Five Easy Steps to a Successful Indie Tour

words by Scott Ibex, J.D. | photo from The Art of Touring | Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Going on tour is the dream of almost every serious musician. Yet to achieve that dream, bands need to be serious about promotions before hitting the road.

When I first began touring professionally, I was so deeply focused on my music that I neglected to plug my merchandise, circulate my mailing list, and effectively promote myself during gigs. Over the years, I learned my lesson, and it has resulted in a great deal more exposure for my music. To lead your band down the same path to success, follow this five-step indie tour self-promotion plan.

1. Only suckers work hard. Instead, get the venue to work hard for you!

In order to effectively pre-promote your tour dates, there are several important goals to accomplish. First, maximize venue-driven promotions. Venues have local know-how when it comes to promoting live acts, so make sure to supply them with advance press material. Ensure that your gig is listed on their website, have them circulate your digital flyers, and request that they publish your weblinks. This will enable you to take advantage of their community presence and attract a larger crowd.

2. On stage, let your inner attention whore run wild

Taking advantage of promotional opportunities on stage is something you simply can’t overlook. Be sure to announce your websites, tell everyone about your last two tour stops and where the tour is heading, plug your new album, and make mention of any charitable causes your band supports. In addition to putting on a great performance, it’s crucial to connect with new fans on tour in every possible way. Milk the spotlight as a promotional platform. It’s the best possible way to get your message across and build a national following.

3. When you’re done being a rock star, don’t forget to sell out

The best opportunity you have to sell your albums, t-shirts, and personalized merchandise on tour is during and directly after the show. If you form a bond with the crowd, they will gravitate to buy your music, read your handouts, and be interested in learning more about your band.

Have someone run a neat and orderly merchandise booth during the show, and further entice the audience to visit it by advertising an “artist direct” discount or autographed memorabilia. Also, make sure to sell merch as a band while you meet the crowd after the show. Fans enjoy purchasing merch directly from the artists they love and support.

4. Encourage stalkers with a mailing list

Collect mailing list information from your audience at all your shows. There is no better way to build a fanbase than by asking the audience to “like” your band profile on Facebook or by sending targeted emails about new albums, forthcoming tours, or any other band-related news. Approach audience members directly and solicit their information after the show. You’ll likely find that they will be open to getting in touch with you online.

5. Let local publications know how great you are

Many of the cities you’ll be performing in have free local papers with a readership of thousands. Try score an opportunity to advertise your gig in their entertainment section, or have an article about your band (or an interview) published in the weeks before the show. Also, contacting local radio stations to book on-air interviews and short performances prior to your gigs. It’s another effective promotional technique to increase your draw and online album sales.

In conclusion

Advertising, marketing, and effectively promoting a national tour requires a big commitment, but it’s one you have to make. The big stars have dedicated teams of professionals who work around the clock to get the word out about their tours, albums, merch, and more. Fortunately, the Internet makes a lot of these same promotional strategies readily available — and most of them are free. Invest your time in promotions before the tour, and enjoy the ride after you hit the road!

Scott Ibex is an author and national touring artist. His book, Low Budget ROCKSTAR: The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Booking, Surviving and Making a Profit on Your Own Indie Tour, is available for purchase at Amazon.

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