This past year, I have played twenty-seven shows on five different tours in seven different cities. This is also the first year I have ever toured as a musician. When I mention this new aspect of my life to people, the first question is always: “How do you do it?” Just two years ago, I was the person asking this question and the answer still surprises me: “I decided to try.” Here are a nine tips for setting up a tour I have picked up over this past year:
1. Start with places where you know people, and have your info ready to go.
All of us have friends and family settled in cities other than our own. Make a list of places you could go and stay for free. It’s a great way to narrow your options and it keeps costs down.
2. Have a website/soundcloud/myspace/place on the internet where potential venues can hear your music and see a short bio.
It gives you legitimacy and helps them to see what you can do immediately.
3. Spreadsheets and a few hours in front of the computer can do wonders.
Once you’ve got your cities all picked out, start doing a little research. Find all the libraries, children’s bookstores, and museums that you can. See if you can find the name of the head of the youth department, event coordinator, etc. at each place. Get down all the info you can into a spreadsheet (I use google docs). Keep in mind that these venues generally plan about six months in advance. Once you’ve got a healthy list of places to try, the hardest part is next.
4. Make a bajillion phone calls.
This one is tough, and the success rate is relatively low. For my Atlanta bookings this summer, I had to make 37 phone calls before I booked even one show. Just that one show though, snowballed into four. Stay positive, friendly, and humble; most people on the other end are looking for new programming; if you make their jobs easier, they will love you. Offer to send them an email with all your info right there so they can look at it later. It also helps to have a little script written out of what you are going to say, i.e. “Hi, my name is _______ and I’m a super-awesome _________. I want to come to your [venue] and make you the most popular person around for hiring me!” Also, keep in mind that these calls don’t have to be long, 37 phone calls took about 2 hours.
5. Follow up… with a bajillion more phone calls.
This is where it gets really tough. You will have left a ton of messages on your first phone call blitz. Most of those people will not call you back. So follow up a week later! The hardest part is to stay chipper and gently ignore the sinking feeling that you are turning into a stalker. I have called librarians for weeks and when I finally do get ahold of them, they thank me for my persistence!
6. More spreadsheets
As you do start to book shows, a calendar really helps. You’ll also want to take notes on conversations you have with each venue and dates booked. It is really easy to get all of this confused.
7. Start thinking Merch
Come up with a few things you can take with you. I always bring CD’s and often a prize or two for big shows. I’ve also offered stickers, coloring pages, and tote bags. Organize all that stuff and keep it light-weight, you’ll be carrying it!
Many of the venues appropriate for Family Music will have their own PR departments, but it never hurts to do a little of you own. Look up Mommy Blogs or Family-centered websites and send them a press-release about your show.
9. Have fun!
You get to make music with a bunch of new friends and families and you’re getting paid for it. Good luck!
If you have any touring tricks, let me know in the comments.