6 great tactics to connect with fans on the road

In this guest post, blues and rock musician Josh Urban shares the social media tactics he got from his recent railroad touring experience.

The greatest advantage of being an independent artist today is ironically also its biggest challenge: Anyone can jump in the game. So while the playing field may be level, it’s crowded. Access isn’t the issue – recognition is.

Here are 6 suggested tactics I’ve had success upping my game using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to go beyond music and build a fan base:

Josh used Amtrak to tour the East Coast.

1. Create an experience

Good music and showmanship are vital — but here’s a radical idea:  What if there’s even more that we can do?

Musicians have always been the ones bringing the coolest thing to town. If the traditional live show is already saturating the market, what else can we do to create an experience?  In my case, I decided to take a tour by train, harkening back to the blues musicians of old. I invited people to virtually “tour” with me using hashtags and social media.  I believe that everyone has a story, so I invited them all to share their worldview by using the hashtag #JURT (Josh Urban Rail Tour.)

“My stage became theirs as they posted text, photos, and ideas back to the tour, creating an exciting environment of inclusion, democracy, and conversation.”

At the end of the tour, I assembled all of the photos posted into a giant collage, a collaborative view of the world as we saw it.  The question is: what can you do to create a unique experience for your fans?  Ask yourself:  Do I have interests outside of music I can draw on? Is there a cause I care deeply about?  What else moves me?  

2. Involve people

For a long time, I forgot the first word of the phrase “social media.”  Unlike traditional media, social media allows conversation.  Engagement with fans turns them into friends.  People like to be heard, and to have others hear their opinions.  Check out the comments section of a news article, and you’ll find folks debating viewpoints — and the input has little or no outcome on the story.  It never seems to stop people, though!

So, instead of talking at people, I like to invite them to talk with me.  Since they’re doing it anyway, we might was well have a conversation.  The challenge: Give ’em something cool to talk about!  My tour turned into not just a journey, but a sharing of sights and ideas for everyone.  Plus, it made it a ton of fun!  How do I suggest involving people?  Which brings me to…

3. Make it easy

For me, I’ve never had much luck with asking people to remember things like “See this website on my CD?  Go to that later when you go home and sober up, then follow the link, and like my page.”  But  if I’m putting on a colorful show, people are probably going to snap a few Instagram shots of me.

On the rail tour, I told them that if they simply use the hashtag #JURT, they’d be part of a worldwide project.  I handed them a business card with the tour info on it and guess what – it worked great.  It was easy, and most importantly, they were doing it anyway.  I was able to throw a hashtag at them and get them to join in (and of course, follow them back on the networks!)

There are many other ways, but just remember: the simpler, the better.  I love hashtags, because you don’t have to know the person to interact, which is vital for building a fan base.

4. Their words, not mine 

People like to talk about stuff that involves them.  My new EP does not involve a stranger yet, so no matter how loudly I shout about it, they have little reason to listen to it, assuming they’ve never heard me play.  But, if they take a picture of me playing guitar and post it, now it’s in their worlds, and has something to do with them. This translates into interest, which turns into “Hey, I saw you in New York!  When’s your new EP coming out?”

“The more you get people to talk about your music in their own images and words, the better.”

5. Crossover appeal

By getting out of your comfort zone, you end up meeting people you would normally never meet. Future collabs anyone?

With the rail tour, I was able to interest not just fans of blues music, but also people who were intrigued with the idea, or who liked any aspect of it, such as traveling, trains, adventure, or stories.  It broadened my base, and made each conversation relevant to the project.

And believe me, I told everyone about it, meeting great connections accidentally! It also made it much more interesting to traditional media sources.  I was able to successfully pitch the tour to radio stations, newspapers, and even community television.  Another question to ask yourself:  Who else besides fans of your genre would enjoy knowing you?

6. Refine 

After every experiment, learn, refine and improve.  (Examples of things I learned: never try to eat a microwaved bagel, and give magazines plenty of lead time to meet their publishing deadlines.)

Remember to get busking permits ahead of time!

I’m looking forward to applying those lessons — and others — when I tour again this week, this time on my Search for Good Tour.  I’ll be touring by rail, playing children’s hospitals, street corners, cancer centers, and places that don’t have music.  I’ll be looking for the people, sights, and sounds that rock the world and I’ll be putting some good on the news for a change. (You’re invited to join me, of course!  Find some good, and post it with the #JURT hashtag!) I’ll be adding some other “cool factors,” such as bringing my home-built cigar box guitar and releasing an album on download cards in the form of a tour lanyard.

I’d like to end with six questions you can ask yourself:

  1. What can you do to create your own experience?
  2. How can you involve people?
  3. How can you make it easy for them to join in?
  4. How will they express it in their own words?
  5. Who else will this appeal to?
  6. What will you learn from the project?

I’d love to hear what you cook up!  Leave a comment below with your social media ideas and questions.

Josh Urban is currently recording an EP inspired by his first rail tour, and will be touring by rail again to support its release in May and June of 2013. He firmly believes all the world’s a stage, as shown on his Instagram feed. He can be reached via his website, Facebook, Twitter @DontJoshMe and Instagram @JoshUrban.

Sam6 great tactics to connect with fans on the road
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How to Tour Without Losing Money

In this guest post, full-time DIY musician Ari Herstand gives you tips on how make a profit while touring. Ari has opened for artists such as Ben Folds, Cake, Joshua Radin, Matt Nathanson and Ron Pope. His songs have been featured on TV shows like One Tree Hill and various Showtime and MTV shows. His latest studio album debuted at #11 on iTunes singer/songwriter charts. He writes an independent music business advice blog, Ari’s Take.

I’ve played over 500 shows in 40 states. I’ve played every possible venue imaginable from arenas and theaters to living rooms and high schools. Every tour I go on is still a combination of all sized venues (well, not quite arenas as consistently as I’d like).

Once I quit working at Starbucks years ago, I made the decision that I would find a way to make a living with my skills and talents that didn’t include knowing the proper amount of foam on a caramel macchiatto. I hit the road and since then I have learned how to make every tour financially successful. Let me say that again. Every tour that I have ever done, after expenses, has been profitable.

It blows my mind that musicians tour and LOSE money. This is totally avoidable, but I hear many musicians just accept this as a reality of the road. Don’t. If you want to be a professional musician, you have to figure out how to actually make money with your music.
+Book Your Own Tour: A How-To Guide

Follow these tips on the 8 basics of touring. If you can think of anything else, leave me a comment below!

Booking shows

Every show needs a purpose for the tour. Too many bands think that at every show the CEO of Atlantic Records’ brother will be in the house and he’ll make one phone call and turn them into superstars. That doesn’t happen. So once you accept that this is a business and it’s a slow grow and not a quick dash to play in front of “the right people,” it will change your mentality on the purpose of your tours.
+Shows Sell, Events Sellout

The purpose of every show should either be (or a mix of):

a) To help fund the tour (and your lives)

b) To gain exposure and build a fanbase.

Every show I play I still put to this test. For the shows with the biggest amount of exposure (for merch sales), I’m willing to accept a smaller guarantee. The shows that won’t offer much for exposure, merch sales or career advancement, I need a much higher guarantee.

But don’t get into the trap of convincing yourself that every show you’ll sell hundreds in merch and DON’T take free shows from restaurants or friends of your parents promising a big crowd and “you can sell your merch.” This is a trap and it almost never is as worth it as you think it will be.
+Our Tour Page Is Totally Full (of Empty Shows)

Play house concerts! These are some of my most profitable shows. If you’re a singer/songwriter it’s much easier. The promo is done by the host and most of the people that come (even just 20) buy lots of merch. Charge the host a guarantee of about $350 (but ask them to charge their guests $15 and if 24 people come they get a free concert). Every tour I include a few of these.

House concerts or living room concerts can be very profitable.

Of course most of your shows will be a percentage of the door — so you need to promote each show in each town heavily!
+50 Is The Magic Number (Book A Headlining Tour)

Once you have a tour made up of a healthy balance of (more) money shows and (less) exposure shows then you are ready to begin.

Who to bring on tour

Only bring people on the road who are absolutely necessary for your operation to work while still making a profit. If you can’t afford a sound guy at this stage, well, then don’t bring one. Even if they agree to do it for free, it’s not free. You’re gonna have to feed them, lodge them and once they see all the money coming in from the door or merch they’ll make it uncomfortable enough where you’ll get guilted into throwing them something.

Selling merch

Learn more about >> 4 Reasons Fans Buy Your Merch <<

Merch is your #1 income generator on the road. Believe it. Some shows you’ll make next to nothing from the door, but hopefully you’ll be able to leverage those in the house to buy some merch.

Make sure you always have someone manning your merch table from when the doors open to when people leave. If you can’t afford to bring a merch person on the road find a friend in that city (post status on Twitter and Facebook to request help) to run the table in exchange for free entrance to the show (or even a small % of sales). It’s worth it.

Especially if you’re on a bill with multiple bands or are playing for hours, most people won’t stay until the end of your set. If they like what they hear (even after one song), but have to take off early and they want your CD, if no one is at the merch table to sell it to them, you just lost a sale. Get a credit card swiper (like Square – it’s free). I nearly doubled my sales with this.
+Double Your Income… No Really

Saving on gas

Gas can kill tours. Don’t tour in a larger vehicle than necessary and don’t pull a trailer unless ABSOLUTELY necessary. I know 5 piece bands that can fit all their gear and merch in the back of their van.

Or you can buy a super economical veggie oil bus and drive coast to coast on less than $100 like the rock band Blameshift:

Routing

The best way to save on gas is to make sure you’re not driving out of the way. No huge tour routing will ever be perfect, but keep the backtracking to a minimum (if ever).

Lodging

Don’t get hotels until you’re making serious money. And even then try Priceline “name your own price” (not getting a kickback but I SHOULD) — I get $45 4 star hotels that way. It’s a nice little mid-tour perk to get off of the beer stained couch for a night. Invest in an air mattress and sleeping bag so you can keep your lodging portable and all you’ll require is floorspace.

Blowing money

You must (as a band) make a decision early on if you want this project to be just for fun or for profession. If everyone is on the same page that you want to be a professional outfit then you must act like it.
+Double Your Income…No Really

Most venues will give you drink tickets. Don’t ever buy drinks at the bar you’re playing — it’s a waste of money and you don’t need it (BUT always tip your bartender on free drinks).

When you stop to fill up you don’t need the $2 bottle of water or soda. Those add up. Get a water bottle and fill that up.

Saving on food

If you’re out for awhile, go grocery shopping as a band. Buying in bulk obviously saves and if you bring a cooler along, you can spend more on ice and less on Subway.

The road is a mix of saving money and making money (as is life), but it’s magnified when you’re on tour. Always keep coming up with ways to make more money (merch combos, house shows, PLAY COLLEGES, better targeted promo to get more to show up). Don’t tour to just say you’re going on tour. Tour to grow your base WHILE making money.

If you’re still stuck and need more specific ways to get your tours to become even more profitable or want to embark on your big first tour, let’s Get Specific. 

And if you have questions or want to share your touring experience, leave us a comment below!

Ari can be reached on Twitter and Facebook, and you can find his music hereSign up on Ari’s Take Newsletter: http://aristake.com/signup.html

SamHow to Tour Without Losing Money
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ReverbNation Gigs & Things #4

Below you will find just a few of the ReverbNation Opportunities that we have brokered for our Artists.  These opportunities consist mostly of performance slots at Festivals, Conferences, Awards Shows, Tours, and Clubs but also include Songwriting Competitions, Licensing Opportunities, Music & Video Reviews, and more.  Artist’s can find these and more in their OPPORTUNITIES section of their ReverbNation Dashboard!

ReverbNation’s goal is to keep providing value to the Artists at the lowest possible cost. We always try to broker Opportunities with no Submission Fees but sometimes a Promoter needs to charge a Submission Fee and since ReverbNation does NOT take a % of the fee, we often times get a very reduced rate for our artists!

Feel free to share this blog post with your fellow artists!  And without further ado,

New Opportunity Listings:

Last Chance/Reminder  Opportunities:

And Always Available from ReverbNation:

The ReverbNation website now attracts 25 million visitors per month.  Get Featured on the Home Page at ReverbNation Featured Artist of the Week

Just a few of the Artists selected this week by our Promoters:

  • The IC Agency selected Sword Swallower Dan Meyer, Parish County, Melodime, Transit Vocal Band and Chelsea Green and the Green Project for its Agency Roster and College Bookings!  More performers are still needed.
  • Telesma was selected to play at Camp Bisco with The Disco Biscuits, Cut Copy, Wiz Khalifa, Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, Death From Above 1979, MSTRKRFT, Ghostland Observatory, Yeasayer and 100+ more artists!
  • Johnny Spanish, Lyriciss, Dee-One and Big Rec are the first 4 Reverb artists slected for A3C Hip Hop Festival.
  • Creation Northwest selected Heather StanleyCam & DrewVizion (AKA The Trailblaza).
  • Insigniya was selected to play at the Liberate Festival.
  • Sam & Nate has been selected to perform on the Camplified Tour

Things to Know:

Submissions require a free ReverbNation account and ReverbNation Press Kits.  If you do not have a ReverbNation Press Kit, activate your 30 day free trial now!

If you have an Opportunity(s) that is valuable to some or all of ReverbNation’s 1.5million artists, please go to Festivals/Events/Tours/Opportunities and choose Festival/Event.  That will take you to the application, and after you fill it out, a rep will be in touch shortly!

If you are a Venue, please check out the only comprehensive Venue Application on Facebook, Venue Profile App on Facebook.  Any questions, give us a shout!

Thanks,

Lou Plaia & the RN Staff (no, it is not a band name)

Lou PlaiaReverbNation Gigs & Things #4
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ReverbNation Gigs & Things

Every Monday we will post some information regarding the ReverbNation Opportunities we have brokered for our Artists.  These opportunities consist mostly of performance slots at Festivals, Conferences, Awards Shows, Tours, and Clubs but also include Songwriting Competitions, Licensing Opportunities, Music & Video Reviews, and more.

Since ReverbNation does not take a % of the Submission Fee that may be charged by some Promoters, we are often times able to offer Opportunities that have no Submission Fees or very discounted Submission Fees. Our goal is to keep providing value to the Artists, at the lowest cost possible!

Instead of spamming you with summary emails each week, just add the RSS feed in the upper right corner and you’ll be up to speed on all our opportunities. Feel free to share this blog post with your fellow artists!  And without further ado,

New Opportunity Listings:

Last Chance to Submit Opportunities:

And Always Available from ReverbNation:

The ReverbNation website now attracts 25 million visitors per month.  Get Featured on the Home Page at ReverbNation Featured Artist of the Week

Just a few of the Artists selected this week by our Promoters – BUT Congrats to All of You:

  • The ASPS were selected to have their record produced by Ron Nevison (producer/engineer whose credits include The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Ozzy Osbourne, Bad Company, Barbra Streisand, Jefferson Starship, Chicago, Styx, Heart, Damn Yankees, Thin Lizzy and more.)
  • Dee-1 and BIGREC are two ReverbNation Artists that have been selected already to perform at this year’s A3C Hip Hop Festival.  Submissions are still open and at least 4 more ReverbNation slots are still available at A3C Hip Hop Festival.

Things to Know:

Submissions require a free ReverbNation account and active subscription to ReverbNation Press Kits.  If you do not have a ReverbNation Press Kit, activate your 30 day free trial now!

If you have an Opportunity(s) that is valuable to some or all of ReverbNation’s 1.4million artists, please go to http://www.reverbnation.com/controller/main/signup and choose Festival/Event. That will take you to the application, and after you fill it out, a rep will be in touch shortly!

If you are a Venue, please check out the only comprehensive Venue Application on Facebook, Venue Profile App on Facebook.  Any questions, give us a shout!

Thanks,

Lou Plaia & the RN Staff (no, its not a band name)

Lou PlaiaReverbNation Gigs & Things
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Gig Finder: The largest free, searchable venue database

Trying to plan a tour?

Looking for all the music venues in a specific area?

Need recommendations of venues that fit your type of music and the capacity that fits you best?

Try Gig Finder right now for free! It’s one of the largest free venue databases in the world, and can even recommend venues that fit you based on where you’ve played in the past, where comparable Artists like you play when they tour, and venues that book your type of music.

GigFinder is easily accessible to every artist on ReverbNation.   Just login to ReverbNation and click on the “Shows” tab in your Control Room, and then hit the “Gig Finder” link:

To get a list of recommended venues that fit you best, open the “Get Recommendations” tab and enter the location for which you want venue recommendations. It also offers advanced options, such as finding a venue in a different town that is similar to one you already play in your town, or finding a venue that has hosted a specific band similar to yours.

When you press the “Recommend” button, you’ll get an exhaustive list of all of the venues in the area you specified that match your criteria, sorted by how well they fit you.  Of course, if you have never entered any shows into the system, it will be more difficult for Gig Finder to find the best matches.  But, you can still search for venues similar to the ones you would play in your home town or that have hosted specific Artists.

From there, you can choose multiple venues with the checkboxes, and click “Send Press Kit To Selected Venues” and get one form which you can use to e-mail all of your chosen venues.  When you send the ReverbNation Press Kit (RPK) to those venues, we track which venues open and play the music in your press kit for you.

With Gig Finder, planning a tour and sending out booking inquiries has never been easier. Gig Finder saves you time and money.  Why pay for a venue database when you can use our free Gig Finder service to help you find the right venues for you?

Let us know about the shows you’ve booked using GigFinder in the comments!

ShellyGig Finder: The largest free, searchable venue database
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