ReverbNation CONNECT artist manager (and former booking agent with The Windish Agency) Sharyn Goldyn lays out the ways that emerging artists can make the most out of their first tours. Read on for advice that will make your next (or first) tour a success.
What is the best way to begin planning a tour? What elements does a band need to consider?
It really depends on how much is going on with the artist and how much money they have to spend. Everyone has to start somewhere but to get the most out of your time on the road, it’s helpful for there to be some sort of story behind the artist: a new release, a few good reviews on blogs, a decent social media following, some sort of buzz like significant streams on Spotify, etc.
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?
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.
In my last post, I discussed the value of being a part of your own local music community. As a follow-up, I talked to a few venue owners and talent buyers to get their insights into how artists can get the most out of their local scene.
Yes, this may be an obvious piece of advice. But you’d be surprised at how often artists spend more time worrying about things other than their music. Richard Sloven, talent buyer for the Knitting Factory – Brooklyn NYC says:
Richard Sloven, Talent Buyer for The Knitting Factory
“You can spend endless energy trying to come up with marketing gimmicks or spending money on PR, videos, recording, etc., but it doesn’t really mean anything if you aren’t good.”
Essentially, you need to be sure that your live product is as finely tuned as it can possibly be. None of the hard work spent promoting or packaging your music is worth a thing if you can’t capture someone’s attention in a live setting. Mark Connor, talent buyer/owner for Slim’s and The Cave (Raleigh/Chapel Hill, NC) says:
Wondering who submits to all those opportunities you see in your email inbox every week? What happens after submissions close? Our monthly Breaking Artists newsletter, along with this nice, shiny blog post, breaks it down and shows you some of the opportunity winners.
Take a look and a listen, show your support for your fellow musicians and send them kudos in the comments.
Breaking Artists are selected by Reverb staff from opportunity winners. Increase your chances of being one of them by submitting to opportunities here >>
Got a feature in the May issue ofCen Cal Magazine…
Marina V is a Russian-born recording artist with a hauntingly beautiful voice, whose melodic and passionate music has been influenced by the Beatles, Tchaikovsky and Tori Amos. This month, Marina was featured onCen Cal Mag, a new online magazine about art, music, food and fashion in Central California.
“Thank you ReverbNation for being so awesome! I’ve been submitting for the last two years to the RN opportunities and have won several, including magazine features, video features and a couple of radio shows. When the Cen Cal Magazine feature came out, they tweeted about my music and posted on their FB page as well, which was really cool.”
Played the Carolina Railhawks postgame party…
Folk-rock band Pinkerton Raid performing at Carolina Railhawks postgame party.
A family band, Pinkerton Raid is consisted of siblings Jesse, Katie and Steven, plus husband and wife Tim and Laura Wooten on drums and a second keyboard, respectively. The band came together in the retro-pop renaissance of North Carolina’s Triangle region, sharing strong influences like the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young with a core of local acts. Jesse, a soccer fan, was really excited to perform at a stadium with thousands of other soccer lovers. Plus, he knew that playing at the Carolina Railhawks postgame party wouldn’t be just another nightclub gig: the band would get exposure to an audience they might not otherwise reach.
“We had won a couple of previous opportunities, but this was by far the best. It was a well-paying gig and gave us exposure to an audience we might not otherwise reach.For us, making music is all about bringing people together. We try to make music that people at different places in life can get into. A family sporting event turned out to be a great place for us to do that.”
Performed at the Montauk Music Festival…
Alternative Reggae Hip-hop fusion band Oogee Wawa from Long Island, NY.
Take Gym Class Heroes and Sublime; mix them in blender and you have Oogee Wawa, a NY-basedAlternative Reggae Hip-hop fusion band. Oogee Wawa’s hard work and determination has honored them spots performing with many national touring acts such as: 311, Slightly Stoopid, SOJA, Sublime with Rome, Rehab, Rusted Root, Badfish, Ballyhoo!, The Supervillians & 40oz To Freedom. A Montauk Music Festival veteran, Oogee Wawa’s guitarrist JP says the 4-day music celebration gets better every year. “It’s such a positive vibe out there and we always seem to be more excited about it every time it comes around,” he said. “Plus, the bon fire jam parties we throw at the end of every night are pretty epic.”
“To be highlighted in what is becoming a huge festival over 100s of bands is an amazing feeling. When you put in as much work and sacrifice into your music as we do, it’s awesome to get noticed for it. We are extremely grateful!!”
Performed at the 12th annual Florida Music Festival…
A Brilliant Lie is a think-outside-the-box alternative rock band from Orlando, FL. They have performed multiple shows at the famous House of Blues (both as a supporting & headlining act). This was their fourth time performing at the Florida Music Festival, where they have supported acts like Anberlin, Minus the Bear, Less Than Jake, and more!
Rocked the stage at MOVE Music Festival 2013…
Electronic Dance duo Young London performing at MOVE Music Festival 2013.
Young London is the power-duo of electronic wizard Matt Rhoades and sassy songstress Sarah Graziani. They met in 2010 and quickly realized the two could create explosive electro-pop primed for mainstream radio play. They have toured all over the country, after making their debut at South By Southwest Music Festival in 2011. Last month, they got the chance to perform at MOVE Music Festival in Albany, NY, which is an event that gives exposure to regional talent through live performances at select venues.
“Our experience with ReverbNation has been a great one. The Move Music Festival was a fantastic venue to get our music heard by a whole new crowd. After the show, we got to meet some awesome fans, as well as industry professionals. It was definitely a really fun and positive event for us!!”
– Young London
Young London is now running a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the release of their upcoming EP and tour. Check it out when you get the chance!
More Winners: John Frederick, Deedub
John Frederick performed at Reno Earth Day: “ReverbNation has provided such a wonderful platform for so many of us struggling artists to get recognition and exposure. It is amazing to think that I have people all over the world enjoying some or all of the tunes that I am so lucky to write.” Photo by Debbie McCarthy.
Hip hop artist from Long Beach, CA, Deedub played the Lunar Independent Music Festival: “I submit to a lot of opportunities on ReverbNation and I have been connected to many events, awards, publications, and online radio through the opportunities system. It works great and basically helps us to get the kind of exposure that people pay PR firms for. Which helps save our budget for other things like music production. The Lunar Music Fest went great, there were several venues with live music and we were invited to play a few different gigs through the event. We headlined the main show at The Complex main stage which holds about 800-1000 people so it was one of our bigger shows to date.”
Haven’t seen Renman MB Live? Then you’re missing out on one of the music industry’s best kept secrets. Steve Rennie — AKA Renman — is the longtime manager of Incubus and a driving force behind the band’s multi-platinum commercial success.
Last year he launched a weekly live web show, Renman MB Live, to provide “insider access” to the music industry. His no-holds-barred feedback on what musicians are doing right – and wrong – is fueled by 30+ years of music industry contacts turned guests; producers, promoters, marketing execs, breaking and signed bands.
This week, our own Jed Carlson, President and Co-Founder of ReverbNation, joined in right after Seth Hurwitz, owner of the legendary 930 Club, and shared some true pearls of wisdom (and some colorful language!)
In the video below, Jed gives insights on promoting shows. He includes a quick demo of how artists can “poster the web” with the details on their upcoming show, targeting likely fan on the very day they’re set to play using Promote a Show (after all, 81% music venues say same-day concert marketing is critical to drive awareness).
Jed concludes with a quick tour of Music For Good — our innovative music download platform that connects artists, fans and 13 amazing charities. Check out this video and discover just how much good downloading music can do!
81% say same-day concert marketing is critical to drive awareness
We recently surveyed 470 music venues around the world and their answers revealed that the majority of music venues sell most of their tickets at the door through walk-up traffic. Over eighty percent described day-of-show marketing and promotion as ‘important’ to driving that attendance.
While this may not come as a surprise to touring artists working to pack a house, these statistics suggest that consumers have a lot of choice when it comes to things to do on a Saturday night. And that many of them may be making their decisions about whether to go to the basketball game, the movies, or the concert, on the day of the event.
“Day of show promotions can be critical and with many shows, pulling out all the stops then is key to a successful event.” — Tonya Cooke, The Roxy Theatre, West Hollywood
We asked some artists and venues exactly how they create awareness for their concerts on the day of the show and consolidated this checklist:
Q: Is there a way to “poster” the web?
A: Actually, there is!
It’s the latest innovation in our Promote a Show service and it essentially makes it a snap to digitally poster the Internet with details on your show. It blankets potential concert-goers that live near the venue with online ads across virtually every website they might visit on that day – making them aware of the concert as an option for their evening plans.
Here’s how it works:
The ads blitz fans through repetition about the show — increasing the awareness and the probability that consumers will recall the concert and suggest it to friends.
“Promoting shows used to mean shipping posters to venues and hoping for the best. But with Promote It, we can reach 1,000’s of local fans online for the cost of a stack of posters!” — Blameshift
Artists and venues are becoming more sophisticated about same-day awareness and promotion, and we hope these ideas help.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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).
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.
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!
Think you’re the next undiscovered worldwide rock star? Here’s your chance to find out. Hard Rock Cafe is searching for inspiring local bands to compete in Hard Rock Rising 2013, a high-stakes global battle of the bands competition.
Hard Rock Rising is presented by Hard Rock Café, so you know it’s legit. Additionally, the prize package is ridiculous: play a World Tour, make an album and video with Hard Rock Records, and win new gear valued at $10,000. Entering is FREE!
Here’s what Hey Monea!, winner of last year’s Hard Rock Rising, had to say before opening for Bruce Springsteen in London:
“We open the door of our trailer and John Fogerty is right outside being interviewed by a camera crew. There are literally five video cameras following us to the stage and photographers snapping pictures of us and I’m as excited as I’ve ever felt in my life. Wired. Butterflies. Everything. My brain wouldn’t shut off.”
Each band/artist may enter through no more than ONE Hard Rock location—there are 96 participating cafes worldwide!
You or one of your bandmates must live in the same country as that location.
Here’s how it works:
Phase 1: First round winners are determined by fan downloads on participating Hard Rock Facebook pages. One download equals one vote.
Phase 2: Top vote getters play in a series of live competitions and one winner from each location will be crowned by their peers. See locations below.
Phase 3: The 96 winners from Phase 2 will then battle it out in a global download contest on Facebook to gain the most votes.
Phase 4: The Top 25 highest vote-getters will be judged by a panel of celebrity judges and music industry VIPs to select the last band standing, along with two runner-ups.
The first place winner will experience the ultimate rock star treatment — a World Tour to experience cities including Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong, London, Chicago and Honolulu, the opportunity to make an album and video with Hard Rock Records, and an insane amount of band gear.
So what are you waiting for? The deadline for entry is January 21.
Here’s the list of participating Hard Rock Cafe locations. If you see a city that’s close to you, click on it and read the details and full rules. It won’t cost you a dime, so don’t miss the opportunity of a lifetime! Enter today!
Just participating in Hard Rock Calling could mean new fans, new friends and a lot of local publicity for you and your band. Here’s what some of last year’s participants had to say:
“This is a brilliant platform for amateur bands like us to get recognized. Thank you for the opportunity and we hope you will continue this competition for years to come.”
“Cheers to ReverbNation and to Hard Rock Cafe for putting on such a vast competition that puts local talent in the spotlight.”
“We are grateful to have had the opportunity to participate and perform in this competition. We would also like to again thank everyone involved from ReverbNation and Hard Rock for their help and support in enabling us to participate. More venues should support original music as this competition did. Allowing bands to showcase their own music and style is something we need more of!”
“It was an awesome and innovative experience for us. Looking forward to more associations like these. Helps us to know the true caliber of our music.”