There’s plenty of advice out there for booking a tour. In fact, I’ve written on it a few times (including this step-by-step guide). People generally talk about the same kind of stuff: how to approach a venue, where to book, promoting, etc. However, I want to cover some of the territory that people don’t talk about, the pitfalls that you’ll come across along the way.
When the Promoter Wants You to Fill the Bill
Some promoters/venues prefer that you pitch them an entire show (with locals) before confirming the show. It makes their life easier (they don’t have to find bands for the show) and local acts make booking a touring/unknown act a safer bet. So if you don’t have any contacts in an town far away, who do you find band?
Three easy solutions:
See who is already playing the venue on a weekend
Look up bands in the city’s alt-weekly paper
Post an ad on Craigslist.
When you can’t fill in a date or run out of venues to ask
Sometimes it seems that everyone in town is booked or no one is interested. You don’t have many options because you’re on a tight tour route or have dates/before and after that are already confirmed. These things happen. When they do, this is what I usually do:
Use Google, Google Maps, Yelp, City Search, or Four Square to look up “live music” and the city name. Sometimes, there are places that host bands that don’t pop up in the usual venue databases. You might also try contacting a store or organizations that would suit your ideal, target audience. Examples include: skateboard shops, youth groups, non-profit fundraiser, goth clothing store, music store, independent record store, etc.
Contact: breweries, wineries, colleges, and fans in the area.
Use Craigslist and search in the “Gigs” section. Often times, new bars/venues will post there looking for live music, as well as people throwing house parties, fundraisers, or events looking for a band.
See what shows are booked and ask the bands on those bills if they’d be willing to add you to the bill. Be sure to pitch how you will get them new fans, make more money, or bring people to the show.
Consider doing an acoustic version and do some busking. I know some acts who busk in Santa Monica, CA and make $200-$400 per day in donations and CD sales. You can also contact the local Occupy Movement encampment about working with their cause by performing (if there’s one there).
When You Don’t Know Anything about the Venue that You’re Booking
It’s always a good idea to know what kind of situation you’re booking into: Will they have an adequate stage? Will they have a sound system and engineer? What kind of audience is there? If you’re booking a venue that you haven’t worked with before, do a quick search online about them. Check out their website, see what kind of acts perform there normally. Look up reviews on Yelp. Ask bands that are on their calendar.
These are just some of the areas that few people talk about when giving advice about booking a tour. What have you run into that you’d like advice about? What areas can you speak to for other bands? -MusicThinkTank