Performing In a New City? Tips For the Traveling Indie Musician

[Editors NoteThis blog post was written by Michelle Aguilar, a writer and digital artist based in Los Angeles.]

When I’m not studying, freaking out during mid-terms or in the mountains, there’s a high chance that I’m at a concert seeing/dancing to one of my favorite musicians or serendipitously coming across a fascinating artist. After getting to know several indie artists and hearing their stories, I thought it’d be a great idea to write an article specifically aimed for the traveling or touring musician…and assuming that you’re an artist since you’re reading this: Hello! I hope you find the following mini-guide for the next journey.

1. Health

But First: Your Health

I never thought I’d be the one saying this– it’s what my mother would say to me each time I’d skip out on doctor appointments—but “your health comes first.” A few things you can do to keep your health on check:

  • Party in moderation. Although there’s much to celebrate about, touring is not a vacation. You know yourself best so whatever that means to you, do it. Also, be sure to sleep as much as you can, your brain, body and everyone else will thank you!
  • Eat right. This may be difficult, especially when you’re on the road. Great news is that you can always buy a cheap cooler (use freezy- paks not ice) and fill it in with fruits, nuts, veggies and other healthy snacks. Buy lunch meat and other food from a near-by market.
  • Stay sanitized. Bring hand sanitizer and wipes and use them. Wipe door knobs, shower handles and other objects if you’re staying at a motel. The constant moving between different places, restaurants and meet-and-greets are easy ways to get sick.

2. Planning

Always Plan for Worst Case Scenario

They say “hope for the best and expect the worst”, you say “%$!*, we should have done that.” Don’t worry, it happens to all of us, but when it comes to traveling to play gigs, the consequences are no joke. A few things you can do to prepare:

  • Try to have extras of everything: cellphones, laptop, amplifiers, guitars, mic’s, cables, xlr’s, stands, extension cords, batteries, picks, stings, straps, and snare drums.
  • Know what’s around the venue, specifically hotels and their availability. Even if you already have a place to lodge, it’s always good to have alternative options at hand.
  • If you’re traveling by land, make sure that your vehicle is thoroughly checked and cleared of any issues.

3. Booking

Avoid Over-Booking

It can be tempting to get a little too adventurous or fill your schedule up for x needs..but if you stretch yourself too much, it may have a negative effect on your overall performance and motivation.

  • Know yourself. How many hours of sleep do you need? Do you get tired easily or are you naturally on-the-go? Keep all of these in mind to give yourself space to recharge and perform your best.
  • Read up online forums specifically for indie artists as yourself that may have a venue database. A great platform is Indie On the Move. This can help you sort out venues and efficiently narrow down your options to avoid over-booking.

4. Promotion

Be Ahead of the Game With Your Promo

With so many business elements becoming more and more digitalized, it’s easy to get comfortable with social media and be satisfied with simply posting your events. However, we must not forget the fundamentals! Also, if you do use Facebook, do more than just post:

  • Send a press release about your tour to the local radio stations, newspapers, and weeklies at least 6 weeks before your appearance.
  • Build relationships with established bands in the city you’ll be playing at. Start by befriending them on social media and reach out. You may even land another gig with them that same weekend or in the near future. Swap offers such as opening for each other in each other’s towns.
  • Use Facebook Ads effectively. Target these adds for people living in or around the zip codes for the venues you’re going to perform at. You can even limit them to people who are interested in your genre.

5. Networking

Stay a While

Regardless of where you are in your music career, there is always room for an after-show meet and greet with those that supported your performance. After all, being an artist is never a one-way street. You are here because of your hard work and you are also here because of your fans’ dedication and appreciation towards your music.

  • Depending on the venue that you’re in, try to squeeze in at least 20 minutes of meet and greet time. This shows you appreciate you fans and it will most likely increases fan loyalty. Also, you never know what you can learn by meeting a fan; they may be in the industry and have some advice, they may be that drummer you’ve been looking to fill in—you never know!
  • Hang out near your (if you have one) merchandise booth to show appreciation to those buying more than just the concert tickets.
  • Be initiative and take pics/videos with your fans, upload them on your social media. Humility stands out.

I hope these tips have been helpful in preparing you for your next show. Of course there are probably a lot more other things to keep in mind when preparing to perform in a new city, so I definitely encourage you to primarily rely on your own experience as well as consult with management or fellow musicians.

Do you have any other tips or suggestions you’d like to share? What is something you’ve learned about traveling as an artist? Please, feel free to let us know in the comments.

5 Reasons Teaming Up With Another Band Means a Mutual Boost on Tour

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Jhoni Jackson, a music journalist and Puerto Rico-based venue owner.]

 

Heading out on tour with your band has the potential to bring everyone in it closer together. Co-existing and constantly collaborating, playing together night after night—becoming a tight-knit troupe in the process is almost inevitable. But why not double the bonds you could solidify by bringing another group into the picture? Organizing a joint tour means you’ll connect with even more fellow musicians—and that’s not the only benefit, either.

The notion that there’s strength in numbers is inarguably true for independent and DIY bands. Touring is one of the toughest parts of the gig; in that effort especially, you’ll accomplish more working together.

1. You’re sharing fans

Even if you hail from the same city, chances are you don’t share the exact same fanbase with any other band. That means pairing up in any capacity is an opportunity for exposure to new listeners; touring together is a maximized version of that.

Whenever possible, tag your tour-mates in related promo and other posts—and they should do the same, of course. Collaborate as much as you can: Both bands should be reflected in promo material like tour posters, promo videos announcing dates, Facebook events, and so forth. Every time you promote together is another chance to appeal to each other’s fans.

One result of two separate camps collectively pushing the promo could be increased show attendance, and there’s some strategy within that for increased effectiveness. If either group has toured before, include spots in your schedule that one has played and the other hasn’t; the band visiting for a second time can help carry the newcomer in terms of pull. Even if both bands are embarking on first-ever tours, though, you can also use Insights on your Facebook page to learn about the demographics of your fans. Their locations could help you choose which cities you visit, or what kind of marketing effort will work best based on your existing (or yet-to-be-built) audiences.

2. You can pool resources

Lug around less by sharing gear, particularly the bulkier items like amps and drums. Go in on groceries together to save money, and share the burden of cooking and preparing meals by rotating responsibilities. Depending on how big your group is, you might even travel together in a single vehicle, so there’s only one gas tank to fill to be split among all of you. And when you’re reaching out to friends and acquaintances as you line up places to crash on tour, more musicians in the mix means a greater potential number of generous hosts.

3. Two networks are better than one

Maybe one of you knows a booking agent in a particular city and the other doesn’t, or perhaps you’ve established a rapport with certain outlets that your touring mates haven’t. Knowing the right people in any given city can be a boon to a DIY tour. Whatever the effort, your connections combined are obviously doubly powerful.

4. Collaborating sparks creativity

Working together on any type of creative strategy, the sharing of influences and obscure discoveries, even casual conversations about art and music—something special happens when separate imaginations meet. New ideas pop up seemingly from nowhere; you gain fresh perspectives about other people’s work and your own.

Creativity fuels creativity, and in the close quarters of tour life, there’s no doubt you’ll find inspiration in collaborating—and practically living together—throughout the trip.

5. Through the camaraderie, you strengthen community bonds

Touring together is one of those shared experiences that facilitates deep connections and meaningful, lifelong friendships. The struggles, triumphs, exhaustion—incredible shows, bad turnouts, strategizing for press, the perpetual uphill battle of financial sustainment—are all collectively endured or celebrated.

Camaraderie develops naturally, and that, in turn, helps you strengthen your overall ties to your scene, whether that community is local or built around a genre and spread throughout different cities.

Industry Interview: Jake Schneider of Madison House Inc.

No matter what genres of music you love to make or listen to, it’s nearly impossible to have missed the unprecedented rise of electronic dance music in popular culture over the past decade. Derived from electronic and house genres, EDM has become a mainstay on college campuses, at major music festivals, and in clubs and venues across America. In fact, for a lot of us, the soaring popularity of this specific subgenre seems to have come out of thin air. Of course, any independent artist dedicating their lives to the grind can trust that there was a lot more behind it.

Enter Jake Schneider, Partner and Director of Agency Development at Madison House Inc., a Boulder, CO-based booking and management company. Jake is the booking agent for some of the most successful and cutting-edge acts in electronic music, including BASSNECTAR, Keys N Krates, Paper Diamond, Lotus and more. At just 33-years old, he’s got over ten years of industry experience that also includes event coordination and booking, as well as DJing.

Given his unique perspective on the rise of this genre, and keeping in mind how much advice he has to offer TuneCore producers and artists, we interviewed Jake to get his side of the story from the middle of America:

You began booking electronic artists at an interesting time in the genre’s history. What kind of opportunities did you see in midwestern markets that weren’t being capitalized on?

Jake Schneider: Uh-oh. This is a long answer so bear with me here!

Electronic music, like every genre, has been so cyclical in its nature. There are some legends in the electronic world hailing from places like Detroit or Chicago that have been doing this since I was in diapers. That’s actually pretty disgusting to imagine me in diapers, but I want people to know that I don’t think myself or any of my artists “reinvented” the wheel or anything here.

One of the main factors to the success of many of our clients in the midwest was the fact that there wasn’t any larger scale outlets or ways to bridge electronic music with my generation on a live touring level in the late 90’s early 00’s. I mean yes there were raves around that time, more so prior to that, and even more so in specific pockets of America, however that scene had cooled off a bit. If that wasn’t part of your world, you and the rest of the Midwestern masses maybe knew about “dance music”, and had listened to some of the big European artists like Paul Oakenfold, or enjoyed singles like “Sandstorm” by Darude, etc, but it was tough because there really wasn’t a radio format that was pushing it. It wasn’t as accessible as it was in Europe and other places around the globe. I’m from the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) and went to the University of Iowa ad everyone that I knew just hilariously lumped dance music together and called it “techno”.

Then, it all changed for me in 2000, when I was a freshman in college, had my own PC that could burn CD’s (SICK!!!!!), Napster was JUST blowing up and I’m in a dorm with KILLER download speeds and just shredding through music to play and experiment with. I would say 2000 or 2001 was the “wild wild west” of music with the ability to so freely obtain albums and tracks from any artist, from anywhere in the world so quickly. I started listening to some dance music, but really as I began working with SCOPE Productions at the University of Iowa, where I was the Talent Buyer and Director of Operations, booking concerts for the University, my musical tastes were quickly broadening. Soon I was booking concerts that need to cater to an entire student population with different musical agendas  as well as servicing the people in Iowa City, IA and the surrounding areas who wanted to see big name marquee artists. The school was essentially the main hub for the majority of concerts that could accommodate over 300-400 people because all of those venues were on-campus. That was a pretty crazy experience.

I DO remember though exactly when I first realized that electronic music had a ton going on in the background and would continue to grow, especially in the midwest where it hadn’t recently been prevalent outside of certain markets and straightforward “dance clubs” – I was DJ’ing  four to five nights a week at a huge Big Ten bar (Go Hawkeyes) called “One-Eyed Jake’s” (my name was Jake so that was always fun explaining to drunk bachelorette parties that “both of my eyes are fine” and that “no, I cannot play ‘Yeah’ by Usher for the THIRD time tonight because I just played it two songs ago, and I’m sorry that the bachelorette is crying because she likes that song, but she missed it and can you please tell your friends to stop throwing bachelorette party penis straws at me.”). ANYWAYS, that got pretty unruly, and I would occasionally fill in at it’s sister club, The Summit, where there was a taste for those “four on the floor” dance tracks and if I were to DJ there I had to play some of that stuff, but at the end of the day I was much more of a Hip-Hop, R&B and Dancehall guy spinning records at those types speeds which were obviously a bit slower than the Tiesto tracks that a couple of my buddies were interweaving into their sets.

Towards the end of my tenure in Iowa City at one of our SCOPE meetings, a buddy of mine, Josh, who was working with us at the organization, had taken the time to burn me some music with The Disco Biscuits and LTJ Bukem. I didn’t know what the hell I was listening to, but I knew that there was a fan base, and it was being driven pretty heavily from the East Coast, and that The Disco Biscuits were classified as a “jam band”, but had electronic leaning sounds, and eventually learned that LTJ Bukem was a Drum & Bass electronic artist. I didn’t know what the hell to do with DnB, where to put it, and what it meant until I made the transition to the Boulder/Denver area in 2005.

I had been hired as a Booking Agent, by an amazing outfit of people running a boutique booking agency and management company, amongst many other artist services, called Madison House. The roster was very jam-band heavy then, and one of the first acts that they let me work on was called LOTUS, but unlike other improvisational jammy acts, their albums, were significantly different. The electronic aspect of the album stuck out to me more. I thought to myself, “Whoa, this is a band playing dope dance music with a bunch of ridiculously gifted musicians”. I started to go out in Denver and Boulder more and realize that there was a full on crossing over of jam bands, hip-hop and electronic music.

jake-schneider-edm

Then after seeing them up at JazzAspen, I picked up a band, Pnuma Trio, who were a super young threesome of kids inspired by electronic artists and other similar bands, one being, Sound Tribe Sector 9 and was fascinated with their love of these various worlds. The thing about all these bands is that they had Grateful Dead-esque followings where people would record the sets, look at the setlists every night on one of dozens of message boards and because those set lists were different every night, and the fans were so passionate about the music and the LIVE SHOW, you had kids touring across the country to see them night-after-night, like many did with The Dead, Phish, Dave Matthews Band, etc.

Because of this ability to sell “hard tickets”, it meant they packed venues, and because they packed venues, promoters starting catching on and understanding that this was a whole new untapped world and when the “multi-genre” festivals started popping up all over the US, more and more acts like these were included in the lineups. On top of that the traditional “jam” festivals started booking more straightforward DJ’s and producers, many of whom were influential for this new “jam-tronica” sound being utilized by the bands of this newer generation. It just started snowballing. Bands like, The Disco Biscuits, began throwing their own festival called Camp Bisco. It was a hybrid of anything and everything Jam, Electronic, Indie, Hip-Hop, etc. DJ’s and producers were being flown in from across the globe to the US for the first time ever (or maybe for the first time in a long while) to be a part of these events. More and more began to pop up and I realized we had a whole new scene of fans willing to dig into all of these genres.

And all the while during this time, you’ve got a whole West Coast scene, with underground parties, raves, beach “gatherings”, etc and along comes Burning Man. So many acts came out of that movement. I’m talking less about the Vegas or Los Angeles rave artists and more about these underground and grassroots DJ/producers were had cult-like followings. Burning Man also attracted some of the more free-spirited jam artists as well so there was some cross-pollination there also. One of the larger and lovable bands on our roster is The String Cheese Incident, who has been a Madison House clients since day one. They did an amazing job creating awesome music and a touring fanbase, but even they interweaved electronic music throughout their sets. There was some collaboration and friendship between them and an act that I signed, Bassnectar, whose live show was unprecedented. If you asked any of his fans if it was “techno”, you might get spanked. He was playing and melding all different genres of music like Breaks, some DnB at times, later Dubstep, but could not be pigeon-holed into any such genre. He had long hair like some guy out of a metal band and he was head-banging for most of the set. This wasn’t what people thought was “TECHNO” coming from Los Angeles or Las Vegas, this was a completely different beast.

The midwest had a ton of different festivals and music fans, and because not all of the fans were raised in this rave era, they were just blown away that this type of music could be executed onstage. Moe’s Summer Camp is an excellent example of crossing the bridges between live music and electronic music. Ian Goldberg from Jay Goldberg Events was watching the trends closely and booking the stuff that these kids wanted to see! There were fledgling promoters that are now BIG promoters who took a risk on this stuff and the kids just couldn’t get enough. They wanted a “LIVE” show and they were getting it with these bands and the DJ’s and producers that were affiliated with them. These DJ’s started adopting the touring mentalities of the bands and next thing you know you have Bassnectar or The Glitch Mob going on tour and kids doing EVERY date on it. And it grew at a healthy rate. It wasn’t overnight. There were SO MANY cities to service that hadn’t been paid attention to, and now was the time to give them love. Those European “mega-club” DJ’s who were getting paid crazy money to fly to Ibiza once a week weren’t coming across the pond to play in places like Bloomington, IN or Madison, WI – two amazing college towns and just a SMALL fraction of the midwest in general. It spread like wild-fire and the adding of festivals continue to perpetuate it.

When developing, some of these acts could be touring for 8 weeks and giving THREE of those weeks to the midwest if they wanted to. So many college towns, so many underserviced markets. It was realizing and paying attention to the fans in these secondary and tertiary markets and cities that helped propel electronic music in the Midwest. As soon as this stuff started coming to the Midwest, kids just ate it up. They were hungry for a change of pace. The record industry was becoming stale and it was all about the LIVE SHOW and now there were electronic bands and DJ’s that had an actual LIVE SHOW. It wasn’t just a little guy onstage amidst pyro drinking champagne – it was something completely different.

Explain the importance of any artist’s live performance in your opinion, and how you feel that’s evolved in the past 10 years.

When it comes to electronic music, if you want to be a producer and have no live show or stage presence, then that’s what you should be. But if you are going to become an artist with a live show aspect, then the sound needs to be better each and every time you come back to a city or venue. It was to the point where there became sort of an “arms race” with production and technological improvements and this mentality that the more bass and subs, lights, LED panels, etc. that you had, the better. That was sustainable for a bit, but the music had to get better and progress and stay with the times. The amount of genres within electronic music is nearly comical, but again they’re cyclical, so you need to stay relevant and one of the ways of doing that is by delivering sets that the fans are NOT going to forget.

From a professional perspective, what are some of the challenges you face today when trying to coordinate/curate/book the perfect event experience?

I think one of the toughest challenges we face is the fact that for many straightforward band’s, fans have become accustomed to a very stale experience in shitty under-serviced venues, stale arenas, or awkward amphitheatres. There has got to be more than that to stick out, which is why you are seeing so many artists (and festivals of course) focus on the experiential stuff. How do you get the consumer to forget the fact that they are in a venue named after a mega corporation? There are so many ways to do it, be it production like I’ve talked about already, video content, ancillary performers, dancers, the list goes on.

At first it was a struggle with promoters to understand the need to spend extra on these types of things, but as they saw the artists grow and the fanbase engage more, they were more likely to increase the experiential or production budgets for the shows in the future. There’s too many bands out there right now and at the end of the day most of them are just a name in a venue’s strip ad on the back page of your local newspaper.

How do you become MORE than that?

You get your artist to help promote the show. There’s this saying that “promoters don’t promote any more”. That’s true sometimes, but but it’s complete nonsense other times, however in this digital age it’s on the artist very much so to get the word out too. If I am working with acts like that,who are capturing the audience, and that artist starts selling loads of tickets, you better believe that all of the promoters around are going to want to help with the next show, and are going to either meet your needs for transforming the venue, creating a room within a room, or spending the extra money to bring in the correct support artists to compliment the show.

What do you consider to be some underrated advice for newer electronic artists who are looking to connect with fans among all the static?

Pay your dues. If you make music that people like, keep doing it, but figure out where it all came from. Just because you have a single, doesn’t entitle you to endless success. Keep the creativity juices flowing and study what’s worked and what hasn’t worked in the past because there are lessons learned from the stories of EVERY major artist ranging from Jimi Hendrix to The Beatles to DJ AM!

Similarly, what are common mistakes you see artists in this space making on a daily basis?

Not paying their dues. Lacking humility. Take it down a notch, too. You’re only 22!! Remember, there are other artists who have a 15-passenger van filled with 8 stinky band members playing rock clubs each and every night, splitting their money. You have got it good!

At what point do you suggest an indie DJ/producer begin to seek a booking agent? What booking abilities should they work on before then?

It’s great if an act can be garnering a scene for themselves in the region they call home. There is no “steadfast” rule, but being able to sell 500+ tickets to a show in your hometown, or being able to add worth when added to a bill with one of my acts because you’ll help the show sell better, and being able to sell 100-200 tickets in some surrounding cities – all of this can create the basis for needing and attracting an agent. There are anomalies though. Maybe one of your promoter partners has someone in their market that isn’t doing a bunch of business yet, but is making crazy music. I’ve picked up acts on that level before. It’s a slow build, but it can be done.

Quick: What are some of the biggest pet peeves of booking agents in your space and how can folks avoid being ‘that artist’?

Oh wow, this is an interesting one. My attention isn’t to come across mean about any with this, but in no certain order:

  • I don’t use my CD player and everyone knows that CD’s don’t really fit properly in anyone’s pockets. They’re just a pain-in-the-ass.
  • Stop making up your own “sub-genres” of music. It’s insane how often I get something like “I’ve created some new tunes and it’s kind of got that World-Step vibe”. Ugh.
  • Be humble and don’t cause problems for the bands that you’re supporting. We’ve had acts that supporting a band, that were complaining about their green rooms and other trivial things. If you create a disturbance then you’re not doing it right.
  • Same goes with the staff at venues. BE NICE. These people are busting their asses for you and are naturally going to be crabby at times. And you’ll probably have to work with them again. We don’t want bad feedback on you.

3 Tried & True Methods of Negotiating Higher Pay From Venues

[Editors Note: This article was written by Jhoni Jackson and originally appeared on the Sonicbids Blog.]

Upstart bands and artists in the early stages of cultivating a fanbase often encounter opposition when booking. From a business perspective, it makes sense: if a talent buyer or venue owner isn’t sure you’ll draw a crowd, then handing over a potentially big-bar-sales night to you is a risk. And when you do land a gig, he or she might insist on minimizing that risk by offering you a super low pay rate – or no pay at all. How do you convince that person you deserve more?

When looking to negotiate higher pay from venues, these three strategies can actually yield results, especially if you work hard to promote your shows. Really, these methods mean opportunities to genuinely earn more if you put in the extra effort. Talent buyers and venue owners can appreciate that, and most will pay you accordingly.

1. Show your worth with numbers

Bands often reference what they’ve been paid before when suggesting a guarantee or percentage. That’s a somewhat futile method of negotiating, as no two venues are exactly alike financially. What works for one in terms of payments won’t necessarily work for another.

Your best tools of persuasion here are found on social media. How sizeable is your online fanbase? For your last show, how many responses did you get to the Facebook event? It does matter, of course, how many actually showed up – but if you don’t have crowd shots (use them if you do!), then the closest thing to proof of great attendance is those event responses. Send over your social media pages as well as past events to show the strength of your following.

This won’t work for everyone, of course. Obviously, if you’ve never played before, you don’t have any previous Facebook events to use as examples. Additionally, not everyone trusts the prowess those numbers supposedly signify: an impressive online following doesn’t always translate to in-person devotion.

2. The plus deal

This is sometimes referred to as “back end,” though that’s technically the name of the extra profit you get. Here’s how it works: you’re guaranteed a certain percentage or dollar amount, but you also get an additional amount after a certain point. That marker can be a number of tickets sold, or the talent buyer’s bottom line.

For our purposes here, we’re talking about bands and artists who aren’t getting much pay to begin with, so let’s work with relatively low numbers.

Example one: $50 guarantee plus 10 percent back end after 50 tickets sold at $5 each.

In this scenario, you’ll get your $50 either way. But if more than 50 tickets are sold, you get more. Let’s say the cover count is 100 – the door has raked in an additional $250. You’d get $25 extra.

Example two: $50 guarantee plus 10 percent after $250, with tickets at $5 each.

This could be a situation where there are four bands on the bill, and each is guaranteed $50. If the door money reaches more than $250 – meaning more than 50 tickets sold – then 10 percent of the surplus goes to you. (And probably 10 percent to each of the other bands, too.) So at 100 tickets sold, you’d get your $50 guarantee, plus $25 more for reaching 100 ticket sales.

These numbers are somewhat arbitrary; they’re intended not as standards of negotiating, but rather as examples you can adjust to fit the exact situation you’re in. Talent buyers and venue owners might be more willing to accept a deal like this because there’s little risk on their part. They don’t think they’ll make enough from the door to pay you more than X amount, and you agree to that amount – but you get a little more if you prove them wrong.

3. Prove your draw, then up your rate

Did it take a lot of convincing to get the gig? If the talent buyer or venue owner is dubious of your ability to pull a crowd, he or she might ask you to play for free. When you’re just starting out, that’s okay, but you should always be looking toward the future. You should only perform at no charge when it means it’ll get you closer to paid, or at least better quality gigs. (Or if it’s for charity.)

Agree to play for free (or cheap) once, but ask them to commit to another gig if you draw X number of attendees. Post-show, if you can, talk with whoever booked you. What did he or she think about the performance? The turnout? If the right person isn’t present, follow up the next day via email or whatever form of contact that person preferred in the past.

Send him or her a clip of your set if you’ve got one, and mention the fan response as a way to help him or her see that your next show can be even more successful, and that you deserve some level of payment. Try to actually book a follow-up gig before the conversation goes stale. (Booking several months ahead is ideal, anyway.)

For more on transitioning from free shows to paid gigs, check out this interview with a seasoned musician who’s successfully moved into making a living off her music.


Jhoni Jackson is an Atlanta-bred music journalist currently based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she juggles owning a venue called Club 77, freelance writing and, of course, going to the beach as often as possible.

5 Tips to Make Your Local Shows More Successful

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by David McMillin, singer, songwriter and frontman of Fort Frances (check out their latest release, “Alio“). He holds several songwriting awards and has helped to soundtrack shows on PBS, NBC and The CW.]

Every band wants to experience the glory of the road—seeing new towns, meeting new people and feeling the thrill of a new stage night after night. In most cases, though, the first steps toward success are only a few miles from the front door. Before building a national or global profile, it’s important to create the buzz that turns you into one of the most talked-about bands in your town.

If you’re aiming to climb to the top of the scene in your market, here are five tips to make your local shows feel like major events.

1. Book Small

Tom Windish, founder of the Windish Agency, offered some expert advice in a Los Angeles Times interview last year. “The right place to play is the place that sells out,” Windish said.

Every band should aspire to play the legendary clubs in their respective towns, but it’s important to balance ambition with reality. Selling tickets is super challenging. My band worked our way toward selling out our favorite 200-capacity club in Chicago, and we decided to make the leap to the 500-capacity room we all loved. We weren’t ready. We sold 260 tickets. We made less money—due to much higher production costs—than the smaller room, and the half-full show felt like a bit of a disappointment. After that mishap, we played our next release show in a sold-out 300-cap room.

The lesson: when you’re at home, you don’t want open seats. You want a line waiting outside the door to get in.

2. Think Big

You may be booking a small room, but you should strive to make your show feel massive. In fact, don’t think of it as a show. Consider it an experience. Don’t just go play your songs. Bring them to life in a bigger way than you might be able to at the other end of the country. Since you’re in your hometown, your overhead expenses are much lower. You’re not paying for gas or a hotel. Invest that money in something that will make the evening more special for everyone in attendance. When we’re touring outside of Chicago, we’re a four-piece, but our hometown shows are a six-piece that includes a horn section. It’s become one of the favorite pieces of the night for our fans.

Think about what can take your show to the next level. Can you hire someone who really knows your songs—the hits in the chorus, the tempos, the out-of-time sections, etc.—to run lights? Have you always wanted to have a string quartet on your acoustic songs? Is there a special guest you can bring out to appear in a verse?

Whatever that piece of extra magic is, your hometown show is the place to make it happen.

Fort Frances TuneCore Blog
Fort Frances playing a local gig in Chicago

3. Get Personal

As you’re putting in extra care for how the evening will sound and feel, there’s another area that needs your focus: marketing. In your hometown, promotion shouldn’t simply rely on mass communication. Your social media presence is a critical piece of building your community, but you need to use a more intimate approach to connect with your friends, family and neighbors. Set time aside to send individual emails to everyone you know.

Make them feel special with a personal note about the new record you’ve been working on and why you want them to come to the show.

4. Act Confident

One of my favorite books that I regularly consult on my coffee table is The Musician Says, and it includes some wise advice from Marilyn Manson: “If you act like a rock star, you will be treated like one.”

You may be playing a show for an audience that includes 30 of your closest friends, your cousins and your roommates, but when you take the stage, remember that you are in a coveted place: on the stage. So let yourself go. Embrace the spotlight. Dance. Sweat. Shred. Do whatever verb is best done to your music.

Because when your friends wake up the next morning, you don’t want them to say, “I went to see my friend’s band play last night.” You want them to tell their friends, “Holy shit. I saw the next [Bob Dylan/Beyoncé/The Beatles/whatever Hall of Fame-level comparison that makes sense for your act] play last night. You have to check them out.”

5. Be Scarce

Once you start finding success in your hometown, it can be tempting to accept every offer that comes your way. It’s good to get on-stage as often as possible, right? Wrong. You need to create some demand around your shows. If you’re playing in town every other week, it becomes easy for your fans to say, “I’ll just catch the next show.” Give some healthy distance between your dates, and each time you play, do something different.

Debut new songs. Learn unexpected covers. Crowd surf your way to the stage to start the night.

Make people cry or scream or pump their fists to your songs. Be unforgettable, and they’ll always come back for more.

10 Ways to Book More House Concerts

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Joy Ike and originally appeared on the Bandzoogle Blog. Joy is a Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter and the founder of the music business centered blog Grassrootsy.]

House concerts: everybody loves them, but most artists don’t know how to get them. They are the most-coveted type of gigs for singer/songwriters and acoustic bands. They don’t require a lot of promotional effort – which means less time behind your computer, and more time behind your instrument.

Yes, in the ecosystem of gigs, house concerts are king! So how do you book them? Here are some simple ways to make it happen!

1. Play out…a lot!

Public shows are your key to private ones. And house concerts are essentially private shows. The more you play out publicly, the more people know your music, and the more fans you have to pull from. More fans equals more potential house concert hosts.

If you do this right, 99% of your house concerts will come from people who already know you and have heard you perform live – not some house concert booking site that you have to pay to become a member. Playing out guarantees you’re getting your name out there and connecting with the very people who will ultimately book you in their homes.

2. Build Your Email List

Ok, so you’re playing out. What next? Well, take full advantage of the fact that these people are just sitting there listening to you for an hour, or two. Pass your newsletter around during your set. The following day, send an email welcoming new subscribers to the mailing list. Include a short paragraph at the end inviting people to consider hosting you for a house concert. You may not always get someone to bite, but you will get them thinking about it.

3. Just Ask.

Facebook! It’s where all your fans and friends are, right? Drop a note on your wall and let people know you’re currently in booking mode for your upcoming tour. Tell them you’re filling holes for a few dates on the road.

If you’re sticking close to home, make an announcement about playing fewer public shows and the fact that you’re trying to do more intimate acoustic events. If you’re not posting about house concerts on social media, you’re not using your most powerful marketing tool (second to your newsletter, of course).

4. Explain What A House Concert Is

This might sound unnecessary, but you need to explain what a house concert is. Some people have never been to one and have no idea what you’re even talking about when you say the words “house concert”. And people DO NOT like to step into unknown territory unless they know what they’re getting into.

Break it down and spell it out. One of the most frequented pages on my website is What Exactly Is A House Concert? (if you borrow any content from this link, please credit me with a link back to www.joyike.com). I stick a link in my welcome newsletter (for new subscribers) and in my monthly e-blast. I send it to anyone who tells me they’re considering hosting one. I send it to people who ask me questions that I’ve already answered on this page. This page comes in handy a lot.

5. Be Accommodating

People don’t think they can host a house concert unless they have a ’’reason’’ to. That’s not necessarily true, but for people who need a reason, let them know house concerts are great for birthday party gatherings, anniversary events, summer BBQs on the back deck, and even benefits concerts.

One of my all-time favorite concerts was put on by a group of 10 guys who wanted to give their wives a memorable and sentimental Mother’s Day. They cooked lunch for the women and hosted an afternoon concert in one of their homes.

Another memorable house concert was for a teacher in Washington D.C. who wanted to raise money for a program she was doing with her high school students. 50% of the funds raised went to her program. The other half went to me.

6. Talk About it From the Stage

“NEVER underestimate the power of suggestion.”

You don’t need to give a speech, but sharing a brief sentence or two (or three) about why you love house concerts will go a long way towards getting a few on your calendar. Having a page on your website to discuss the ins and outs is really helpful, but talking about it in person really helps fans to capture the essence of what a house show really is. NEVER underestimate the power of suggestion.

7. Create Postcards

Tag-team your on-stage pitch with a stack of postcards at your merch table. Spend $50, print a bunch of 4×6 handbills (front and back), and make them available.

This is the 3rd most effective thing I’ve done to generate house concerts. When your show attendee takes a handbill off the table, it usually means they want to sit on the idea and mull it over for a bit. They may even need to convince a fellow housemate or spouse of the idea. Handbills are a great visual reminder. They’re a tangible version of your speech from the stage. Here’s what mine looks like (front and back):

Joy Ike House Concert flyer

8. Ask Your Friendly Musician

Seriously, ask your friend. If you see your friend playing a house concert series, ask them to connect you with the host. This works best with established house concert series that are always scouting out new music to add to their lineup.

This does not necessarily work for a regular homeowner who only hosted your friend because they are his/her superfans. For them it was a one-off, not something they are looking to do monthly.

9. Recruit On-Site

People who are most likely to be house concert hosts are people who have been to one before. While you are at a house concert, take that opportunity to find your next host in that same city. It only takes a little effort. Example:

“If you’re having a good time tonight and would like to host something like this the next time I come through town, please let me know. I’ll be happy to take your contact and reach out next time I’m booking in this area.”

If you want to take it one step further, you can create an email sign-up page specifically for people who want to be contacted about hosting.

10. Social Media

Last but not least, post, post post! Snap and post a photo of the Welcome sign at the front door – the one the host’s 4-year old made for your show. Or post a shot of the potluck spread before the show…or a photo of the awesome Victorian house you’re playing in. Or post a photo someone took from the audience perspective.

Again, don’t overdo it, but when you post about your host concerts, you begin to create an association between your name and the house concert concept. It’s called branding. And these posts will serve as tiny reminders to your social media followers – reminders that they can host you too. Here are some cool example posts I found on Instagram. I searched the #houseconcert hashtag.

via @eugenioinviadigioia

via @allysonreynoldsart

via @jdeicher

via @widadmusicusa

The moral of the story is that house concerts are literally everywhere. And your fans really do want to host you if you’re willing to take the time to educate them, be accessible, and show them how much fun a house concert can be.

Good luck!