I’m often asked how I get so many shows and always am on the road. Over the last 5 years I’ve performed more than 500 shows and toured the country a few times…
Here are 10 steps to help you booking your next tour…
1. Be proactive! Don’t wait for someone to book you
I always laugh when I hear rappers say in their interviews “Come holla at us!”
If only it were that easy and a promoter would just hit you up to come to their city.
The first step in getting your tour popping is realizing you are going to have to do a lot of the groundwork yourself. Don’t wait for someone to put you on, make it happen yourself!
Yes, in a perfect scenario you have an agent that will actively be booking shows for you, but the reality is that there isn’t a lot of agents and most want to work with experienced acts that have a fan base and can command a large guarantee. The agent is getting 10% so unless you are getting a guarantee of a few thousand a show, the agent isn’t making enough to make you a priority.
2. Build relationships with artists that tour
If you follow the websites, magazines and tv shows you’d think that rap is all about beef. But if you want to build a career in touring, it’s beneficial to make friends with rappers as opposed to making enemies.
The quickest way to jumpstart your touring career is by securing an opening spot for an artist that has a solid fanbase. This way you are performing in front of crowds and exposing your music to new regions.
You want to associate with artists that are similar style as yours. This makes it more likely that the fans will also become your fans.
How do you build the relationship? You can try talking to the artist at one of their shows… you can hit the road and go to conferences and festivals and make connections with artists and/or their managers… you can hit the artist off with an email or send them a message on their Myspace page.
You may also want to start a business relationship with the artist… If the artist makes beats, look into purchasing a beat. You aren’t only securing the beat, but you’re showing the artist that you handle your business.
You can do this for a song feature as well. Remember, its not just the 16 you are getting, you want to make a connection with the artist.
3. Build up your presence on the web
Before you start hollering at promoters, make sure your web game is top notch. Start with a Myspace page. It’s free, and it is in a format this is easy for promoters to check out – they can hear your music, check your videos, read a short bio, and see what kind of activity is on your page.
Start with a basic Myspace page, but I highly recommend getting a professional designer to upgrade your site. It’s a relatively inexpensive cost – far less than a full website – but can make a great impression.
Second, you want to establish a Youtube presence. Music videos are great – especially professional ones. But nowadays, you can make a homemade video that is close to professional so that will work too. Also, it’s great if you have video clips of your performances.
If you have the budget, start up a website so that can be a central place for fans and promoters to visit. Start a Facebook group, twitter account, and begin actively posting so that you build with friends and fans locally, nationally and internationally.
4. Get your merch and promotional materials ready
You want to have your promotional materials in place BEFORE you book the tour, not after. Otherwise you will be scrambling to get everything done.
Design and print a poster template that can be used for your shows. 11X17 is a good size. Colour if you have the budget. And most importantly, ensure that you leave a white box on the poster so that you can write the show info with a sharpie.
Next, design and print flyers so that promoters can circulate these amongst town.
It is KEY that you have this promotional material available online.
A great thing to make is an ‘ekit’ section on your website.
This is an area promoters can go to find digital versions of flyers and posters. This way they can print these materials themselves – saving you the time and cost of mailing them.
You’ll also want to have high-resolution pictures in your ekit. This will come in handy when you are looking for press for your tour. You can refer media to this section so that they can print high-resolution photos as opposed as to your web-sized jpeg on your Myspace page.
Make sure you have your merch ready for the tour. First is the cd’s, and next are t-shirts – if you have the budget for it. Merch is a great way to make additional money on the tour, and also to help spread the word about your music and brand.
5. Plan the tour route
Decide where you want to tour and then begin looking for venues that cater to your style of music. If you aren’t sure of the venues, look at the dates for artists of similar styles that tour. You don’t want to play the same place as Jay-Z – but there are starting to mid level touring artists that often play the same venue and this is where you want to play.
When you find the venues get the contact of the person who books the shows. If its not on the website, call and find out. A number is good, an email is great.
With an email you can make a solid pitch and send all of your web links.
Again, this is where having a solid relationships with artists comes in handy. If you’ve opened up for an artist, you may have had the chance to meet the promoter.
In this case, you’ve got a rapport with the promoter – they know your show, they know how you handle yourself – and you are good to go.
5. Design an email pitching the tour
Put together an email with all the vital information. Give the tour a name, include a short bio, and then list some of your career accomplishments. Make sure to have links to your web page, Myspace and Youtube videos.
It is important that you are as professional as possible in this email. You want to make a solid first impression and show the promoter that dealing with you will be easy, effortless and result in having a great show.
6. Know what your worth
To know what you are worth you have to look at yourself objectively through a promoters eyes. They are trying to make money. They aren’t in the business to give you a break. You have to ask yourself questions such as, have you played this club before? Have you played this area before? Do you have local buzz? National buzz? International buzz?
The goal is to secure a guarantee, but show that you flexible and can work with a split of the door. You want the promoter to have low risk in bringing you out. The goal is to build a strong rapport with the promoter so that you can come back, draw a bigger crowd and you both make mo’ money.
Another key aspect is the rider. When you are a A-list artist you can ask for the skittles and the pack of socks, but right now you want the bare minimums – if any rider at all. A hotel room, drinks, and food are all good to ask for.
7. Follow up and respond promptly
Promoters are busy and are bombarded by a lot of groups’; so don’t take it personal when you don’t get a response. Instead, follow up politely and professionally.
When you do get a response, it is important to follow up promptly. Don’t wait a few days to get back to someone that is showing interest in you! They may forget about you and also get the impression that you aren’t professional.
8. Work with the promoter to promote the show
Once you’ve booked the show, work with the promoter to make sure the show is a success. This is a key way to build rapport, because it shows you are serious about making the show a success. Send posters and flyers promptly, post the shows on your website and Myspace, email fans and friends in the cities that you are coming to etc
9. Showtime! Handle yourself professionally the day of the show
Keep in touch with the promoter before the show and give them an idea of what time you expect to arrive on the day of the show. Ensure that you’ve discussed tech requirements so that there aren’t any last minute problems. It’s great when you can show up to the city the day of the show so that you can do your own promotion – put up posters, hand out flyers, get out and meet people at the mall etc. Show up early to the venue and do a thorough sound check. Establish the time that the promoter wants you to perform at. Sometimes they will push for an early show. While you may want to hit the stage at 1 am, it is best to strike a good balance so that you don’t frustrate the fans and the promoter.
10. Follow up with the Promoter
Once you’ve rocked the house, collected ya cash and made the promoter happy, it is important that you follow up with the promoter. You want to thank them for the opportunity and tell them that you are looking forward to working with them again on the next show.
Then a few months later reconnect with the promoter and start the process all over again. Hopefully this time you’ll have a bigger crowd, sell more merch, and make mo’ money!
Duane “D.O.” Gibson is a Guinness World Record setting rapper and record label owner. He has performed over 500 shows internationally – most of which have been self-booked.