How To Kill Your Band #5 – DIY Touring

Hello and welcome to the fifth installment of Eric Morgan’s How To Kill Your Band. This column offers advice to up and coming artists from the perspective of a professional musician who has thrived with and without label support over the last decade. If you have any questions regarding the content of this blog, or if you would like to learn more information about the services offered by Haulix, please email james@haulix.com and share your thoughts. We can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

An Introduction:

I’ve been in the music industry as an artist for nearly 10 years now. In that decade I’ve achieved nearly all of my childhood music dreams, but I’ve also made just as many mistakes that run over my mind before I fall asleep each night. A wonderment of how a few different decisions, rerunning in hindsight, would work out in some alternate universe. This ever creeping determinism is a fallacy I’m quite aware of but one that I will never completely shake, though it’s these experiences I’ve learned the most valuable lessons. These are the things I’d like to share in a series of mini-blogs I call How To Kill Your Band.

Part 5 – DIY Touring

So you’ve made it through last week’s post and countered the bluntness of why anyone would even consider booking your band – well then you must have something special or you’ve got Apple level marketing genius. Either way, it works. The next step in the heroic quest to get your music on the road is to figure out how to book your own tours. Like I mentioned last week, learning to book tours independently is one of the few skills learned during bandlife that can eventually turn itself into a legitimate job so it’s worth diving into if you want to stay in the industry postmortem. Luckily for you, five years ago I took my just-graduated-college naivety and dove headfirst into booking AHAF’s first tour making just about every mistake you could possibly make. We’ll gloss over the embarrassing stuff and get right into a few tips and resources I’ve discovered that can help get you started.

Indie On The Move

Back in 2009, an “agent” had booked us our first tour that we’d been promoting for months along with our record label. Three weeks before it was to start, the agent vanished and we came to find out only half the dates were actually booked. We should of just canceled the tour, but being young and dumb I decided to finish it myself. After several tedious days of Googling/MySpacing venues in different cities I ended up coming across IndieOnTheMove.com. At the time, it was an oasis of venue information conveniently sorted by location and provided just enough hope to keep me going. To this day it continues to be a valuable resource for diy touring bands and has a great community providing not just venue information but it’s own tips for new bands on the road. However, I learned fairly quickly that having venue information is only valuable if they have in-house talent buyers specific to your genre. In most cases, promoters separate from the venue are responsible for putting on shows and this needs to be under consideration when contacting venues directly. Nevertheless, it’s a superb starting point when searching possible venues to go after on your initial routing. 

Local Metal

One feature of MySpace that I still miss to this day is the ability to search for bands by location. Sure you can use ReverbNation* or Bandcamp but it’s not nearly as comprehensive as the service Tom built. Further, finding bands only lets you creep their show flyers in hopes of finding a mention of the promoter. Fortunately, the Local Metal Facebook network has become a directory of venues, promoters, and even current local bands in each state. As you’ll see in the main page’s info, each state has it’s own separate FB page and that page contains the directory of local contacts. Even more than being categorized by state, each state’s page has gone another step and conveniently listed contacts by city. This is by far my favorite diy find for collecting promoter contacts and has been invaluable on tours I’ve booked in new territories and contrary to the name, it provides worthy contacts across multiple genres.

*Quick note on Reverbnation, don’t use it. Or at least don’t show it to people. I live just a couple blocks away from the RN headquarters so it pains me to advise against a local startup but recently an A/R for a large record label mentioned to me that part of his daily email triage is to automatically delete anyone who sends a Reverbnation link with their submission. Seems harsh right? But it’s similar to applying for a job with an aol.com email address – it projects that you’re somewhat out of touch with the modern trends and realities within the industry.

Learn how to write an email

Now that you have a list of names to contact it’s time to, well, contact them. Here’s where you need to explain why someone should book your band and do so in a way that provides the breadth of necessary information in an organized, easy to read message. The importance of brevity here cannot be understated. Writing a 10 line deep first paragraph describing the virtues of your band’s dietary decisions is the quickest way to get passed over. Understand the volume of emails a promoter receives and try to not make their life any harder. The subject line should contain the bands on the package along with the specific date requested while the body needs only to list the bands’ most pertinent marketable information and links to Facebook and notable YouTube videos. Think of what a promoter might use to promote your band and give them the tools to do so right off the bat. 

Above all else, the best advice I can give is to stay organized. Carefully maintain your contact and routing spreadsheets, respond to every email, and learn to love Google Docs. Booking, like anything, takes practice and you’ll make a fair share of dumb moves but it rewards those that are obsessive in their determination. Treat everything you book as if it’s going on your resume because as I’ve mentioned, it’s a skill that can turn itself into a job in an industry where experience is valued over degrees. 

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.