3 Tips for Surviving DIY Touring

PHOTO: Globo.com

by Quentin Singer

With the music industry exponentially changing these days, touring has become an absolute necessity in order to validate your musical product. The hardest part about touring is when you’ve just started out as an artist. No venue is going care about your music, all they care about is you’re popularity and how many people you can draw. In other words, can you make the venue money? Being a new band with no following doesn’t help in this situation; it only leads to angry disputes with promoters and playing empty shows. There’s numerous “do’s and dont’s” when it comes to touring, most of which are learned through trial and error, or from just reading these simple tips.

Play with the Local Acts

A big part of touring is playing with other local bands. They’re usually what draws the most people to a DIY show, especially when it’s at a venue/place you’ve never played. While planning a tour route is always important, getting in contact with the local scene is often overlooked, and a great way to do so is through Bandcamp.

Using the discover option on Bandcamp, you can look for music specific to each city or state. In doing so, you find an enormous pool of bands and artists, all of which vary in style, genre, and popularity. Finding and asking the right bands is key to playing a well-attended show, but it’s not always easy to convince a band to support you. There are usually social norms in asking bands to play, many of which end up benefiting both bands (the touring and the local). For instance, if a local band agrees to support a show with a touring act, the touring act will offer to do the same in the future. This camaraderie is the foundation of a music scene, and it serves as a great tool, not only your band’s product, but also enriching your own professional maturity.

Play House Shows and DIY Venues

Booking shows all by yourself can be one of the hardest parts about DIY touring. As mentioned, venues don’t always care about the quality of your music, but rather the popularity of it, and how much money you can make them as a result. These difficulties are usually found with inner city bars and nightclubs. If you’re really looking to book your first tour, some of the best places to play are house shows, or places attributed to the DIY attitude.

House shows are awesome because they’re run by people who are passionate about music, much like the acts they book. Given their strict love for music, house venues are more open to booking bands that have unique and original music, but little to no following. Alongside houses, record stores are great for putting local shows together. While they might not be the most ideal stage or sound setup, they’re much like house shows in their willingness to book bands based off of their passion for music. Utilizing the media and checking out music scene blogs and Facebook pages, you can find these hidden gem venues. Again, DIY touring is really all about getting in touch with the local scene.

Strategize Your Route

As artists, we tend to think success is reached by playing every opportunity we can get, and while in theory this is true, success doesn’t always work out this way. When you play every show you can find, you end up underselling yourself as an artist, as well as the value your music and performance hold. Playing too consistently can also lead to near empty or even unattended shows, and no matter how much you enjoy performing no one likes to play these concerts. In order to avoid these negative situations, strategizing your tours/shows can be incredibly productive to your success and growth as an artist. Perform where you know there’s a scene for your music, as well as stick to a specific region and play it constantly. For example, the more successful shows you play in NYC, the more buzz it will create. It’s that simple – don’t spread out your route too much. Limiting your shows and strategizing where you play, will exponentially propel and validate you as an artist.

Bonus Tip: Make an Artist/Band Email

This tip is rather self explanatory, but it can really make the difference when booking shows. Sending an artist email versus an email from billbobjr@gmail.com, ultimately sounds way more convincing to a venue, especially when they’re getting hundreds of booking emails a day. Being cognizant of your professional aura can make or break opportunities for you as an artist.

Have you been on tour before? What some advice you’d give? Let us know in the comments!