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 IndieOnTheMove.com 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!