7 Ways to Tour (Without Getting in the Van)

7 Ways to Tour (Without Getting in the Van)

by Tammy Brackett

Guitar Tour BusLet’s face it. Touring is enticing and exciting, but can also be financially exasperating and emotionally draining. Once the modus operandi for expanding a musical presence, the tour dynamic has been changed by technology. It’s quite feasible to create and implement a VTP — a Virtual Tour Plan — to increase visibility, make new fans and avoid the financial pitfalls of getting in the van. Here are seven suggestions to tour your music but not yourself.

1. Lifestyle marketing outlets like new-age stores, tattoo parlors, and surf, skate, or bike shops are great places for free music exposure. If you’ve released an ethereal/spacey/dreamy sort of CD, call new-age outlets and ask about getting them a copy for store play.

Art museums and galleries are great outlets for similar shoegazerish tunes. If the museum has a gift shop, be sure they have a consignment policy and can place the CD in a clever display for sale. Always give away a copy of your CD and a tee shirt to store employees. If they’re playing you on their iPod or in their car or in their home, they’re more likely to spin your CD in the store.

2. Even if you can’t get booked by the talent buyer at a particular venue, ask if you could send your CD for play on their jukebox or on the bar’s CD player. If the only person who ever answers the phone at the bar is the bartender, ask them if you could send a tee shirt and CD to them. Ask for the sound engineer’s name and send him a tee shirt and CD. Convince the staff of your musical merit and let the staff convince the talent buyer.

3. Offer to perform at a local high school or college campus during lunch. Colleges usually have a budget set aside for on campus entertainment. Contact the Director of Student Activities. DSAs can point you in the right direction for on-campus performances. Be sure to have stickers or sampler CDs on hand for giveaway.

4. Rent a venue, charge a cover and have a musical “circus” featuring belly dancers, artists displaying their work, jewelry makers, photographers, etc. — all who will volunteer to be there just to raise their own profiles. You’ll not only have your fans attending an event, but also fans of the other performers and artists. Be sure to acquire the proper licensing to host such an event.

5. Get to know your local arts organizations. Sometimes these organizations have grant money available for artists to create music. Ask about the process for applying for a “touring artists” position on their roster. (You may have to get in the van, but arts organization subsidize performances.) Come up with a lesson plan incorporating your music. It’s possible to play shows during the days at schools and play venue or club shows at night.

6. Ask your local record store, book store or coffeehouse if they could insert one of your CDs into bags as premiums. Do the same with museums or non-profit agencies like Habitat for Humanity home stores.

7. Give everyone just a little more. If they purchase a CD, throw in a sticker for free. Give of yourself, too; remember that a smile and a sincere thank you are miracle-workers. Think from your heart. Be thankful and truly appreciative of those who support you, love you and help spread the word about your music.

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Tammy Brackett got in the van for the first time when she was only ten. She’s been in the music business for 15 years and is the founder of Moonstruck Promotions, which specializes in public relations and tour publicity.

Tammy has written four booklets about the business of music (Fifty Ways to Tour, Fifty Rules of Rock, Backstage Pass: Organize Your Band and Backstage Pass: Book Your Band), all available at Moonstruck. She also has a blog dedicated to inspiration, motivation and practical advice for musicians. Tammy believes in magic, the ever after, fairies, pixies, things that go bump in the night and that the universe unfolds as it should.