​Progressing, Taking to the Next Level

If you look back and read some of our previous posts, we mention how it’s so important to determine your goal. While this is the first step, sometimes it’s difficult to figure out what the next step is, the one after that, and so on.

The path varies immensely from artist to artist, but it should always be one that is growing and expanding, rather than staying stagnant or falling behind.

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After you’ve been writing, playing shows, releasing your music, touring a bit, building online and building a fanbase, it is also super important to stop at times to asses which goals you’ve met and the progress that’s been made. This will help you figure out the next step. Just because you made one main goal, doesn’t mean you can’t consistently make new ones! And doing so will only help you achieve more of them.

One of the most challenging things for artists or bands is to stop and see things from an outside perspective. To be able to observe yourself and your product constructively is a very valuable skill. This needs to be done in order to make changes and to asses what’s working and what’s not. It’s also important to asses that everyone (if in a band) is on the same page with goals - that way the band can move forward as a unit.

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If you begin to realize certain songs aren’t going over with your crowds, you’re not seeing any growth online or you feel a lack in enthusiasm from your band mates, maybe it’s time to look at what needs to change for everyone to feel re-inspired again. Some bands change their look with each album cycle, some change genres even, and some just change their haircuts - either way it’s about establishing something new and fresh that keeps yourself and others interested.

Sometimes putting yourself in front of different crowds can re-inspire you or take your music to the next level. Try playing a venue that is out of your comfort zone, put together a new type of live show or relating more to your audience between songs. Utilize technology and go “live” on a social platform and get feedback on new songs. Take a look at social media numbers & seeing who and what fans are actually coming to shows, returning and engaging with you. Also, maybe asses whether or not you’re taking enough risks - send out some music to some industry folks (Management, booking agents, labels etc.) if that’s a direction you want to go in. Whatever it is - in order to keep growing and achieving your goals, you are going to need to push your comfort zone and challenge yourself!

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Tips:

⁃Try writing a song about something entirely new, or on an instrument you’re not familiar with to get new sounds.

-Try writing one song a week if you really want to up your writing skills.

⁃Don’t stray away from taking a moment to look at things and assess where you’re at - it may be hard in the moment, but in the long run you’ll be glad you did.

⁃If you feel a lull or a feeling of boredom, it may be because it’s time for the next challenge and it’s time to change things up a bit. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new sounds or collaborate with other people. It could actually help push you along further than you’d imagine.

⁃Take polls - ask your audience their thoughts on their favorite songs or shows of yours, see what resonates and why they connect with what they do - then focus more on those aspects of your music and brand.

⁃Writing down your visions helps make them a reality.

⁃Reach out to some dream venues of yours or a favorite touring act that’s coming to town that you want to open for - pitch to the booker why you should open and see what happens.

⁃Make sure your online content is strong and engaging, and that you demonstrate a positive outlook and vibe with your posts, it will bring more positivity.

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​Connecting With Fans

Aside from the fulfillment you get from playing, this is the whole darn point!

Biggest tip: If you’re looking to play professionally and make a living doing music, you have to get over any fear regarding self-promotion, inviting people to your shows, introducing yourself to strangers, asking people if they want to sign up for your e-mail list, and talking to people at your merch table.

The other important thing to recognize is that we’re in a new era and not only at your shows should you be talking to people, but nowadays it is so important to be active on social media and connect to people and your fans.

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Your fans will find a reason they connect with you and your music - this is what brings them out to your shows and keeps them listening on their own time. This will happen naturally but you have to keep that connection in tact! It’s your job to keep the give-and-take going… at shows, on stage, off-stage, and online through social media and e-mail.

Engagement is a huge reason why so many creative, influencing people have a lot of followers. They are not selling to their fans all the time - they’re maintaining their viewer’s interest and entertaining them consistently.

As the numbers grow, it can become more difficult to keep in touch with each one individually, but you don’t have to do this all the time - set up meet and greets after your shows if there are people who want a signature or photograph - get in touch with local record stores and see if they’d let you do an in-store signing day of your record release. Talk to people at your shows, go to the merch booth, engage with the audience between songs, and give them time to clap after songs, it’s their way of responding to you.

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Tips:

⁃Unfortunately there’s not always enough time to respond to every single person who reaches out online (it can be overwhelming if you have a large following, or if it’s growing rapidly) ...You are not obliged to respond to anything (especially with the online reach these days, people can sometimes demand attention or write tons of messages) but there are ways to do posts where you can acknowledge your fans as a whole.

⁃Keep your fans engaged/interested by being spontaneous, on-stage and off.

- Come up with social media ideas that involve them or are really fun and entertaining.

⁃Your fans are a good portion of the reason why you’re able to play shows and sell your product - don’t take them for granted.

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⁃Be active anywhere you can on social media to stay in your fans feeds and to stay on their minds.

⁃Give your fans the opportunity to help you - some would be so excited to be part of a street team, promoting shows or hanging up fliers in their hometown, and reward them where you can.

⁃Come up with a clever name for your followers - here are some examples: Katy Perry: KatyCats, Lady Gaga: Little Monsters, Justin Bieber: Beliebers, etc. etc.

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Promoting a Show

In reality, nearly every musician dreams about playing a show to hundreds or thousands of people so they can do what they do best, perform and play to a sold out crowd. Rarely does something like this happen quickly (not saying it can’t), but most artists and bands will need to start out one fan at a time by personally inviting family, friends, co-workers and online fans to their events.

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You’ll need to get creative in finding ways to get people to come out to shows, especially if no one knows your band yet! Either way, there are a million ways to promote a show and here are a few suggestions to start:

- Create a Facebook event three weeks to one month ahead of the day of show - further in advance if it’s a record release to maximize visibility.

- Invite your friends from that city - you can search in the facebook search tab “friends of mine in _______” and fill in the city your show is in. Sending a personal message helps, or texting them to see what they’re up to that night.

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- E-mail is great and everyone checks theirs pretty regularly. Utilize this and start an e-mail list - let people sign up to get updates and important show details. They can sign up online on a website or by a sign up sheet at your merch booth.

- Create a poster or online flier (one that all the bands can share on social media that is eye-catching and relevant) *no later than a month in advance* as well as physical copies you can drop off at the venue for them to hang up.

- Print up small handbills of your poster and go to local shows and distribute them to show-goers. You can also leave these at some bars or rehearsal space bulletin boards.

- During the weeks prior to your event, go to the venue as well as other local venues and see other bands playing. Introduce yourself to the people at the show and invite them to the show.

- Be thorough in the show information online and on posters - other bands playing, door opening time, show start time, set times for all bands playing and order of bands, age restrictions, location, etc.

- Don’t be pushy

- See if you can sell tickets in advance and give people a cheaper option than purchasing tickets at the door

- Get some friends on the list for free if you have a guess list - usually a band will be given 4 or so guest spots, sometimes more, sometimes less.

- Engage with your audience and do some sort of ticket giveaway or contest

- Set goals for yourself/your band on hitting particular crowd numbers for growth

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It is important to not be afraid of self-promotion. This is a common fear amongst musicians and people who have lots of stuff to promote! And most of the time, people want to know! You’re gonna have to if you want people to show up. Let people know where you’re gonna be and why they should come - do you have new songs you’ll be playing that you haven’t yet? Do you have a new look? New album out? Songs people wanna sing and dance to? A one-time collaboration happening on-stage? Make it interesting and show people you are interested in your show. Make frequent posts about it, not just once, but many times, because people forget and because repetition sticks in people’s minds!

Most importantly, be creative and thoughtful in inviting people out. It’s great to speak to the masses online, but people find it exciting and more meaningful if you reach out in a more personal way. Then eventually you will find ourself infront of those 100 people you imagined in the first place!

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Budgeting For A Tour

Budgeting is absolutely one of the most important things an artist or band can do to make a tour successful and profitable. By doing some simple planning and a little bit of math, you can figure out an estimated cost per day for you or your band on the road.

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Figuring these numbers out will help guide you on your route and will inform you about how much you should be spending and saving while on the road.

There are tools online and apps that can help you figure out what your expenses will be. Of course, each tour will call for different expenses and will earn a varying amount depending on shows, cities, and timing.

For example, here are some variables that will affect your math:

•How many travelers there are with you

•How big of a car you’re driving and whether you’re pulling a trailer or not

•If you have to rent equipment

•If you’ll be staying with friends or at hotels

A lot of venues with kitchens/bars will feed bands who are playing.

Sometimes they will specify in the booking process, but sometimes you have to ask. Ask beforehand to be sure! This can save you a lot of money if you can find venues that will feed you, even if it’s something small.

A lot of hotels and motels will offer a free breakfast, take advantage of this where you can! A lot of times they have a lot of options and you can take stuff to go as well, like fruit or cereal that will last the whole day or longer.

When you begin to budget your upcoming tour expenses, figure out how many meals you’ll need per day. Then subtract the amount of dinners that venues will be feeding you and breakfasts you’ll get from the hotels you’ll stay at. Set an amount you are able to pay for the rest of your meals, and stick to it. For example, each meal that has to be bought, you could limit yourself to $10. Then you can multiply this number by however many meals you’ll have to buy, and you’ll arrive at your full expense for food for your tour. (Per-diems per day are different for every individual, but suggest $10 - $20 a day). This price/meal isn’t unreasonable at most places you’ll find.

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You can also consider stocking up on healthy non-perishable items from the grocery store for snacks (also see our blog entry on eating healthy on the road). Even if you’re on a long drive, consider stopping at a grocery store in the morning before leaving town and purchasing some healthy food at a low cost that will last you until your show.

Another thing to account for in your budgeting is car tune-ups and oil changes ($15-35). If you’re on the road for a while you will need to service your car after every 3,000 miles or so.

Tip: Jiffy Lube often gives discount coupons through their website!

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Once you figure out how much you’ll be spending on food, gas, tolls, lodgings, car servicing, etc., you can see if your guarantees will help cut away at these costs. It is a good idea to try to make more than you will be spending! Some of these numbers might be hard to find if you’re just starting out (you may just get door deals or bar %)... if you are - we suggest you have some money saved up before venturing out. Also, if you are leaving your regular job for a couple weeks to tour, consider saving up some extra money before you venture out for when you return home.

Having merchandise to sell and having earning goals for yourself will help a lot. Merch will save you! If it’s a slow night and no locals brought people out, but you sell three T-Shirts and two CDs to anyone who is at the venue, it could pay for a hotel and gas to get there!

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Tips:

•Figure out how far it is from city to city by using Google Maps (http://maps.google.com) and this gas calculator https://www.fueleconomy.gov/trip/ to guesstimate how much you’ll be spending on gas with the specific car you will be driving.

•Don’t forget about tolls, some online calculators will also factor in toll roads and estimate a cost for you.

•Don’t be afraid to hustle and ask people to buy your merch - you will be relying on this money.

•When you choose food, don’t just go to 7-11s and buy as many cheap things you can find under $10 for a meal. Quality over quantity still applies here!

•It is better to know before venturing out if the tour will be a financial win or loss - although there will be variables that can always change and surprise you, having an idea of what to expect will make being on the road all that easier

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Getting online press coverage

When you release an album, an EP, a music video, or have an important show event coming up that your fans should know about, as well as future fans and industry people, it is important to get coverage! In addition to promotion by you the press is very important for awareness. Online exposure especially, since that’s where most people get their news nowadays. There are many outlets all over the country and all over the world who do reviews, features, premieres, and interviews on indie artists and bands. There are also plenty of people online who are interested in listening, watching & reading about music stories, discovery get new artists or hearing about tours from known and unknown artists. Many magazines and newspapers have the majority of their stories available online now, whether they still print physically or not, and a lot of them now have their own music blogs.

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Things to get press coverage for:

⁃Important upcoming shows, tours, charity events, free events or appearances

⁃New album, New EP, or New single

⁃New music video

⁃Any important news item regarding your band/music

-Reviews

-New Tour dates

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The most important thing about getting press is: LEAD TIME & PLANNING!

*Tip & Examples: Let’s say you have an EP coming out in two months but no shows booked. Consider booking a release show near or on the EP release date. You could offer a local music blog a new song off the EP as a premiere on their site before it comes out. That way, the blogger can promote and mention your EP and your show to hype your audience and get people ready for the new music.

After your release, consider shooting a music video for a single. You could reach out to a local music blogger for a premiere. They can also mention your local show dates in the post… or you could consider approaching a national music blog for the premiere or online magazine for a review. If you have a tour coming up, you could tie it in with that as well! The ideas are endless.

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When pitching to online press, it’s important to keep in mind how to reach out properly:

⁃Send an e-mail to the official e-mail of the site or blog - usually listed in the “Contact” section on a website or will have a spot for “Submissions.”

⁃Address the interviewer or individual who is covering your story in a polite manner, and send all the important info in a very clear, concise and organized way.

-Keep the subject simple - or think of some clever wordings for your subject lines.

⁃Send your pitch 2-3 months in advance (This is just a suggestion as 5 weeks is a typical deadline for physical press, but online will vary site to site).

⁃If you don’t receive a response in a week-ten days, try following up.

⁃Keep in mind the audience of the blog/site/press you are reaching out to, would this audience appropriately suit your sound/vibe?

-Tip: The Hype Machine (http://hypem.com) is a great site that collects articles and you can search bands you think you sound like and find the related blogs that might be a great fit to contact.

⁃Reach out to press in the area you are from, or the place you play the most, and if you have any shows coming up in other areas, reach out to press there too!

-Reach out to national and international sites for interviews, features and reviews too.

⁃If one site is doing a feature for a new music video, or a premiere of a song, sometimes you can only limit this to one for the “Official Feature” of it. Ask if it is unclear - or if it’s possible to get multiple outlets to cover the same thing if it’s offering different things. This will vary and most blogs like to be the FIRST & THE ONLY ONE TO PREMIERE IT.

⁃Once you get a feature or any sort of coverage on a blog, be sure to promote it! Thank the person who worked on the press for you - fans will love to read all about it and share it with their friends.

-The difference between a “Feature,” “Premiere,”and “Review”

A “Feature” is an article or blurb devoted to the treatment of a particular work for promotional purposes.

A “Premiere” is the FIRST showing of a piece of work, usually includes some notes on the work from the writer.

A “Review” is a publication with critical articles about a piece of work.

-Tip: if you or your band has some money saved you can consider paying and hiring a PR company who already has relationships with blogs and magazines. That way you have a professional (who does this every day) helping you. Both ways work though and just because you hire a Publicist unfortunately things are not guaranteed.

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Typically a publicity campaign can run from $500-2500+ a month and can get more expensive the more high profile the outlets you’re going after. If you’re ever unsure ask the PR Company or publicist to provide a list of clients or ask around to any friends whom may have worked with companies to get feedback.

Tip: Where to search for press outlets, try google searching ‘the city’ your playing and ‘magazine‘, ‘Music Magazine’, ‘Music Blog’ or ‘news paper’ (example: Los Angeles Music Blog’. Recommended Site:http://www.abyznewslinks.com/ (this site lists news media outlets by city & state). 

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Merch (physical and digital)

Before you even consider going on the road touring, you might want to consider asking yourself who are you and what is your product? Aside from your amazing live show, what are you supporting? What is the product you’re selling? If you want to expand your fanbase and your connection to them -  both show goers and fans on social media, you will want to have something to sell that they can buy. Once you start touring it’s going to be a MUST - especially because selling your merch product will help pay and sustain your life on the road. Your merch is so important!

Merch is the music recorded onto CDs, vinyl, or cassettes that represent your brand. It’s download cards, t-shirts with your band or name, buttons, stickers and other thoughtful items with your art and logo. Things that someone who enjoys your music would want to purchase and bring home with them. At shows there will usually always (with the exception of some benefit shows) be a spot for you to sell your merch. If there isn’t, bring a table and make your own! Or at the venue ask someone who works there where you can set up your merch.

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When it comes to creating merch, think about what would make the most sense for your band to sell. Do you have songs and have they been recorded? Putting them into a physical form would probably generate sales! Along with having your music easily accessible for sale in the digital form online (via digital distribution that can be released through Tunecore or CDBaby or http://Bandcamp.com for example). Shirts are another important part of merch displays as people love wearing them and buying new ones. Sometimes even if a person doesn’t know your music but the design is cool and it translates to them, they will buy it! If you have a band logo or image that represents your music, or even a saying, or a drawing, consider putting this on your product. You can screenprint, find local shirt printing companies, or even paint your own that you can sell (suggested price is somewhere between $10 and $20). You can even look into wholesale shirt companies to buy them in bulk at a cheaper price per unit.

*tip: the fashion / merchandise districts in cities often have wholesale t-shirt businesses. They might even work with local screen printers too, that they can put you intouch! Even consider going to thrift stores & getting cheap one-off tees & printing on them.

Think of some clever items that you could sell that wouldn’t be necessarily expected. Sometimes this can generate a lot of interest from people stopping by your merch table. Think: necklaces, bracelets, lighters, scarves, bigger buttons, patches, bags, sunglasses, hats, one of kind jackets etc.

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*Tip: It is also helpful to have some form of merch that everyone can grab for free - in most cases this is either a sticker or a small button. These items don’t cost too much money to make, and everyone loves something free.

Once you’ve got a few physical merch items to sell, consider making an online merch store so people can order products online and have them shipped when there not able to make it to your shows. This is not difficult to set up!

*Tip: Squarespace.com offers great sites that you can customize and add a commerce section to. Facebook also offers a section on Music Pages and there are also a lot of other independent companies where you can sell merch. Once you have a site displaying your products, making posts about your online store can generate more sales and interest. Making one of kind or limited edition merch items can also get people excited to buy something that is unique and rare!

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Helpful Tips:

-cost of a one color design t-shirt run of 32-40 shirts could cost you between $250-300. Sometimes there’s an additional screen fee for t-shirts added in the cost or on top of costs usually running $15-30

-cost of vinyl could run 200 LPs for close to $2000 & cost of 100 tapes could cost close to $200

-Some suggested for sale pricing (depending on design & cost to make): Buttons ($1-$5), Stickers (free or $1-5), CDS ($5-15), Tapes ($5-10), Vinyl ($20-30), 7” ($5-10), One of kind items $25-100 (like a jacket or bag), patches ($1-5)

⁃Keep your merch in line with your image, colors, and sound

⁃Keep an inventory of your merch so you know what you have and if you’ll need more

⁃Make note of the most popular items, and restock once it gets low

⁃When you’re setting up merch at a show, keep in mind other bands have merch too, so don’t take up all the space!

⁃Don’t be afraid to push your merch - at the end of the day, merch is what fuels and funds a lot of bands

⁃Don’t always go the cheapest way out if you don’t have to - invest in quality shirts and items, and people will be more likely interested

⁃Charge more than what it costs you to make the merch

⁃Keep the merch organized and know where everything is, where each size shirt is, so it makes selling quicker and easier

⁃Don’t leave vinyl in a hot car! They WILL warp

⁃If your vinyl does warp, consider making arts and crafts with it that you can sell (clocks, bowls, hats, be creative!)

http://www.printrunner.com & http://www.stickerguy.com are great and cheap for quality stickers in bulk of various sizes and shapes

-http://www.halfpricebuttons.com offers great custom button

-http://www.hollywooddisc.com offers great pricing on CD manufacturing

-http://www.rainborecords.com for vinyl

-Bringing your own lights or lamps for your merch display is always a good idea! (wireless is always easier)

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Eating Healthy on the Road

Sometimes it can be a challenge staying healthy on the road with late nights, small budgets (when you’re building as a artist or band), long days in the car, not a lot of time to stop between lengthy drives or unknown cities, small towns and at times, limited choices for food. Plus with fast food places everywhere and little amounts of time to kill between shows and drives, it can be tempting to stop and grab something quick and easy.

These things can be hard navigating but it doesn’t have to be. With a little planning, a positive mind, eyes on your musical goal and care for your health  - your well being can remain in top shape while on the road!

 (Photo from  https://rebelrd.com/ )

 (Photo from https://rebelrd.com/)

Below are some recommendations and suggestions:

- Look at your tour, shows & route. Where and which dates will you be getting fed by a venue? See where you’ll be needing to buy food.

-Ask yourself how many meals you’ll have to buy, with the amount you’re making from shows (you might have to guesstimate depending on guarantee vs door deal & have a merch goal to hit or budget for)

*we recommend a $12-15 budget per day for food for beginning bands & artists

- grocery stores *highly recommended!They often have delis as well as fresh food (vegetables, fruits, healthy packaged food - sandwiches, whole grain bread, peanut butter, rice cakes, energy bars, yogurt, apple sauce, raw nuts as well as pre cut meats & oatmeal to add water to).

*recommended as a great option for all dietary needs & very affordable. You can get lunch, dinner, and even stock up on non perishables.

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- Some hotels will provide breakfast or have hot water & coffee. Check to see if hotels will offer this before booking.

- Get a cooler pack that you can use for the day for any perishable items.

Here’s a list of healthy grocery stores and fast food options around the U.S for people on restricted diets that offer something for everyone:

- Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Ralph’s, Safeway, HEB, Kroger

- Startbucks  (vegan, gluten free, palo options) They have healthy snacks, sandwiches, salads, yogurt & Oatmeal available. Price range $3-8 a meal

- Chipotle (vegan, gluten free, palo) *Plus they even will sometimes feed bands for free if you call ahead and speak with the manager & tell them you’re on tour. Price range $5-8 a meal

- Pita Pit (vegan, gluten free, great wraps , salads & sides). Price range $5-8 a meal

 - Subway (vegan, gluten free, salads, sandwiches). Price range $5-8 a meal

- Taco Bell (vegan, gluten free, any veggie options & sides, cheap!). Price range $2-6 a meal

- El Pollo Loco (vegan, gluten free, veggie options & sides). Price range $2-6 a meal

- Gas Stations: Sheetz, Cumberland Farms, Wawa, Loves, Kum&Go, Quicktrip - these all carry good grocery products and have a wide selection of healthier foods.

- Dinners & Resturants: Cracker Barrel, Black Bear Diner, Jason's Del, Denny’s, iHop, plus there’s loads of mom & pop diners & cafes around the U.S with affordable selections and healthy options & sides.

Photo: Jenny Bergman

Photo: Jenny Bergman

*we recommend choosing food from the coolers such as pre-made sandwiches (tuna, egg salad, turkey) sometimes they have hard boiled eggs, pickles, fruit, yogurt. Also when buying snacks try to reach for the raw nuts, trail mix, veggie chips, and fruit, instead of Doritos, Cheetos, or candy. You will feel great while driving and have good energy for when it’s time to play the show.

It’s not a bad thing every once in a while to treat yourself to a slightly less nutritious meal or snack while on the road, but be mindful that you may not find time to go to a gym, get much walking in, or work off those calories. In order to feel great while on the road, one must eat great, healthy food. The options vary from city to city, and from town to town, but it’s always possible to find cheap and nutritious meals and snacks wherever you go - you’d be surprised at all the options once you start looking for them!

*Tip: Any chance you get: run, walk, lift some weights (even if it's for 15mins at a hotel gym) and stretch. You'll feel better, even if your tired it will get you re-energized! With healthy eating, life style improvement / changes in combination with exercise you will maximize your musical performance!

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Routing a Tour

When you first go to plan the routing of a tour, it is important to take these factors into consideration and to first ask yourself a few questions to define the tour.

What is the purpose of the tour?

Are you releasing new music? Did you just release a single or record and want to support the new release? Are you playing a great festival or show in the middle of the country or in a big city that’s great exposure and great pay? It might make sense to turn the trip into a tour instead of flying there. Are you just looking to expand and play regionally as well as gain new fans? Or are you just looking to play and get paid gigs? Whatever it is, try and define that first with your band so when it comes to finding venues and cities you are looking in the right place!

(Photo: Jenny Bergman)

(Photo: Jenny Bergman)

What vehicle are you using and how long is your tour?

Is your car or van in good enough shape to take you where you need to go? Is a rental a better option? And if it is, is it in your budget? Sometimes when you’re first starting out touring it might be best to consider just getting your feet wet with a few week-long runs with your band before diving into a full few weeks or month. That way you can build up to something bigger and you won’t go out of pocket too much if you’re just figuring things out! No matter how long you are going out on the road for, make sure that your car has passed inspection and that you can rely on it to get you where you need to go safely!

What is your target market?

Once some of your goals are defined, decide who you are playing for. Which cities do you think your music will go over well and where do you want to start to build a fanbase?

Music scenes all over the U.S. grow and change on a regular basis, but it’s important to keep in mind which part of the country you’ll be playing to and what type of music is mostly focused on in an area or venue. It will vary all over, but you can research the cities you’d like to play in and see what’s going on at the local music venues through the venues’ facebook page calendars or websites. You could also look up bands or artists you feel are similar to you and see the venues they play. Also consider asking other friends’ bands or artists who tour what experiences they have had.

*Make sure that if you’re focused on playing a specific bigger city that you aim to play there on a Friday or Saturday night as these are the peak show times! Try to keep larger cities on the weekends and the smaller towns in between.

*TIP: http://indieonthemove.com is a fantastic database of venues by city and state. You can also define the search by seeing the music genres that the venues host.

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What is your budget and have you set a target amount that you will be getting paid or making per show?

Sometimes when you’re first starting out, you won’t get a guarantee from the venue. In some cases you will have to play a market a few times, and show consistent promotion for a door cut, bar %, or tips to gain fans. At times you will have to rely on merch sales when you are starting out! This can be such a great savior! Your two CDs and three t-shirts sold will pay for gas and food in a new place. Sometimes coffeehouses, bars, restaurants, and breweries will pay more and give bigger guarantees than a venue in a big city. The smaller town markets between the bigger cities can sometimes be overlooked, but will often host music, be a perfect stop in between two major cities, and can really help bring in larger amounts of money than a show in the big well-known cities would. This is often because they may have a budget for giving artists a guarantee or a good bar %, and you won’t be relying on bringing in fans for a cut of the door.

When you’re first starting to tour, it’s good to establish the worth of your performance. How much do you get on a regular basis when playing your hometown? How many people are in the band and how much will you need to get to the next city? It’s important not to undersell yourself but not to charge too much either. If you are new to a market, just know you will have to play the city a few times to help establish. Consider it an investment if you plan to tour a lot. If you’re basically beginning in a new place and can coordinate with the booker, always ask and see what they can offer you as far as a bar %, door %, guarantee, food/drinks, lodgings, etc. Often venues will feed touring artists too! So always check.

(photo: kribbean at 'Roll & Roll Hotel' via TripAdvisor)

(photo: kribbean at 'Roll & Roll Hotel' via TripAdvisor)

Will you be staying with friends/family or at hotels?

If you are traveling to a place where you have friends or family, see if it’s possible for you or your band to crash with them for a night. More likely than not, they’ll be excited you’re in town and will want to come see the show and let you crash if they have the space. Offer them some merch or a guest list spot in return! If you’re staying at hotels, a lot of them offer deals and express deals through http://Priceline.com. It’s possible to get a motel or a hotel for as cheap as $25 a night in some cities!

(Photo: Vanessa Silberman on tour with Jimmy Dias of The Love Dimension)

(Photo: Vanessa Silberman on tour with Jimmy Dias of The Love Dimension)

What is the distance between cities/states you are traveling?

It is helpful to look on a map when routing a tour, and to keep in mind the lengths of your drives and the distances between your shows.

*TIP: find out who in your band will be sharing the driving duties and calculate how many hours the band can do on a gig day (ex. 4-5 hours plus gas stops/food breaks/bathroom stops. Also consider cushioning a little time for traffic in bigger cities or any time changes to get you on time for load in and sound check).

It can be a challenge sometimes finding great gigs on weekday nights rather than weekends, but it IS possible!! Many venues around the U.S. book music seven days a week, and some that only book on weekends will sometimes make exceptions for touring artists. The closer you can get to a straight line or a circle without retracing steps and driving extra miles is going to be the most effective way to map out a tour and to make the most profit!

(Photo: Jenny Bergman)

(Photo: Jenny Bergman)

Do you have enough time for preparation and booking?

Make sure you consider starting the planning of a tour 3-6 months prior to the first night of tour. It’s going to take time to align it so it is linear and so you can fill in all the gaps accordingly. If there are any gaps, say on a Monday that you just couldn’t find a venue for, try hitting up a local show and meeting some bands if you’ve got the day off. You could visit some open mics as well as record stores to see if they’ll put your music on consignment.

This site can tell you how much a route will cost in gas and tolls and also how far you’ll travel in miles according to your vehicle. It’s great for figuring out a budget plan and a route! https://tollguru.com/trip-calculator

With just a little bit of planning ahead and time you can route a great tour!

Setting Up a Release

After playing some local shows, establishing yourself on social media, telling all your friends and new fans about your band or project, then planning recording, going into the studio, and finishing your first recording, (Single, EP or Full Length) you are probably ready to release some material! Even if you haven’t played out live yet and no one knows about the project you’ve been writing for or practicing with - releasing a song could be a great way to let everybody know about it as these days (depending on genre & direction) there are dozens of ways, both traditional and new school, to release material.

Whether it’s a single, an EP, or a full length album, the process could be looked at the same. You have the material, shows, you’re building your name and your image / music brand, and the object is to line up all the pieces so they work together. Getting the order of tasks so they start building and continue the building momentum is key! We’ll go over a few ideas in this post - Though keep in mind these ideas aren’t the only ways to do a release.

Before you release a song or an album (EP or LP), you’ll have to do some preparation and planning. Setting up a release is a lot like recording pre-production, but on a different front - time-line, social media, content, online promotion, digital distribution, and coordinating with numerous people. It’s pretty much thinking in terms of a musical “to do” list in order to get your newly recorded song(s) out into the world - and letting people know about it!

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Before setting up a release you could ask yourself these questions regarding the material itself:

⁃ do you feel really proud of the song(s), the direction, and want to share it?

*you will be the one pitching and promoting the material regardless if you hire someone to help with PR, Marketing or Radio promo (you want believe in it 1000%)

⁃ is it representative of you and what your sound is?

*make sure before you release music that the image and the music represents you in the best way

⁃ has your music gone over really well live, and has it gotten a good crowd reaction?

⁃ is it sounding tight between you and your bandmates when you play these songs live together?

- did you pick the right songs for a release?

*Ex. If you recorded 5 or 6 songs or even 3 but 2 don’t feel right (maybe a couple have a different vibe direction than the others or the performance isn’t as good as it could be) don’t release them yet do a single or a smaller EP of only your best work!

*No filler!! These days there are so many artists, so many songs and so much content overloaded online that it is important to remember if you work really hard on your songs and what you do it will show and eventually pay off. The cream rises to the top!

Once you have decided on the amount of songs, preparing your album/single artwork would be the next step (or could happen simultaneously).

- will your music be a digital release, physical release, or both?

*this is a big factor because of art design and manufacturing, as well as budget!

Digital Art - you will most likely only need a cover for the single or album, and a few different versions of the art that you could use for online promotion.

(Example: Social media promo pics, including posts ‘coming soon’ & ‘out now’ and cover photos)

Digital Distribution - there are many digital ways to release music, here’s a few:

Tunecore, CD Baby (these sites distribute your songs to iTunes, Amazon, Spotify & many others for a small yearly fee & will send you money monthly)

Others: BandCamp, SoundCloud (Free streaming)

Physical Art - This is more costly but imperative if you’re a live band so people can buy your CDs at shows as well as online.

*you’ll need to decide on a design (pocket, plastic case with insert, fold out, 8 panel, there are many options, and at different prices) but you’ll need to figure out your budget by researching companies to find out how much printing is, how many they can produce for your budget, and how long it will take to manufacture. You’ll also need to get templates from the manufacturer (often you download these from their site, for digital the distributor usually states the requirements)

*check out http://www.discmakers.com and http://www.hollywooddisc.com for free quotes and prices.

You will also need to get your ISRC codes from your masterer - or these can be created by the online distribution outlet you choose as they will make them for you.

*ISRC codes are used to track sales and if you have them you will enter them in a form when you’re signing up to distribute your music.

With this information you can start figuring out a release date, timeline, as well as accounting/budget (art, manufacturing, distribution etc)

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Here comes coordination and timing! The most important part!

- you’ll want to give yourself a good window of time to create the product (once you have the finished songs you’ll need to make a deadline with the graphic designer you’re working with and line up the time it will take for printing or online distribution)

- promote the product before its release

- release the product

- sell the product

- promote the product consistently thereafter

Giving yourself a large window of time will give you a deadline to get it done, it will generate excitement about the release, and will give you ample time to prepare.

Let’s say your window of time is 5 or 6 months for a record (with the suggestion of a minimum of 8-6 weeks for a single). Your deadline, or day of release is at the end of that time frame (release day for new music is Friday).

Additionally, if you have some extra budget, you can consider independently hiring out a company to do a collage and/or specialty radio campaign (typically radio campaigns start 4-8 weeks ahead of release), most campaign companies will have you print up an additional 100-200 physical CDs that they will mail to radio stations (or you will, depending on the budget) to you’ll have to account for additional costs. If you’re doing this, getting you’re music to the campaign people at least 6-8 weeks ahead of time (depending on length) before the release is super important. Coordinating with the organizers of the campaign at this time is imperative.

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You can also consider hiring a PR company to pitch your music to blogs, media outlets, magazines, newspapers, and TV. There are many PR companies both big and small. Typically a PR campaign runs $1000+ a month. At a minimum, most companies like to start working a release 6-4 weeks before (sometimes more depending on the release as well as company or campaign length).

If you don’t have a budget but have time and a good work ethic, you can do your own PR (which we’ll go over in another future post!). But typically news and media outlets need time in advance for printing, featuring and/or premiering (of course not all online music blogs are the same but this is a general time frame) are 4-6 weeks.

A few check list items for you or your band in preparing for the release (5-2 months ahead of time) you will:

- make a budget / keep track of your expenses and know how much you have to put into your music

- set up and ready artwork idea/find a graphic designer

- set up distribution

- consider coordinating and setting up a release show in your home town

- make an online posting plan (telling your fans and friends that a new release is on its way - tell them what day it’s coming out)

- create and share cohesive artwork to go along with the release on all your social networks, get people involved through social media in a creative way

- set up PR and Radio campaigns - or If you’re doing it own your own, put the song or record up on a private soundcloud link that will be used for sharing with blogs/newspapers/media outlets/reviewers as well as other industry people a couple months before the release to help generate interest.

- share the reviews/features/premieres/response online that you get from the campaign to further excite your audience (this is a huge part of momentum and activity) and use it as online posting content.

⁃ consider making a list of Spotify playlists you want to pitch the song to once it’s out

- consider making a music video for your most popular live song (or if you haven’t played live, consider getting some feedback on what your strongest song is) that you can release around the time of the album release to build excitement and activity!

*Tips: you can try to get premiere for the video, or after the song has been released consider doing a video release show.

Other factors and tips for a new release to take into consideration are:

⁃ make sure, just like the music, that the album/single artwork is strong and matches you/your band.

- maybe consider a new photoshoot / art direction for a release theme which can be tied into marketing.

(For example, say you have a single called ‘Red Rose.’ Maybe you and your bandmates could do a photo shoot and wear all red colors near a rose garden. Maybe for building up for the release you could do social media pictures of red roses in different locations! Or live, wear these outfits. Whatever it is be creative and true to you!)

- sign up with a songwriters society (ASCAP or BMI, SESAC* *is invite only) and register your song or songs so you can get paid when your song is played on the radio.

- sign up for soundexchange.com and register your song or songs so you can get paid for online streaming.

Setting up a release successfully comes down to preparation, promoting your product, and finding the right outlets to help keep pushing it forward. You can pay lots of money for companies to do this work, but you can also do it yourself! Believe in the work you’re putting out and tell everybody about it! Setting it up with ample time to prepare for promotion and to generate more response and hype is going to be integral and well worth the wait!

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​Booking & Setting Up a Show

A lot goes into booking a show for an artist or band from start to finish. From rehearsing and coordinating to online and grassroots promotion, and from negotiating and communicating about availability to confirming other acts for the bill (whether you or your band puts the bill together or booker does - someone does the work).

The terminology regarding shows can sometimes be confusing for someone just starting out (words like: hold, load in, line check, draw, room cap, cover etc.). Bookers will often ask questions like “what’s your market history?” and “what’s your draw?” or “how many people can you bring out to the show?”

Here’s a brief overview of some terms:

Hold - Sometimes artists or agents will put a “hold” on a date when their working on routing / booking a tour and waiting for other dates to confirm so in that case venues will put you on “hold” if they have other acts who have reached out before you for the specific date you reached out for. Sometimes the booker will tell you have a second or third hold, and if the other bands who have that date reserved end up cancelling it, the night will go to you or your band.

Load-in: The booker will give you a load-in time for the show, this will vary from venue to venue, but will generally be about an hour before doors open. This is the time you bring your gear in and set it near the stage or onstage before the show.

Line-check: This is another word for “soundcheck” but it’s more of a quicker one right before the band plays. Rather than doing a full 20 minute or hour long soundcheck before the crowd gets there, often for headliners, the opening bands will just do a line-check and check their levels minutes before their set.

Draw: A draw is how many people you can bring to a show. A booker or venue will ask this so they can figure how many people will likely be there buying drinks, cheering you on, and paying the cover to get in. This could also determine a guarantee you’ll be paid, bar % or door deal you’ll get. Bars and venues rely on this draw sometimes to cover their expenses for the night (security, sound people, door people, bar tenders). They want to know that hosting you is going to benefit them.

Room cap: “Room Capacity” This is how many people the room/venue holds according to fire safety laws.

Cover: Door price /  Ticket price / How much it costs to get in.

A lot of people are involved in a live show. In addition to your band and the audience, there is usually a few other people involved: The promoter &/or booker, a sound person, a door person, other acts (that a promoter, band or you will have added to the bill) and the people who work at the venue.

First, the booker is who you’ll have to reach out to for a potential gig. This e-mail is usually listed on a venue’s website contact form.

Helpful Tips:

- If there are two different booker contact e-mails: local & national - email the most appropriate one

- Address the booker by their name if you see there’s a particular person

- Introduce yourself, your act or bands name (if you are one)with a brief paragraph & include a short description of your band / comparisons and that you’re looking to book a show

- Pick a few dates to send as options for booker (prior if you’re in a band make sure all members could do these days as possible options, some people may need to get off work or change their schedules)

- Include a link to any CURRENT single or album & some live video if you have available.

- Include you or your bands career highlights (like if you have been featured on any blogs, news papers, magazines or on any radio, tv) & where you have played in the area (list a few venues & locals acts you have played with)

- Include your contact info & social media links

The booker will ideally get back to you (usually within a few days but sometimes a couple weeks, if not, try e-mailing again/follow up. Try following up a week-10 days later) and let you know if the date is available or sometimes they will recommend other venues that may be a better fit or other possible dates if the one requested is already taken. If the date is open and your band is given the gig, the booker may ask you to find other locals acts to support the night. Local bands will help bring in a bigger crowd especially if you’re not from the area. If you’re booking a show outside of your hometown, it’s integral to get local supporting bands. You can find other bands on sites such as http://reverberation.com, facebook music groups, local music blogs to the specific city, venue website’s show calendars, and fliers other artists have hung up at venues or coffeeshops nearby. Also google searches can be helpful by looking up city names, band & genres tags. Sometimes bookers will also have a recommendation band list, so always ask incase they do!

Reaching out to other bands is similar to reaching out to the booker: be specific, be respectful, and include all the info in a clear and concise way!

Sometimes and ideally, a promoter or venue of a show or venue will help push this newly booked show out to online outlets and upcoming show listings. There won’t always be a promoter, but even when there is, it’s important to do your own promotion. There are many simple ways of getting your friends, family, and soon-to-be fans to your gigs. Sometimes venues, bars, coffeeshops, or houses that host events will have a built-in crowd but you can’t rely on this. That’s where online promotion and grassroots promotion come in! Once your show is booked and you’ve found other fitting acts to join the bill, make a flier and an event page on facebook and push it out to everyone you can! Give yourself a good month to promote and remind people, in person, and on social media.

Also ask the booker if they have a press list. Often they do! This can be helpful as they may have good contacts at local radio stations, blogs, and news outlets who you can email/reach out to help promote your show. Invite them to your show or ask if they can feature you, do an interview or live in-studio performance (radio) before the show to help get people out :)

Once you’re at your show, it’s important to know the door person’s and the sound person’s role.

The door person will sometimes tally how many people come into the venue and take the cover from anyone entering the show. The sound person will do the soundcheck/line check for bands, and ask you what your set up is. *Sometimes when booking (depending on venue, a booker will request you send an input list & stage plot for production so they know what to expect as far as your setup ahead of time).  They will want to know what you need on stage as far as instruments, microphones, and necessary cables, etc. to get the best sound. You can tell this person how high you want the levels in your monitors, and if you’re singing - whether you want reverb added to your voice or not. Don’t expect them to read your mind! They’re there to make it sound the best it possibly can.

At whatever level you are at, it doesn’t matter, you have to start somewhere! If you are just starting out just know even bigger artists who have been playing for years also have their own booking or show / touring struggles. So regardless of the level, hopefully this post and some of these suggested steps and tips might help making booking easier!

Additional Tips:

- http://www.indieonthemove.com is a great database for bands and musicians starting out looking to book their next gig. There are listings on this site of music venues all over the country, and they will even tell you how many people fit in the room, what genres they host, and who to contact to book a show. We would highly recommend checking this site out and becoming a member! It will help you locally as well as country-wide once you’re ready to take your act on the road! The benefits of this site are great examples of what you need in order to book shows.

Photo: Samuel Bendix  

Photo: Samuel Bendix