Last week I started writing about organizing a DIY Tour and have answered questions such as what, why, where and when about touring. If you would like to start reading that one, you can check it out here. In this week’s post, I would like to get in the details about the big question: How?
Certainly there are so many aspects about how to organize a tour, but I would like to focus on the key aspects to build the groundwork no matter if you are a musician, writer, DJ, photographer, painter, graphic designer, chef, yoga teacher or gym instructor. This post focuses on the experiences for a musician, since that’s what I am. However, the principles apply to all creative artists who tour to engage your fans.
a) The Research
Before you go about your tour, you need to figure out a couple of things.
First, where does your audience live? The people who listen to your music (or the particular styles of art you are presenting) are the ones that will come to your gig. Pretty straightforward right? But there’s more to it, the people who are willing to come to your performance are also your primary leads for bringing more audience as well. As they say in the world of advertising, word of mouth is the best medium. Lucky for us that many platforms today offer the location metrics of our followers. So, all you have to do is simply analyzing your social media, website, Spotify, YouTube and other platform metrics to see where do your followers live.
Now that we got that out of the way, now let’s look at the places that you want to play. So, assuming you have a good reason to play at this location, first question to ask is: “Do you know anyone who previously played in the countries or cities that you would like to play?”. Asking your friends about venues, cultural centers or school recommendations can be an amazing tool to book more gigs in any form. You can also ask the people you know who lives in these places for the best venues that you can play.
After you decide which towns are suitable for you, simply do your research to acquire a list of potential venues for each city. Make sure that you know how big is the space based on your estimate of how many people will show up, and also the general level of income of that city into account to get an estimate of how much you can charge the audience.
Once you have a list of places you want to play, you should prepare a portfolio. You should put a short bio, a few pictures, a couple of examples on YouTube, your performance roster, and finally, a brief description of what you will be presenting.
This information will not only give an idea to the venue owners/event producers/school directors and what your performance/class will look like, but they can also use this information when they create marketing material for the event such as posters and Facebook event pages. In the case that they do not create the event promotion pages on social media, be sure to be proactive and create them yourself. Being on the top of your event promotion is essential for organizing successful events.
When you compile all of these together, write a brief introductory note to the venue. Send these out as an email and when they get back to you, you can start negotiating the price you are asking. It is important to note that you should not be demanding your transportation costs from the venue yet, unless your show generates thousands of dollars of revenue.
The venues pay in various ways. Some venues will have a budget for a fixed price payment and some venues offer a percentage from the total ticket sales. Some places will also use the pass-the-hat option based on donations from the audience at the end of the performance. It really depends on what kind of venue or organization you will be working with, but either way, communication is key to make sure that you get paid.
If it’s your first or first couple of tours, don’t expect to profit or break even. Touring is an investment that takes time to pay off. Like the festival business, it takes 2-3 years to profit. But when you do profit, the rewards are good.
The key to get to the profitable tour is to have enough experience with touring and to have a solid fanbase, which is why this is an investment.
You have to tour to expand your fanbase, just like you have to invest to expand your production. So it is a learning process where you have to invest and be patient.
A significant point I’d like to make is, being patient does not mean play for free. But know that playing at cafes or smaller venues will not meet your costs right away. So, the key is to cut down some of your costs initially. For instance, you can try staying at hostels or with your friends (instead of hotels), as transportation and accommodation costs make up the majority of touring costs.
Another option is to partner with a sponsor to take on some of your costs. You can partner with a brand that regularly works with musicians or get creative and reach out to your local businesses who would like to expand to the area you might be thinking of going. There are lots of options in terms of sponsoring, and this is a huge topic on its own, so I will get into the details in a different post.
Have you ever toured locally or internationally before? What were some of your positive and negative experiences? Feel free to comment below!
Alper Tuzcu is a Berklee College of Music and Denison University alumni, and a Boston based guitarist, songwriter and producer. His new EP ‘Lines’ was released on November 2017 and his debut eclectic album ‘Between 12 Waters’ featuring 8 different vocalists is available on Spotify. In addition to being a musician, he regularly teaches workshops and masterclasses internationally. You can follow him on Instagram or Twitter, and for more information you can visit his website www.alpertuzcu.com