As the music industry changes, so do the possibilities of opportunity. The life a musician is accessible to any and all who work hard enough for it. While record labels, booking agents, and managers still provide a great service to artists, they are not gatekeepers to the music scene anymore. Independent bands and artists can do most of what a label can do on their own. Recording, promoting, and most importantly, touring. Let’s take a look at “DIY” Touring.
Who you know in this industry is everything. Keeping your head down and playing your songs will only take you so far. As you start to play in different venues in your local city or town, you have to meet whoever you can. Promoters, venue managers, booking agents, other musicians, and especially audience members. Don’t be afraid to tell your story and your vision. If the booking agents like you, they just might book you again. If the audience likes you, they just might see you again. Slowly build your contact list as well your fanbase. One by one, the more persistent and true you are, they will tell their fellow promoters and venue runners about you. Also it is important to realize that you are not above any show. Even unpaid shows. Every chance you get to play is a chance you take. Passing on gigs does nothing but hurt your chances for exposure. If the local venues know you and your sound, they will call you. Once you’ve built yourself a little bit of a brand; the next move is to expand your reach.
Touring outside of your area is a task that a lot of factors dictate. It requires a bit of a resume, strategy, financial planning, persistence, and a whole lot of effort. Planning a tour is a bit like geographical connect the dots. You have to choose your route based on your starting place. If you tour as long as you can afford to and route yourself thousands of miles away, you are essentially marooning yourself. Home base should be your beginning and end. You also have to take into account the distance between your destinations. Driving for days on end won’t do much good for your physical and mental health. Strategically place your shows no more than 300 miles apart. Take a look at the nearby markets and how you may fit into them. You should hit your fair share of main markets, secondary markets, and college towns. But how are you going to reach the people you need to in places you haven’t been? A great tool to use for independent artists is a site called “Indie on the Move”. The site has both free and subscription-based packages to offer you. Either way connects you to an exceptional amount of information on bands, booking agents, music venues, and independent promoters. It can even connect you to record labels and band managers. I would highly recommend this and should be considered one of your best assets. I will personally be using this in the future.
A “Do It Yourself” tour is a risky game to play. A lot can go wrong without the aid of a record label backing you. You are your own crew. You set up and tear gear, promoter yourself, and drive yourself. You are your own bank. You have to protect your assets. If your gear is stolen, that’s it. Treat your money like you would treat your instrument. It is what allows you to continue your adventure. Right off the bat, there are a lot of expenses you need to be prepared for. To name but a few; trailer rental (optional), gas, food, hotel or motel, merchandise, promotional expenses, etc. Identify your fixed expenses and make sure you have the funds to make it through the whole tour without breaking the bank. The overall budget will ultimately affect how much you tour as well. You want to be able to make money from playing these shows. After talking to different fellow musicians, I have found that a ten dollar a day budget for personal spending is the most efficient way to properly fuel yourself. Now ten dollars won’t get you the healthiest foods or most filling but that’s the life of a starting musician.
It isn’t all so glamorous and it definitely isn’t easy. It is what you love and that is what is important. Don’t ever give up on that. Just remember to give yourself a break now and then, but not too much. When you have too much spare time you will spend money. It is easy to set aside what is good for you when you have a goal insight. Touring is long and brutal, and your health may be affected. Take care of yourself and band mates. You are in this together and that is how you succeed. Together.