As an Engineer/Producer one of the most commonly asked questions after completing a record happens to be "how do we begin touring?". Assuming you're ready to tour, this is how I successfully booked my past bands tours. Before I provide any examples of how I booked my tours, here are few things to check off before booking.
- Having all the necessary Merchandise ready to go (CD's, buttons, posters, bracelets, shirts, hats, etc.)
- Having a well thought out merch display. Organization is key. As a DIY artist, having a eye catching display can help move product and keep you on the road.
- Having reliable transportation. Nothing sucks more than a van catching fire leaving you stranded half way across the country. Trust me, it happens to the best of us.
- Researching and organizing your entire tour. Create spreadsheets, estimate mileage, fuel expenses, food expenses, emergency funds, vehicle maintenance, etc.
- Make sure your live show is ready to take on the road. You should be well rehearsed to the point you hate your own music. The excitement of playing in front of people brings back the enthusiasm so don't feel bad when you're bored during rehearsal. Once you get all the kinks out of your songs, practice your set like it's a performance. This helps your live show tremendously.
- Make sure you network everywhere you go when touring. Leaving a good impression works wonders when booking the next show when you plan another tour.
- Before deciding on tour dates give yourself plenty of time to plan. I usually began my planning stage at least 4 months in advance prior to first date of tour.
- Map your tour road map which I'll explain further.
- Calculate tour budget and expenses based on fuel mileage, food expenses, vehicle maintenance, etc.
Okay, so now that we have a few key things to have in order before beginning the tedious process of planning and booking a tour, I will give you some examples of how I booked my DIY tours.
First you must plan out a rough tour map. This includes the cities you want to book, the total mileage of the tour, distance between cities, drive time, etc. This road map is going to change depending on what dates venues have available for you to book. These numbers will help you calculate your touring budget and expenses.
A booking agent told me the best way to book a successful tour is to stay close to home on the first tour. Touring too far away makes it hard to get back to those cities making it harder to keep fans. Social media helps keep people involved, however, it still makes it hard to get those same people out if you don't make it back within a couple months.
A good way to do this is to book a 1 week tour then gradually add two more dates and cites as you continue to tour. For example your first tour may be 7 days with 5-7 shows while your second tour may be 9-10 days with 7-10 shows. This adds up the more you tour as well as your market.
Keep track of everything including merch sales, attendance, payout, etc. This is information you can use to sign a booking agent later. Agents want to know you have a solid business and these are the kind of things they look at. It also helps you cross reference your market growth when you book the second tour. Look at the example below:
Now that we've planned out our road map let's begin organizing our tour spreadsheet. This spreadsheet contains all the information needed to send out booking emails.
Put together a spreadsheet similar to this:
I used mostly www.indieonthemove.com to find venues. Put together a list of 10-20 venues per city before sending out booking emails. I found it's best to have your spreadsheet completely filled out before sending out emails (this could be hundreds of emails). Some of these cities may not get booked and some of the dates may have to move around. Be flexible on your scheduling. As soon as you get a response from a venue respond as soon as possible and keep constant communication. If you're having problems finding a venue willing to take on your show, ask some of the local bands to help set something up. I've found a lot of bands are willing to help. They may set up a show or put you in contact with someone else who can set up a better show. Get creative when looking for venues and bands.
I've also found I saw better results by booking all the local support myself before contacting venues. Being an unknown artist playing a new city can be difficult to book without local support. So taking a lot of the responsibility away from the venue/promoter to find local support can often help you confirm more dates. Make sure you stay in communication with all the bands you've booked on each show. Sometimes they may cancel and you'll have to find a last minute band for the show. I've had to frantically find bands the day of the show. It happens so be ready. Having a separate spreadsheet with local bands can be useful in this situation.
Here is an example of my booking emails:
ATTN: BOOKING "The Laughing Goat Coffeehouse" 10.19.16, 10.20.16, or 10.21.16
- Notice I've included three dates. Always give the venue an option of dates. The middle date is your desired date and the others are back up dates. Always book the dates that come first and work other dates around confirmed dates. Flexibility is key.
To Whom it May Concern or Name of Talent Buyer,
My name is (your name) representing (band name), an Alternative Rock Band from (City, State). We are currently in the process of booking our winter tour. We will be traveling through Boulder, CO on our way to Salt Lake City, UT. I would like to book 10/20/16, however, if you have any of the following dates available (10/19/16, 10/20/16, 10/21/16), I would like to book (your band name) at The Laughing Goat Coffeehouse. I have contacted several local bands as support and I have confirmation from (insert local bands) once venue is confirmed. Below you will find links to our EPK, Bandcamp, and Facebook. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you. I will follow up within the next week.
If you use this email as a template make sure you replace the right information. I once said I was booking St. Louis, MO when I was contacting a venue in Columbus, MO. They made sure they pointed that out in their response. Needless to say, I didn't book Columbus, MO. Point being, PROOF READ your emails before pressing the send button!
Everyone books tours a little differently. I've found that applying these basic concepts you can book a successful DIY tour that hopefully pays for itself. I hope this informations helps you book your next tour!