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Touring in the music business

September 5, 2007

Date: September 5, 2007 7:27:51 AM EDT
Subject: Touring in the music business – Sept 2007

Here are some of the responses I received regarding touring.

Note the first one and how positive the author’s tone is compared to the second email.

One attitude breeds success. The other, frustration and failure.

Which type of artist are you?  Which do you want to be?

Jennifer Yeko
True Talent Management
9663 Santa Monica Blvd. # 320
Beverly Hills, CA  90210
http://www.truetalentmgmt.com

Jenn,

This is one of the best emails you’ve sent out.  I loved it.

I wanted to respond to the question about touring.  I recently did my first tour as a solo artist.  I chose cities where I knew I had a bit of a fan base – or even one or two “rabid” fans who would help get the word out.  At all of the places I played, I had smaller, shall we say “intimate” crowds.  But the people who came to see me were incredibly supportive and appreciative.  And I sold CD’s and T-shirts, which would have otherwise sat in the closet (other than the internet sales).  And I definitely believe that when I go back to those same places, I will get larger crowds due to word of mouth.

{Editor’s Note:  Good point.  You can make really good money selling CDs and merch at shows.  In fact, at shows with just a handful of people, I’ve had bands I manage sell more CDs and merch than at shows with much larger crowds.  I think the fan feels much more connected to the artist at a smaller show.  So next time you’re playing to a couple people, instead of getting sad or angry at the lack of a crowd, make sure you win over each person in that audience and they’ll probably buy a CD, t-shirt, come see you next time, and bring some friends to boot!}

Did I make money?  Yes.  Did I break even?  No – mostly because I rented an SUV to carry my sound system (I have a Camry!) and the price of gas ain’t cheap these days.  But I helped cut down my costs by staying with friends in most of the cities where I played at.  On the other hand, I also made connections on the trip that will help in other areas of my business down the road (podcasts, additional dates, etc.).

[Editor’s Note: Again, great point.  It’s much more realistic to make money touring as a solo artist or with one other band member than as a full band.  Punk bands, again, can do well, as many of them get by with a drummer, bass player and lead singer/guitarist — only 3 band members total.  They sleep on friend’s floors and sofas when they tour.  In fact, one guy started an indie label that signed a HUGE band, and even though he has tons of money now, he still sleeps on friend’s sofas when he travels even though he could afford a fancy hotel room – force of habit I guess.  And also, great point about networking – it’s all about who you meet on the road.  You’ll learn a lot more touring than you ever would sitting in your living room, that’s for sure!}

Most importantly, I LOVE to play out.  For every person who comes to hear my play, particularly in a new city that I’ve never played before – frankly, I consider that a privilege.  On any given night, particularly a weekend night, there are so many entertainment options out there for the average consumer.  So I do my best to connect with each person – and let them know that I’m glad they came to see me play.

[Editor’s Note: What a great attitude to have!  If you truly want to be a successful artist, you have to LOVE playing out.  Love touring.  If you don’t, this will all feel like too much work for you and will frustrate you.  Don’t do something that frustrates you.  But know, if you really want fame and fortune, that’s what it takes.  That’s why the people that make it are truly in love with performing and hopefully writing and recording their own material.  Otherwise, it will be the kiss of death for you as you’ll start to hate parts of the music business that “require” you to tour.  Don’t tour because you “have to”.  Tour because you WANT TO!}

I’m a singer/songwriter so when I play, it’s just me and the acoustic guitar.  Although a few of the dates were the traditional club/coffeehouse type gig, I also had the luxury of doing a few different types of venues.  I did a few bookstores (I chose local vs. the national chains) and I also did a home concert.  Let me talk about both of those.

Bookstores.  One of the advantages of playing independent bookstores is that they will typically play your music in store and will also carry it.  To help promote my bookstore shows, I sent them posters, postcards to place by the register, and also sent a CD to play in store.  One of the bookstores played my CD fairly regularly, which helped pique interest and get people to the show.  So when I arrived, the first thing they said to me was, “Before you leave, make sure we buy some CD’s from you.  We could have sold a dozen of them already if we had had them.”  This particular bookstore hosts a regular music series – and they totally knew how to host a concert.  They were pro’s.  They were also the only place on my tour that charged a cover to see me.  Between the door and CD/T-shirt sales, it was my best money night of the trip by far.  Funny thing is, the crowd was the most receptive that night (based on sales, emails and MySpace messages), which was also the night that I thought I did a “not so great” performance.  It just goes to show you that you can’t always judge a show by how you THINK you did.

[Editor’s Note: Great job promoting the show – I often check out concert posters at a venue and see who’s coming there – some of the best placement is in the men’s and women’s restrooms – you have a captive audience there!  And again, smart move on sending some advance CDs – also, try sending a stack of CD singles for the club to leave out or pass out!  Or a sampler of :30-1:00 minute clips of 3-5 songs could work too!}

Home concerts.  I’ve done a few of these and they are my favorite shows to play for a couple of reasons.  First, the people who host them are friends who love and support you and will bring their friends there, or they are experienced people who regularly host home concerts.  Home concerts are a very viable alternative to club bookings and any artist at the indie level should explore them.  The audiences at home concerts are always very appreciative, which usually translates to a high percentage of CD/T-shirt sales.  Plus they come to hear you play (unlike some bar gigs where you’re background noise).  That, combined with playing in a living room, makes for an intimate atmosphere that simply cannot be beat.

I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of my tour because I feel that I did a few things right.  First, I always check out similar artists at my level to see where they are playing – or I ask my fans in different cities for information on appropriate venues.  All of the venues I played (other than the home concert) came from that.  I also put together an itinerary book with daily wake up, leave, and load in times, venue contact information, maps, etc., to stay on schedule.  So the tour was well organized with no surprises.  Plus, I knew from the start that I would not play to the same size crowds that I can draw at home.  Most importantly, it all comes down to the music and making a connection with people.  I practice every night in an empty room, so it’s a special thing to play in front of an audience.  And playing in front of people as consistently as possible will make me a much better artist than three times the hours of practice in an empty room.  If the only reason we do music is to make money, well, that’s stupid.  This business is hard.  And to me, music is ultimately about connecting.

I have a full time job, so I don’t depend on my music to make a living.  That being said, I want to be able to finance my next CD from what I’ve earned from the first one.  So I am seeking every opportunity to sell more, gain a wider exposure – and yes, license my music.  But going on tour made me feel like a “real” artist, not just a local or internet artist.  And it made me totally miss the days of traveling full time (I was with a vocal group previously).  It was a wonderful experience, and I can’t wait to start planning the next one.

Have a great Labor Day,

-Mike R.

[Editor’s Note:  What a great email. Very informative and inspirational!  Thanks so much for sharing!}
*****
Very interesting info Jennifer.

But the thing about this is even though you are on point, giging around can catch an act up in a road to nowhere also.  There are so many great musicians out there who need a chance but will never be heard except in the local scene.  Pretty soon they have to play the game called “life” and gigging around won’t support this.
[Editor’s Note:  True, not everyone will “make it” and very few artists have the privilege of making their living 100% from the music business.  It’s very smart to be honest with yourself and perhaps, give yourself a time limit.  I think a lot of bands figure, if they don’t “make it” by the time they are around 30, they pretty much give up the “rock star” dream and settle down.  There’s nothing wrong with that. And these days, you can write and record in your home studio and use a computer and ProTools and focus on making music and licensing it, instead of going for the big pot of gold…}

On another note as a 35 year vet in the biz, so many acts make it without any live performance and are created by producers and labels with high $$ production as their live performance.
[Editor’s Note:  That may be true but these artists were signed for a reason.  Again, they are young and beautiful and determined beyond belief.  And the label thinks they can market their music primarily through radio.}

Ever seen 50 Cent perform?
How about the ones who sing and stand there with guitar in hand for two hours til you need to just leave?
[Editor’s Note: I haven’t seen 50 Cent perform but what I know about him is that he was Eminem’s prodigy, if memory serves me….Wait, Google provides his whole life story -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/50_Cent .  But really, what’s your point?  Sounds like petty jealousy.  Yes, people make it.  Some are incredibly lucky. Some are incredibly talented.  Usually you need both, but there are always exceptions to the rule. Why spend your time being bitter about others’ success?  Instead, be happy for them, and work towards that being you!  Yes, there are many acts these days that aren’t great live. But they may be great songwriters.  Or great producers.  Or great rappers.  Or have a great “story”.  There’s usually a reason someone is signed.  Maybe their parents are famous.  It may not always be fair but you can make it, but only if you never give up and are realistic about your abilities.}

I have several options that are the best singers and talent I have ever seen. Winning Grammy contests and more but if you do not have money get out of the music business….even with contacts it won’t buy you a career.. You will end up with 20 catalogs of songs and CD’s in your closet drawing dust.
{Editor’s Note:  You’re right in that music doesn’t sell itself.  CDs don’t sell themselves.  I think there is a huge misconception that all you need to do is get a record deal and POOF you become a star.  Or just MAKE a great record, the rest will magically fall into place.  NO!  Not at all! Artists that do get signed work their butt off once signed. They do a million radio interviews and performances.  Back in the day, they’d go meet retail.  They schmooze at the label.  They pester the label for more attention and support.  They do every little show imaginable.  It’s not “the dream” of an easy life.  Artists that ‘make it’ work their butt off.  I have never met one single star who wasn’t an incredible perfectionist and motivated beyond your wildest dreams.  In fact, it explains why there are “so many bad songs on the radio” – these artists aren’t the most talented, but I guarantee, they are the most driven.}

Hopefully we are embarking on a new era of music and a smarter generation of listeners.
Instead of being force fed music, we actually get to chose what we want but what makes one band different from another (touring costs $$, merchandise costs $$, promotion costs $$)
{Editor’s Note:  Yes, with the popularity of YouTube and Myspace, hopefully we are getting to choose tomorrow’s stars more than ever before.  But here’s one thing money absolutely cannot buy you – TALENT.  DRIVE.  Those 2 qualities are far more important than having money.  Why focus on what you don’t have ($$) and focus on what you do have?  Focus on your strengths, not weaknesses!}

What it takes is years of work, virtually no social life or relationships, families and $$$$$$$$$$$.
{Editor’s Note:  Yes, you’re absolutely right.  Now the truth comes out.  Money helps, don’t get me wrong. But it’s really the years, decade or more of hard work, giving up a social life, etc.  Many successful artists give up a relationship and a social life and instead, stayed home in the studio, writing and recording songs.  Or for hip hop artists, making beats.  And again, while money helps, there are plenty of artists who “make it” without a trust fund.  In fact, most A&R guys I know rather have an artist that grew up poor and starving than one who grew up with money.  Why? Because the artist that grew up poor will remember how bad it was to grow up being poor and will stop at nothing until they are successful. Christina Aguilera is one that didn’t have much growing up, and in fact was abused as well.  And look what a huge star she is now! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christina_Aguilera }

Otherwise, I would have to advise playing a bit in your teen years, gigging and closing the shop.
{Editor’s Note: With that attitude, you’ll never make it.  Gig until you’re 19, then cash out?  I’d give it til at least 30!  Artists like Sheryl Crow didn’t hit it big til their 30’s.  Sorry, but your bitterness, while I can understand it, isn’t helping your cause…}

Do not mean to be negative but it is what it is!!!!!!!  We hate to say it but you have to love the struggle and music and have $$$$$$$
{Editor’s Note:  You are extremely negative and also, I had to correct about a thousand typos in your original email.  A bit hard to take an artist seriously that can’t even be bothered to send an email that isn’t full of typos.  But you’re right.  You do have to love the struggle.  Blame your lack of money as the reason why you didn’t “make it” but sounds like a cop out to me.  Did you really work as hard as you could have?  Gig everywhere possible? Write amazing songs?  Perfect your songwriting and live show?  It may be too late now but try not to end up bitter against those that have money.  You gave it your best shot.  Again, not everyone becomes a rock star.  Hopefully you had fun along the way :)}

****CLASSIFIED AD***********************
Alucard is looking for a decent show in LA.

We are a fast-tempo melodic rock band, similar to Strung Out or Saosin.

We fit well live with everything from pop-punk to metal.

We have played around the LA area a number of times, so we may be able to help with some
draw.  We can offer showtrades for GOOD shows in  Michigan.  We prefer all-ages, but we are open to
18+ and 21+ shows as well.

The dates we’re available in southern California are:

Sunday – 9-16-07
Monday – 9-17-07
Tuesday – 9-18-07

Any help with an of these dates is very much appreciated.

Please contact:
alucardbooking@yahoo.com
or
myspace.com/alucardrock

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