to keep that song in your fans’ newsfeeds (and in their heads) for days.

Collaborate with artists similar to your size

Collaboration is one of the best ways we saw these artists growing their fanbase. By working on a song with another YouTuber, those artists were able to effectively double their fanbase and cross-promote each other. But don’t expect to be able to work with the highest-viewed artist when you’re first starting off. Try and find someone with a similar sized audience as you, and work up from there.

Find out what your audience wants to hear from time to time

While it’s important to select covers and perform originals that are true to your voice as an artist, it’s never a bad idea to get ideas from your fans. Ask them what their favorite song is, or what song they’d like to hear you cover next.

Make each song your own

Whether you’re restyling an entire song or just changing the tempo, make sure that any cover you perform is a version that represents you as an artist. And when you’re working on new original music, be true to your voice. Don’t push yourself into musical territories if they don’t feel natural for you.

Want to learn more about how Noah Guthrie, Maddie Wilson, and Ali Brustofksi got to where they are today? Check out our in-depth interviews with each of them below:

5 YouTube Tips For Musicians from GLEE’s Noah Guthrie
How Maddie Wilson Used YouTube To Build a Career in Music
6 YouTube Tips For Emerging Musicians from Ali Brustofski


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6 YouTube Tips For Emerging Musicians from Ali Brustofski

Learn how this YouTube star created a passionate audience using simple but effective techniques that any emerging artist can benefit from.

From a young age, Ali Brustofksi had a passion for music. She grew up watching her dad, a musical theater performer, and knew that she needed to be on a stage. After trying her hand at theater, she discovered that writing and sharing her own material was the path for her. She wanted to create her own voice, “instead of playing a character onstage.”

So when people like Justin Bieber and Esmee Denters began to break out on YouTube, she thought she’d try her hand at uploading a few cover songs of her own. Ali said she didn’t have a clear idea of how a successful YouTube channel was run at first, uploading “random choir videos and songs people weren’t searching for.”

She soon began fine-tuning her approach, realizing that using current hit songs that people were searching for was a great way to start getting her name out. She began pouring over iTunes, Billboard, and radio charts to find her next cover and plan her next post. Pretty soon, she had amassed a sizeable fanbase on YouTube, with more than 500,000 subscribers and 100 million total views to date.

Ali says that a successful YouTube presence is all about two things: quality and consistency. You should post as often as you can, but making sure to keep your videos high quality. It’s also helpful if you are posting covers of songs that you really love to sing: “People can totally see through it if you’re not into what you’re singing,” she says. 

But don’t neglect to promote and share your original work, either. For example, with Ali’s latest single (“When I Fall”), she gave her fans (affectionately dubbed Alinators) plenty of advance warning that a new song was coming. She builds a buzz before the song is released so that people are waiting for it to drop, rather than posting unannounced.

Like most successful YouTubers, Ali has also collaborated with several different artists through the site. “It’s a small community, so pretty much everyone knows each other at this point,” making it easier to find people to work with. If you’re looking to build your channel, find channels that are around the same size as yours, so that the collaboration will be mutually beneficial for both artists.


Above all, Ali knows that she has to stay connected with the Alinators who have helped her get where she is today. Without their support, she says, nothing would be possible. Ali often takes to her channel to ask what her fans want to here, which is a great way to establish a one-on-one connection with her audience. “YouTube gives you an amazing opportunity that a lot of mainstream acts don’t necessarily have, and I’m forever grateful for that.”

Key Takeaways

  • If you’re posting covers, make sure they’re songs people want to hear
  • Quality and consistency are the two most important factors when posting
  • Only post songs that you love singing
  • Build a buzz before posting any new original material
  • Collaborate with artists similar to your size
  • Find out what your audience wants to hear from time to time
Sam6 YouTube Tips For Emerging Musicians from Ali Brustofski
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How Maddie Wilson Used YouTube To Build a Career in Music

Learn how Maddie Wilson used YouTube to grow a loyal fanbase and check out some exclusive tips for getting the most out of YouTube.

A few years ago, Maddie Wilson saw YouTube becoming a destination for music lovers, and she needed to get in on the action. Recording covers of her favorite songs songs seemed like an easy way to break into the scene, so she started posting when she was about 13.

MWilsonBut it wasn’t until two years later that she started seriously using YouTube to build a career in music. She began posting more regularly and creating higher quality videos, shaping her own style with ease. And though she had plenty of original music for her fans, it was her covers that were getting the most attention.

“I think what makes me different is that I take a lot of Pop songs and make them a little more Country, adding my own style,” she explains. “There are a lot more Pop YouTubers than Country, so I think that really helps me stand out.”

Unlike the traditionally more competitive aspects of the music industry, YouTube’s community has a much more collaborative dynamic. Maddie says most of the YouTube creators she’s met have been really supportive. It’s almost like a family, with everyone willing to work with each other.

Maddie has collaborated with a ton of other successful YouTubers, including Lindsay Stirling, Madilyn Page, Bored Shorts TV, KFace TV, and others. She’s even worked across genres and countries, including making a version of Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” with European rapper Black Prez.

I think that collaborations are a huge deal — they can make or break your YouTube career.

She also used this approach for the music video of her single, “Chelsey’s Boyfriend,” which features some of her closest YouTube friends.


If you look closely, you’ll see that my silver play button came! 100k subscribers y’all!! #thanksyoutube

A photo posted by Maddie Wilson (@maddiewilsonmusic) on

Over time, Maddie’s videos became more and more polished. She has taken care to improve both the video and audio quality wherever she could, as she knew this would help attract a bigger audience and the attention of brands. She still makes plenty of at-home acoustic cover videos, but she knows she has to vary up her approach to keep her audience coming back.

Her strategy has definitely paid off. A little more than a year ago, Maddie had her first 1-million-view video: her cover of Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Getting Back Together.” Though it took almost a year to reach that point, the momentum the video created was powerful. Today, she’s reached the 100,000-subscriber mark and has seven videos with more than 500,000 views.



Here are 4 tips from Maddie as to how you can get the most out of YouTube, and please share any advice you might have in the comments!

1) Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate

Collaborating with other artists and YouTubers will expose you to a wider audience and can help grow your fan base. You can also learn a lot from other content creators and pick up some new ideas.
“YouTubers love doing collaborations because they help both artists. Artists have different fan bases, so its a great way to increase awareness and grow your fan base.”

2) Make the Song Your Own

Put your own spin on a popular song. Whether you’re restyling to fit a new genre, like Maddie, or you’re changing the tempo, create a version that represents you as an artist.
“I think what makes me different is that I take a lot of pop songs and make them a little more country, adding my own style.”

3) Have Well Made, Interesting Videos

After a couple years or posting YouTube covers, Maddie began posting more professional videos. Rather than just sitting in front of the camera, she began making actual music videos for her covers. Have fun and know what you’re audience wants to see.
“In ‘We Are Never Getting Back Together,’ I’m shoving ice-cream in my face. It was silly and fun and I think people liked that.”

4) Find a Unique Angle and Go With It

A lot of the most popular YouTubers live at the Pop end of the music spectrum. When Maddie first started out, she knew that adding her own Country spin on traditional Pop songs would grab the attention of fans, and she was right. So if you have something unique about your music — Do you play the ukelele? Are you doing Folk covers of Metal songs? — make sure you emphasize it! It’s important to have that initial niche that separates you from other artists. Use that to grab people’s attention and then you can start building an audience.
“I take a lot of Pop songs and make them a little more Country, adding my own style. There are a lot more Pop YouTubers than Country, so I think that really helps me stand out.”

JordanHow Maddie Wilson Used YouTube To Build a Career in Music
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5 YouTube Tips For Musicians from GLEE’s Noah Guthrie

Looking to use YouTube as more than just a way to share your latest video? Here are some tips from GLEE star Noah Guthrie on how to advance your career using one of the world’s biggest music discovery sites.

1) Have a Continuous Stream of Content

“Have that set day where you want to post, every week or every other week. For whatever reason 1-4 or 2-5 PM seems to be the golden time to post videos on YouTube.”

2) Choose the Right Songs

“You want to choose something that’s super popular so you get views, but at the same time, if you do that all the time you get super bored and burnt out. There are only so many pop artists on the scene, so you get bored if you don’t do what you love. But you know, I think it’s more of the actual content — people don’t really care too much about the song. “

3) Have Good Content

“Honestly, it may sound silly, but just make sure you have good content. You know, if you’re doing a cover of a song don’t half-do the cover — do the best you can do and make it your own because no one wants to hear the same song over and over and over again. That’s not why they’re going to your YouTube page.”

4) Get Creative

“For me, when I have to translate something to just me and an acoustic, I might have to re-work the song’s bridge. Not because I think it was bad or anything like that, but just because it just won’t work for what I’m doing. I can’t just go to the bridge of the song and hit one note and do a bass drop with my mouth. I have to put new chords there…but that’s actually fun.”

5) Use It As a Tool

“I’ve met a lot people where that’s their job, YouTube. You can buy a house off of YouTube, or a car. But for me, it’s always been just another tool, just like GLEE was a tool. For me it’s always about the song and my original stuff, that’s my goal.”

About Noah Guthrie

Noah Guthrie first started using YouTube as a way to share his music with family and friends. But after his acoustic cover of U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” led to an endorsement from Ellen DeGeneres, Noah knew YouTube was a chance to create real success.

The [U2] video got me a ton of exposure, so we thought, ‘The video got seen by Ellen, who else can it get seen by?’ 

Noah Guthrie_edited-7378So Noah put together as much of his own original material as he could and hit the road, eventually getting spotted by Selena Gomez (who helped him land a manager). He began posting more and more videos, but his biggest break came from the unlikely pairing of his soulful voice with LMFAO’s hit single, “Sexy and I Know It.” The video received millions of views in just its first week, and it currently boasts more than 23 million views.

The video’s success, along with his avid touring, lead to him performing on shows like NBC’s The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and securing a role on the final season of GLEE. 

Noah is currently hard at work on a new album, and he isn’t worried about navigating the crossover from YouTube star to bonafide musician:

I’ve been really lucky that people will come to my shows because of YouTube or Glee, but they always stay for my stuff and leave with an album…I’m just very lucky.



Jordan5 YouTube Tips For Musicians from GLEE’s Noah Guthrie
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No Band Is An Island: 4 Tips For Embracing Your Local Music Scene

In addition to working at ReverbNation both as a Customer Support rep and a copywriter for the Marketing department, I have spent the last eight years playing music in the Triangle music scene (Raleigh, Durham, & Chapel Hill). My bands Lilac Shadows, T0W3RS, and Soft Company have toured the east coast and released several full-length albums, EPs, and splits with other area bands.

Everyone acknowledges that the Internet and social media changed the game for independent musicians, providing powerful tools to engage current fans and reach new ones. But while this hyper-connectivity and one-click sharing encourages us all to think on a global scale, I’d like emphasize the value of thinking small — specifically, how important your own local music scene remains.

SamNo Band Is An Island: 4 Tips For Embracing Your Local Music Scene
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Building Your Fanbase: How To Use House Concerts To Create Superfans

This is a guest post from Shannon Curtis, an independent musician, recording artist, and author based in Los Angeles. 
Shannon Curtis, ReverbNation artist

“If only …

… that one music supervisor could hear my new song, then …”

… that one label rep could catch one of my shows, then …”

… that one venue would return my email and give me a good time slot on a great bill, then …”

… then what?

Independent musicians, myself included, often think that there is one road to “success” when it comes to a career in music.

The reality is, being a career musician looks different for everyone…and the roads we each travel can be extremely varied. I believe I’ve discovered path to independent success for artists who want to build their fanbase, create a successful music career, and own 100% of the results. [Tweet This]

SamBuilding Your Fanbase: How To Use House Concerts To Create Superfans
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