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.
In my opinion, it’s best to start in your hometown (or nearest major city). Become that strong local band that can sell out the best small venue in the market. Be the go-to band for promoters who need an awesome local to open a big sold out show. Get your local radio station and tastemakers on board. When routing your first tour, I feel it is best to anchor the date in the band’s nearest major market (or anchor it with a big show that the band has been offered) and do a small run of mostly major markets from there, routing your way to New York or Los Angeles to showcase for industry. Soft-ticketed shows (recurring events with a built-in audience) are always a huge plus to play.
How does a band make money on tour? Should an artist be willing to lose money for the sake of touring?
A young band will most likely lose money on tour. Realistically, if you’re direct support for a bigger act, you will make around $250 per show. That will barely cover gas, hotel, food, van rental, flights. It’s so, so important to tour, though. Opening for bigger acts will get you exposure and you can start building relationships with promoters, other musicians, and industry along the way. If you’re great live, easy to work with, and have a bit of a draw, people will remember you next time around.
At the end of the day, once you have reached a certain point in your career, live music and touring will be one of your main sources of income. As the way fans consume and purchase music continues to change, live music will always thrive. Nothing will ever compare to seeing your favorite artist perform on stage — it’s a special experience.
Whose responsibility is it to promote each show on tour? (The artist? The venue? The promoter?)
It’s everyone’s responsibility to maximize the success of the show. Everyone has their own email list, social media reach, etc. that should be utilized. It’s discouraging when I follow a band on social media and find out I missed their show because they didn’t post something on their Instagram or Facebook about being in town. Your band is a business — cover your bases and work to get paid.
What can a band do to promote an out-of-town show while on tour?
Be super pro-active: • Pay attention to where your fans are and do targeted posts on social media • Personally reach out to friends and fans in those cities • Get on the phone with the promoter and brainstorm ideas to push the show.
Think outside of the box: • Contests, unique ways to interact with fans, etc. • Promoters often have media lists or contacts that bands can use to try and get a little press or raise awareness of your show if they don’t have a publicist.
Sharyn started at the Windish Agency in Chicago at the front desk. After a year, she became the president’s personal assistant, then his booking assistant, eventually working her way up to a full-blown agent with her own roster. In her six years at the agency, she has worked on tours for dozens of artist including The xx, alt-J, Hot Chip, Gotye, The Knife, and M83. Prior to Windish, Sharyn worked as an assistant talent buyer for two small venues in Chicago and did PR for a few artists. She now works in artist development for ReverbNation Connect and manages artists.