A version of this article orignally appeared on the MusicSUBMIT blog.
You want your tour to be a success, of course, and there’s plenty of things you can do to make it happen. It’s best to start promoting before you hit the road, but if you’ve already departed for the first town, you can still find ways to promote the very next show and increase your chances of a successful tour.
Here’s one secret: invite the local music industry folks to come out to your shows.
By “industry,” we don’t mean record label A&R execs or artist managers. There’s no need to reach out to these folks; they will find you when you’re ready. You should focus on reaching out to radio show hosts, DJs, bloggers, and local promoters in each market. If you offer the right incentives, they'll not only come to your show, they’ll write about it, snap and post live photos on their blogs and social media, and spin your tracks on their radio shows.
Here’s what you do: Find an FM college station, an internet station, a blogger, and a local promoter in each town on your tour. You can search the internet, or use music companies that specialize in this work. Websites like Sonicbids and Indie On The Move can help you identify geo-specific media outlets to contact. If you go it alone on the internet, it’s more work, but it can be done. Do an online search of each town’s media outlets and put them in a spreadsheet with their contact information.
Next, you need to get their attention. Here are three ways to get industry attention and bring them to your show.
1. Give away VIP tickets to your shows to "industry" only
Of course there are a million other summer touring bands, but with the right strategy, you can stand apart and get noticed.
- Reach out via phone. If no one picks up, leave a message with your band name, venue, date, and time of your show, and offer free tickets to a specific person’s name at the station or publication.
- Send an email. An effective subject line is crucial. Use this format: "[Band Name] at [Venue Name] this Friday – free tickets for [Radio Station + Host Name]. For example: "Steve Law Band playing Larimer Lounge this Friday – free tickets for Dave at Rock On Colorado." Repeat the subject line in the body of the email, and include a link to your band’s music.
- Use social media. Conveniently, the same email subject line works in a tweet or Facebook post as well. It’s always good to include a personal note regarding their show or blog in your message, or you’ll come off spammy. This is not supposed to be easy, so do your homework and be creative!
2. Offer the station or blog free ticket giveaways to their audiences
If your VIP invitation to the local DJ or blogger is politely declined, come back with an offer to give away tickets on their radio program. The benefits of a ticket giveaway during the radio program is two-fold: one, it works as free promotion for your show, and two, increases your chances of getting your music spun. You’ve just bought yourself radio promotion for the low, low price of a handful of tickets that you didn’t even purchase anyway, which means literally zero out-of-pocket costs.
3. Have hardcopy CDs and band one-sheet ready for industry VIPs
Now let’s say the DJ or blogger has taken you up on your invitation. Give them the VIP treatment. Have hardcopy CDs waiting for them, with a one-sheet bio and/or press release about your band and tour. Typed one-sheets make it easier for radio and press to talk about your band while spinning or posting your music. You can’t buy publicity like this any cheaper.
At this point, you may be asking yourself: If I give away all these tickets to my shows, how can I make any money on my tour? After all, there are plenty of expenses on the road – gas, food, etc. Should I really be giving away all these free tickets?
The answer: Yes, definitely. You should pack your shows, even if you have to comp every ticket.
Keep in mind, early on you’re not trying to make money by touring. You’re actually trying to build and grow your fanbase. A packed house with only 10 paying customers is better than 10 people in the club, all of whom paid to get in. True, the door receipts are exactly the same. But consider this:
- A packed house is a better music experience for everyone in the room.
- You have more opportunities for merch sales.
- The venue is happy. In fact, everyone is happy. It’s win-win-win across the board.
And, your band has the potential for radio spins, blog reviews, more photos and social media posts, and solid contacts for the next time you blow through town.
Think of it like this: By reaching local industry folks along every stop of your tour, you’re building “connectors.” Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, explains how “connectors” can help a new idea (your band) spread like wildfire, or, as we say in the music industry, that elusive “magic dust” your band needs to go from obscurity to ubiquity.
Michael Corcoran is the CEO of musicSUBMIT.com, an internet promotion and publicity firm for musicians.