Unless you’ve got a dedicated team helping you get ready for a big tour, you’ve got an insane amount of work on your hands. In addition to the musical aspects of getting ready for a tour, the promotion and planning it takes time and lots of prep. But where do you start? Here are five ways to prepare before going on tour:
1. Compile a list of press/media/radio contacts
Assuming your tour is booked, putting together a list of press, media, and radio contacts in each city you’re playing at is an integral part of promoting your shows. This has to be done months before the tour because it takes a long time to do and because the outlets you contact will need as much time as possible to consider you for coverage or airplay.
2. Develop a compelling pitch and press release
Who are you and why is your tour worth writing about? These are the things you should think about while forming your press pitch and press release. Newspapers, alt weeklies, and blogs based in big cities get hundreds of pitches every week, so if the story behind your music doesn’t stand out, there’s little chance someone will bother to write about you. This is definitely an area where it’s worth hiring outside help if you’re having trouble figuring out how to write an attention-grabbing press release.
3. Send your music out to radio stations
Using the list of radio contacts you compiled, send music out to the stations located in cities on your tour. A note here on DIY radio campaigns: Most college and independent radio stations still operate under a music submission policy that requires physical CDs. This is frustrating for musicians who only release music digitally, but that’s the way it is. You could burn your music on to CDs and send those out, but chances are you won’t be taken seriously. This isn’t ideal for lots of modern musicians, but radio promotion is one of the best ways for bands to get the word out about their tours.
4. Pitch your shows to blogs, alt weeklies, and newspapers
Long before you embark on your tour, send your press release out to the press and media contacts on your list. You’ll need at least a month or two to for this step because pitches take a long time to be considered and because it sometimes takes a couple of weeks of follow-up to grab a busy writer or editor’s attention. At most, follow up with the contacts on your list twice. If you don’t hear back after the second time, it’s safe to assume they’re not interested in pushing the show.
5. Practice, practice, practice
After all the promotion work is finished, it’s time to practice and work out all the kinks in your set. If there’s any weak spots in your live show, they should be addressed in the weeks of rehearsal prior to taking the stage. Remember the press release you wrote in step 2? In the weeks practicing for a tour, try to inject the energy and genuine feeling you wrote about in your promotion into your live set. Promotion is important to make a tour successful, but only if it’s promoting something that’s actually solid and entertaining.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.