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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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!

Making Goals & figuring out who you are as an Artist or Band

Goal making & having a message is a very important first step, even before creating & writing songs because finding/figuring out your goals, messages & purposes as an artist or band will help you write songs that reflect that. Of course there’s also the natural progression of a band or song writer...naturally writing songs & playing a couple first shows, jamming with people, having a couple bandmates & figuring out over time what it is that everyone wants. If you can take a little time to ask yourself these questions when you’re first starting out or if you even have played for years defining this sooner than later should help eliminate a lot of road blocks especially as you grow bigger. People shouldn’t tell you who you are. You should tell them & this should be the case for most of your career. For example, if you’re working with management or a label marketing team, you should be working with them & communicating your vision that way they can do a great job & come up with ideas. Another example is you might be communicating to a possible producer you may work with so you’ll want to be as clear as possible telling them your ideal sound & also what you stand for. Of course there’s collaboration- that’s what bands, working with people & life is about! You can work as a team defining these things!

What’s your goal as a band or artist? Do you want to tour? What do you want your recordings to sound like? Do you have a message that reflects in your band’s image (how you dress, your art & logos). Do you want to just play once a month weekend shows? Do you just want to record & release songs online & not tour? Do you want your songs on the radio? Do you just want to play solo but have a drummer once in awhile? If so would you hire them or is it a band? Or do u want to build a band? Do you want to write for other artists? There are countless questions you can ask & the more you define them the more you’ll know & be clear on your goals, vision, as well as message.

Your message is what you’ll carry throughout your path as an artist. It’s what will connect you to your audience, your fans, your fellow musicians/bands, and to opportunities down the road. Look at it as a road map for the future, envision how you want your music and yourself to be perceived and received by your audience. This will help in defining your goal. Your goal will be a good indicator of what you’ll need to do in order to reach a certain market and what your path will entail. If you set out to write songs and perform them in front of crowds, what genre do you most resonate with? Which venues would make the most sense for you to begin playing at? Especially if you’re an act just starting out in your home town —Find other bands or artists on a local level who are doing what you envision yourself doing and connect! Go to shows, big and small, and take note of what inspires you. Why do YOU belong on that stage? What do YOU have to offer?