Booking Your First Tour
As far as booking is concerned I spent a lot of time sitting in my house hoping that someday someone might hear my music on myspace and decide that we should do a whole United States tour. Or perhaps that mailing out 100 press kits to different booking agencies would get some sort of interest. Thing is it seems like maybe 5 years ago that would have worked. Now everything in the mail and on the internet is so overly saturated. There are so many bands and what makes your band any different. Truth is you have to have all your ducks in order. Yes you still have to have that professional sounding mix of your songs whether it is a whole album or an EP. You have to have a sweet looking press kit to go along with this with a bio, pictures, reviews and past shows you have done or tours, if you have had the opportunity to get a tour yet. Next make sure you sign up with Sonicbids.com for an account. This is a great way to send an EPK to promoters, clubs and bars. Trust me a lot of them won’t look at it at all or even bother going to your website but it is worth having for the few that do want you to have an EPK.
So now you have conquered all possible requests for booking. (Awesome CD, Great Artwork, Good Pictures, Press Kit, and EPK) Now you have to figure out how you are going to meet all these people that are going to help you out. First off make sure you have your dates in order. When do you want to go on tour, how long, how much money do you have to make to get you there and back (think of gas, van rental or your own, mileage, food, places to stay, bills while your gone), how much money do you have saved if you don’t make enough to cover everything, can your band go on tour when you can, do you need to get a substitute drummer or guitar player just for your tour? These are all questions you need to resolve before you start booking. Once you’ve started the process there is no backing out. Keep in mind most clubs book out 2 to 5 months in advance.
So now we are at the process of booking. This requires you to do much research. Research on myspace all the bands that you feel you are similar to and look at where they are playing. Look online to see if you can find clubs or bars that book bands in the music style you write. This process will take about a week of looking for every possible club or bar out there in the cities you want to book. Also call up your friends in other states even if they are not in a band and ask them where good places to play in their area are. Friends are super helpful with this and sometimes they will even know who at the bar you should talk to about getting the show. Another resource, although not as good, is books at places like barns and noble such as Musicians Atlas will have bars and clubs with emails and contact info and even who you should call or email with regard to booking. On most clubs websites you can find out who the promoters of the events are or who is in charge of booking at the bar.
After all your research is done and you have kept a record of all clubs and contact information in some sort of book or computer you are ready to start booking. You will be spending about 2 hours a day on this for the next month until you get every show you are after on the dates you wanted or as close as possible. Start by sending out emails to all the bars in one of the cities you want to play in on the first day. So if you have 30 contacts then send all 30 contacts your information stating how much you would love the opportunity to play at their bar. Make sure that you read carefully the booking process for these clubs. Sometimes they want you to call or send an EPK instead of an email. Do exactly what they want of you. Make sure in your email you make it personal and professional. Give them your EPK link your number and your email along with your website or sites so they can hear your music. Give them about 3 dates to choose from.
The next day you will do the same with the next city on your list. Now make sure you keep record that you emailed or contacted them in some sort of way. You will have to contact them again if you haven’t received a response. You will continue to do this for 3 weeks if after the 3rd email they still don’t respond then give up it is not worth your time. If they do respond with a date respond back with a million thank yous and ask them questions that all bands need to know. Do you have a PA?, Are you paying percentage of the door or is there a guarantee? Is there a dressing room? Is there any sort of rider that you need for food or stage set up? Would you like us to send you posters or flyers? Would you like us to send you a jpeg of the flyer? Will you provide a hotel? These are all things you need to know. Most clubs will not give you a guarantee until they know who you are. You will be mostly doing door deals. If they do give you a guarantee it won’t be much on the first time out maybe 50 or 100 dollars. Try negotiation if all else fails if they want you badly enough they may give you a bit more.
Hopefully this helps. Doing tours will get you the attention of booking agencies which will hopefully make your touring process a bit easier. 🙂
The Indie Bible has always been really good contacts 🙂
Honestly this sounds stupid but I bring my stuffed teddy bear everywhere on the road. Many people including my own band have given me shit for this 🙂