Another column to write and once again I’m sat in the back of a van somewhere in Europe. This time we’re driving south from Barcelona toMurcia down the coast of Spain, which is much more glamorous than it sounds especially as most of the band are nursing some spectacular hangovers.
Last issue I wrote a piece about being on tour and how to survive what is a brilliant, but incredibly stressful experience. Four weeks into a five week run of shows and it’s never been more relevant to us as band. But how do you get to this point? How do you book a tour? I’ve been asked this more times than I care to remember by tonnes of bands who are just starting out and it’s almost impossible to give a quick answer. It’s an incredible challenge that relies on some really basic things, a lot of patience and luck,and most importantly some songs to back it up.
These are some basic points to remember when you’re booking your first ‘DIY’ tour. One day you might want to take on an agent, but if you can prove you can do it yourself, you’ll be in a much healthier position when you eventually do.
If people don’t like you they aren’t going to book you unless it’s to make you sell tickets and make them money. If you’re only getting booked on shows that ask you to sell a certain number of tickets to play (which I’d suggest you don’t take unless you absolutely have to) then there’s a good chance whatever material you’re sending out to promoters isn’t inspiring enough.
By that I don’t mean email the same thirty people every day until they block your email address. Email as many promoters in as many cities as you can, whilst still bearing point 4, below, in mind. It’ll take a lot of time, a lot of research and a lot of emails.
Approach small venues and independent promoters. You’re not going to get booked in to Birmingham Academy, but there’s a more realistic chance of you finding a fan in a promoter who does shows from bands you like in the back room of a pub. Start there and build up.
Find promoters who put on bands from a similar ‘scene’ or genre to you. If you’re a folk band, don’t try and get a show with Death Angel Blood Promotions for example.
Make friends with bands and promoters. A good first place to start is to hook up with two or three other bands from different cities and all put a show on in your home town that all the bands play at over a long weekend. The punk scene has been doing this forever, and it’s probably the easiest way to start as it benefits everyone.
Arrogance is the worst. You aren’t awesome, you aren’t massive and you probably aren’t going to be the next thing. Sell your self as best you can whilst being honest and polite. Promoters will appreciate it and will give you a break when they can. Mention ‘good’ press you’ve had (zine’s and magazines that people will actually be aware of), real achievements that actually matter (Battle of the bands don’t count) and releases and press you’ve got coming up around the time you’re booking the shows.
Book the shows far enough ahead. Start booking three of four months before the tour as a rough guide, but if you still have gaps keep pushing right up until you get in the van. You never know what will come up.
Other points to remember – Don’t send out hundreds of megabytes of mp3s to everyone – they’ll get deleted. I know a band from Leicester who accidentally sent their whole album to what I’ll describe as ‘an important industry figure’ and it broke his email account. He didn’t help them, and even bad mouthed them all over the internet. F.A.I.L.
Don’t patronise or ass kiss too hard. It’s really obvious and most people won’t take kindly to it. Some might though I guess. Just be nice and know your place. Don’t ask for the moon on a stick. The moon doesn’t fit on a stick.
All of this is irrelevant though if you’re not building a good following through word of mouth, blogs and webzines and forming relationships with other bands, labels and the like. You need to become part of the community by being involved, helpful and enthusiastic – this isn’t something you can force. No one element of being in a band can exist without the others. Push for pressat the same time as you’re looking for shows, labels and whatever else it is you want to get out of it. If you’re really struggling to get anywhere then either your songs are no good or you’re not trying hard enough. All this will take up literally months of your life. It helps if you’re a student or unemployed. Believe me.
Oh, and your first tour will empty your collective bank accounts. Just you wait.