Touring: The quintessential musician experience. Sleeping on your cousin’s couch, driving the open highways, and meeting friendly strangers in darkened pubs. It’s a romantic endeavor, but is it a worthwhile one?
Success in the music industry is, appropriately, as much an art as it is a science. There’s no exact formula, but the way we see it, you shouldn't start touring until you can answer yes to these three questions:
1. Can you make a commitment to be consistently present in this city?
By consistently present, I mean that you have a promotable show every 4-6 months, you network with local artists and gatekeepers in between, and you keep your new fans in the loop with targeted email blasts and social media ads. This is the minimum effort it takes to build a following in your hometown, and touring is no different. If you want to stay relevant, you have to stay visible.
2. Do you have enough bandwidth to be consistently present in this city and to continue taking your hometown by storm?
So you answered "yes" to Question #1 - but do you have the bandwidth to juggle more than one city at once? Do you have enough hours in the week to maintain your visibility in New York, for example, and stay hyper-visible at home? If the answer to this is no, you may want to rethink your plan to tour - or hire a manager or other teammate to shoulder the extra workload. Never sacrifice success at home for success elsewhere.
3. Do you have a clear plan for maximizing this tour, and do you have enough bandwidth to actually execute this plan?
So you've determined that you have the bandwidth to tour while maintaining rockstar momentum at home. Rad! Now go one step further and create a crystal clear plan to milk this tour for everything it's worth. This means making money, growing your audience, and building relationships with the folks that count so that you can return in the future. If you can't invest the time on the front end to make your tour strategic, don't tour. It will not be worth your time.
What does maximization of a tour look like? For starters, we recommend that you:
- Ask every musician you know for personal connections in your target cities. (Facebook posts work great!) Send emails to all recommendations. Get the scoop on where to play, who to share a bill with, and how to promote.
- Research local press and radio outlets and conduct comprehensive media outreach for every show on the tour (including persistent follow-up emails). Bookers and other gatekeepers are more likely to take your submission emails seriously if you can demonstrate media visibility in their city.
- Plan sponsored media ads for each show on your tour stop targeted at your audience demographic.
- Assemble a visible, branded, punch-packing merch set-up. Be sure you have enough merch, and then bring a little extra, just to be safe. At every show, push your merchandise hard.
- Your mailing list is the your most important touring tool. Be sure you have columns for fans' names, emails, and cities, and push that mailing list until the cows come home. Get the names and email addresses of every person you meet, fan or not.
- When you leave for your tour, have an idea of when your next tour will be. This way, you can tell eager fans to keep an eye out for you in six months when you return.
- Plan your follow-up before you even leave for the tour. Carve out two days upon your return to: 1) add all new connections to your mailing list; 2) send personal emails to every connection you made, fan, friend, or acquaintance; 3) send thank-you emails to venue bookers, co-bill acts, house show hosts, and any other gatekeepers you meet (and if you plan to tour again in six months, ask for a follow-up date); 4) schedule your tour photos and videos for social media promotion; 5) update your website and EPK with tour venues, photos, and any press you received.
Looking forward to seeing y'all on the road!
If you're hoping to make the most of an upcoming tour - or just want to steal the show in your home city - consider becoming a part of Talisman's Career Coaching or Consultation program. We are currently accepting new clients through May 1.