Tips on Touring - Your Guide to Booking a Tour
Updated: Jun 10, 2020
WHEN SHOULD YOU THINK ABOUT BOOKING A TOUR?
You’ll want to go on tour to support the release of a new album, or even a single that’s getting a lot of traction. You may even be teaming up with another artist/band to be their support/opening act. Touring is just as important as making the album. The goals of your tour other than making money (and as a beginner you’re most likely going to lose money), are to: - Become better known - Reach more fans - Sell more albums - Sell band/artist Merchandise for revenue - Build your performance skills - Further your career - Network Not to mention, the majority of managers, agents and labels won’t work with artists who won’t tour.
Generally, your manager is in charge of the tour. Your agent, in conjunction with your manager, books the tour. When you don’t have an agent, your manager will book the tour. And when you don’t have a manager, a band mate should book the tour, try to get the most organised member to book mmm-k, trust me, it'll run so much smoother. Even if you do have a manager and/or and agent, you can still take part in the booking process so put your hand up and contribute. Or, if you’re just not ready to tour, there are many other options for live gigs, for example: - Getting shows: you might not necessarily be ready to tour, but there are lots of other ways to perform regularly, locally, and make some bucks. Bands for Hire If you’re new(er) to the game, responding to “cover band” or “party band” advertisements or seeking out these types of gigs can be quite lucrative. These terms are also very heavily searched in Google too. Search for websites that list these types of opportunities and bands, because if you’re looking for quick and easy income, this could be a great start. Similarly, build relationships with bar and restaurant managers, and event planners at large corporations who hire bands for special events.
- START A RESIDENCY They always say start local and work your way outward, geographically. Having a residency in your home town, playing once a month at the same venue for a select time frame, will help you gain local fans. Plus, you’ll have a confirmed amount of money coming in each month, perhaps we could call it a mini-salary.
BOOKING A TOUR After you’ve released an album, you’ll want to go on tour to support and promote the release. When you decide you’re going to record an album, start thinking about when you’re going to release it, and plan for the tour accordingly. We'll be setting out a timeline on how to release an album in another blog post but let's pretend that you have an amazing album and/or single and you're needing to go on tour. Is their another band going on tour that you can share the billing with? WHAT IS BILLING Well Billing is how Artist’s names and likenesses are presented in relation to each other, and in relation to other information, in event advertising (print, television, radio etc). The billing agreement is on the initial artist contract. Billing examples include:
Sole/Headline Billing: Situations where no other name or likeness appears before, or larger than, the headlining Artist. Used most often with hard ticket events.
Co-Bill/Equal Billing: When Artists are presented equally in advertising.
Festival Billing: Used in situations where there are multiple headlining Artists, and/or when the concert performance is just a portion of the entertainment offered at an event. Headline Artists will still receive prominent placement, however exact placement/size will be determined by the Event.
You can see in the Bluesfest Festival Flyer below that Bob Dylan's billing agreement had more girth than say, Ash Grunwald. What a sweet lineup though hey, and I was totally at this festival - yasssss!
THE SEARCH FOR VENUES AND PROMOTERS Promoters and venues could well have the same contact. They are the people who contract you or hire your performance, your band for a show. They will then promote your show to their local mailing list and contacts as they would have been collecting fans, followers and contacts for years. At times the promoter owns the venue or they could just rent them. Some venues have specific talent buyers that purchase artists for a number of locations, this is the type of company I personally worked for in the United States, we purchased for over 250 events per year over 7 US states and I'm not even sure how many venues. At times we'd book the one artist for the majority of their tour, how lucky are they right! Be wary though as the talent buyer may request a bit of a discount on your performance fee if they buy you for several, we totally did that but we also had to waive radius clauses (we had a 90 mile / 30 day performance radius clause on almost all contracts). If you’re not dealing with a talent buyer or promoter, you’ll be looking to deal with the venue bookers or venue owners. They are usually pretty switched on and if you're not a regular, would want to know your tour history. All of this however can be placed in your EPK. Create an excel spreadsheet, unless you have a proper database system like Eventric, Gigwell or ArtistGrowth, and fill it with: - Venues/Promoters names - Talent Buyer Details - Locations - Capacity of room/space - Emails - Links to the contact forms from the website if no emails are given - Proposed show dates. If you don’t have their names right off the bat, be sure to add them into the document when they respond to your email. It’s important to remember people’s names in order to build a relationship with them. Don’t re-invent the wheel. I’m sure you’re aware of other artists that can relate to your sound, check out where they’ve toured/performed recently to get an idea of which venues would work for your sound and add those venues into your sheet. Analytics: Check your Facebook, Email lists and Google Analytics for WHERE your current fans are located and try to get shows in those areas ▪ If you can’t find much info from other bands routes, or if you don’t have any analytics (which you absolutely should) get to work on Google Get to know these people – talk to them on the phone, visit their venues and meet them in person, add them on LinkedIn, etc. DRAFT A ROUTING The routing (which cities and in which order) will all depend on the availability of the venues, so the sooner in advance you book the better chances you have of getting what you want, but you’ll still want to draft a routing before contacting the venues and promoters. If they don’t have the date you want, ask for any surrounding dates that are available, and re-route as you get offers. Google Maps: Google maps is such a great FREE tool in building your tour route. Check it out HERE. It assists with directions and transit times, offers real time traffic conditions, street view, business listings, local services and more.
Try to make the most efficient routing as possible, and avoid driving back and forth over and again . This is sometimes hard to avoid but if you can then you will save time and money on gas. Copy another bands routing. Again, no need to reinvent the wheel. The more shows you book the more likely you are to break-even or come out with some positive cash flow, but you’ve also got to include breaks for both vocals and driving time. So, as a rule of thumb, try to book about 5 shows a week. DRAFT AN EMAIL THAT INCLUDES: a) Subject: *Your Band/Performance Name* at *venue name* in *City Name* on *Suggested Date* b) Date and Location: In the body of the email note that your band will be on tour for certain selected dates, going from certain location to location, and that you’d like them at [venue] on [date] and if it’s not available to suggest other dates. c) Package: Note what the package (performance) includes, such as: - The length of the set(s) - The type of music including genre and EPK link - Any noteworthy or descriptive instruments - What kind of vibe it is, the artist names, if there’s a supporting act already included, etc. Place hyperlinks wherever you can.
d) Artists Info: Then link to artists information: - Website link - Youtube and/or soundcloud - Facebook - Bio - Reviews All this of course would be listed on your EPK which we have set out in another of our blog posts HERE. If this is all summarized on the managers website, then simply link to the bands page on the management companies website. e) Fanbase and Performance/Tour History: Prove you have an audience in that market: if you’ve already got a good following in [city], note that in the email – giving numbers such analytics proof, email list proof, etc. will definitely help. Add history (like a resume) of where you've performed and any notable artists you've performed with or for.
f) Noteables: Then include a ‘noteables’ section – including any recent awards, contests, special funding or other notable comments about the artists.
FOLLOW UP: Put a note in your calendar to follow up 3 days later by phone or email if you don’t have their number. **WARNING**: Since you’ll be sending essentially the same email to all venues/promoters, you’ll be doing a lot of copy and pasting and forwarding, so MAKE SURE you change the email subject, and the names of venues and dates within the email. You’ll look partially (or fully) stupid if you don’t. CONTRACTS / FEES / ADVANCES Offers: When you get an offer from the promoter or venue, review it for accuracy and fairness.
Fees, Guarantees and Potentials: as a beginner or newer artist, you can expect to be paid a guaranteed fee anywhere from $250 – $1500 per night. Some venues offer a ‘potential’ cut of the ticket sales if there’s an entrance fee. ‘Potential’ means if the tickets exceed the guarantee amount, you have the chance to earn over and above the guarantee. Deposits: If you have an agent, it’s their responsibility to collect a 50% deposit in advance of the show from the promoter/venue to secure your performance – if you don’t have an agent – try to get this deposit into the offer Merchandise: Most smaller venues (100 – 500 capacity), where you’ll most likely be playing, allow artists to keep 100% of merchandise sales, but the artist has to man the merch tables themselves. Whereas, larger and major venues have in-house merchandise staff, and can take cuts of your profits. Advances and Riders: You’ll need to advance the show, in advance of the show, get it? Some venues have standard documents that include all of the information you need, some will happily give it to you over the phone, some wonder why you’re even asking. The main information you need to find out is: 1. If they offer accommodations or can find you discounts 2. Load-in time and sound-check 3. Your set times 4. Parking information 5. Catering or buyout (for food and beverage) 6. If comp tickets are available (guest list) 7. Settlement: Who and how will you be getting paid.
STAGE PLOTS AND TECH RIDERS
Notes to note on money: If you want to come out on top, it’s more efficient to cut expenses instead of trying earn more. This is because the more you earn, the more you payout to your managers and agents. If you just cut expenses, that’s more money in your (the artists) pocket. You don’t need a tour manager or driver when you’re starting out, so don’t bother hiring them this time around. And here are a few other ways to cut costs: - Share to save - Avoid the mini bar and BYO if you want alcohol - Request to have breakfast included in your room - If you're eating out - lunch menus are usually cheaper than dinners - If you have a small budget for travel and accommodation you could reach out to your fanbase for a place to stay for the night in exchange of show tickets and a VIP experience. - Keep smaller stage sets. - Spend less on hotels and food - Try to suck it up, while still staying healthy and well rested. - Less back-tracking. This goes back to a good tour routing – mentioned above. - Draft a budget well before you go – keep the expenses fixed – and try to spend less than projected. Funding I’m not going to go into great detail on funding in this article, but great funding organizations in Canada, such as FACTOR (Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent On Recordings) help to provide funding for Canadians on tour. Record labels also provide tour funds – ranging from $10-15,000 from an independent to replace the money you’ve lost on tour, or $50 – $100,000 from a major. PROMOTING OF TOUR We'll go into this in greater detail in another blog post but if you're just starting out, do the bare minimum and: - Make some posters or have a friend make them - Make Facebook events - Send emails to your email list (you should have one) - Contact the local newspapers and radio stations to offer guest list, interviews, before so they can promote for you that will hopefully sell more tickets) and after reviews of your show, and free giveaways, and take notes on how other successful bands promote themselves and their tours on social media.
WHILE ON TOUR: (Prepare these things before the tour) - Email lists: Keep region specific email lists so that you can target your emails when touring in a certain location the next time around. Use international/national email lists for non-location specific emails that include information such as a new video release. Tour Manager: if you don’t have a tour manager, your regular manager should be the one managing the tour from the office. If you don’t have a manager, a band mate should be in charge of making sure everything runs smoothly while out on the road. Here is a short checklist of things to remember each and every night: 1. Settle the box office – collect money after the show. 2. Count the house – depending on your history with the venue or promoter, you may want to take tally’s and/or count how many people come in the door (if you’re getting a cut of the sales). 3. Confirm the hotel bookings. 4. Confirm the flights (if you’re flying). 5. Daily itinerary – keep it visible (print it out and ensure it’s digitally accessible). And some final notes… PRACTICE
Make it special for the audience and give them the best value for their dollar (even when there’s 2 people in the audience) ▪ Perform whenever you can and wherever you can ▪ Food for thought: It’s often important to play your local markets first, and then make your way around your country – but for some bands it is smarter to tour another country, gain a reputation there, and then back home. This one depends on your genre, where your fans are, and what cultures and markets tend to pick up your vibes