When it comes to doing shows or touring, every single artist wants to do it. Not only is it fun and exciting to play live, but it’s extremely beneficial for artists to grow their fanbase. However, being booked for local and then national tours isn’t an overnight process. I’ve booked over 100 shows and over a dozen tours and have seen just about it all with everything that comes to shows, concerts, and tours. While most music industry formulas and plans don’t work the same for every single artist, if I had to write out a formula to help artists with booking more shows and tours, the steps below would be included.
Step 1. If you’ve never headlined a show in your hometown, find a small venue (200 max capacity) and add 2-3 local openers. Get everyone involved to promote hard and try to sell the show out. Rinse and repeat until you have a solid draw on your own and can sell out your hometown. The goal is to sell out your hometown, make money, get amazing footage, recaps, pictures, etc. One thing that I’ll say is that performing every weekend in the same city is never the best idea. You need to plan out and maximize your shows. I’d rather have an artist sell 100 tickets twice or 200 tickets once then have them sell 10 tickets for 10 shows over the course of two months.
Step 2. Use your success to entice promoters/ talent buyers to book you as an opener on larger shows in your hometown. Tell them you’ll promote like crazy, and then follow through. The follow through part here is key, but also you need the footage and recaps of your live performances to gain the attention of promoters and venues in your city.
3. If you can draw around 200 fans in your hometown, you’re ready to explore other potential cities. You need to be willing to start with door deals if the guarantees don’t come immediately. It’s important to remember that opportunities are usually better than getting quick cash. As you grow your hard ticket count in your hometown and surrounding cities, you can improve your door deal rate and then work your way up to stronger guarantees. When you’re looking at expanding past your hometown, look at your Spotify/Apple Music/YouTube analytics to see your top markets in terms of where your streams are coming in from. It’s important to look at both year and last 28-day stats so you can really gauge where your fans are listening to you from. If you have top 5 or top 10 markets with over 1,000 monthly listeners, you can aim for those to start pitching yourself to promoters, venues, and talent buyers in those markets.
4. Now this is all a rule of thumb and doesn’t apply to every single artist, but if you have over 2,000 monthly listeners in a city you probably have a decent fan base there and should take advantage when you’re trying to book a tour. When looking at your numbers, you can generally assume that 1-2% of listeners will come out to see you perform. While this isn’t guaranteed or always the case, when you are pitching yourself to new markets that you haven’t performed in, this can be a good rule of thumb. If you have 1,500-2,000 monthly listeners in DC, you can assume that you’ll be able to have 15-20 fans AT THE LEAST come out to support you. As you perform in more cities and grow your network, those numbers will increase.
5. Additionally, if you live in the northeast, you can plan a small city run from DC – Philly – NYC if your stats are strong enough in those cities. Doing small runs in nearby cities where travel can be cheap is a great idea when starting off – travel is usually one of the most expensive parts of touring, especially if you are doing a limited run and need to catch flights from market to market. Starting with short runs in neighboring cities like DC to Philly to New York is a great way to start building up your show history and to prove that you’re ready for larger runs. The main thing to remember here is that you are trying to build up, so start in your home city and expand from there.
6. Once you have success and can put together small market runs and begin to sell out shows/ begin to become the go to support act in your city – the question will come up “do I need a booking agent?” There are a lot of larger booking agencies out there that will come to you when the time is right. When you are first starting off and see this amount of success, the best thing to do is to find agencies and people in the industry like me who can assist with booking tours and small runs. It’s important to remain independent for as long as you can here. When you get to this point as an artist, you have the leverage. I will always recommend sticking independent and going with a team of people who believe in you and want to see you win. Build up your hard ticket sales, expand your markets, and make sure you can see money early on from these small runs…because at the end of the day when you’re doing 100-200 capacity venues across the US, you are doing it off the hard work, off your fan base, and off your music.
As always if you’re looking for any help with marketing, touring, concerts or anything under the sun when it comes to the music business – we are your go to agency to work with! Be sure to hit up our CEO Brady Altland at email@example.com and make sure you follow us on Instagram.