Blog 1501: My Experience in Indie Touring

Some thoughts on publicity and promotion that may be of help to a self-funded / -managed / -booking musician about to hit the road.

What was intended to be a short comment in response to a fellow independent musician’s Facebook post exploded into a mini-essay – which I’ve tidied up and reposted here.

My friend Nick Kingswell‘s original post posed the question:

out of interest, what do all the INDIE MUSICIANS think… When promoting a tour, how much would you spend on publicity & where would you spend it?

My overlong 2 cents, late in the game (following many excellent comments from others on the perils of sinking money into radio and print promo), add how I reinvent my approach to this game with every tour, and why.

– – –

1. Know yr goals with this tour.

Is this one about world domination, or early-stage, groundwork-laying recon? Unless it’s yr big push, maybe save up for the next tour, and use this one instead to harvest contacts, email addresses (Facebook promo sucks balls these days) and relationships with folks who “discover” you on this tour (more on that in point 3).

2. Be inventive: use whatever you got that’s FREE and unique to you.

For most of us musos, our strengths lie less in self-marketing and more in creativity. Eg: good at graphics? Design things you can put in people’s hands. Good at street performing? Get to each town early and play on the street to drum up interest in yr show that night. Eg: I know a couple of established bands over here in Berlin that discovered they’re excellent at charming strangers in the street into coming to their show that night – and these are bands with a label and/or bookers. “Gimmicks” needn’t be as cheap or shallow as that term may sound.

Riot Grrrl zines weren’t a gimmick, they were practical and vital and unique, which ultimately made them as much a part of that world as the music.

Instead of outsourcing my music video production, I asked my audience what they’d hit me with, and shot myself being smacked around by my drawings of their responses.

3. Make good use of the folks who believe in you – and this extends beyond publicity.

Fans crowdsourced a "Farewell Australia" show before I moved to Berlin. Subsequently, the main organiser went on to book two entire Return-to-Australia tours for me.
Audience Collaboration: some fans organised a “Farewell Australia” show before I moved to Berlin. The main organiser of that show and I continued to work together after that, and we went on to organise two entire Return-to-Australia tours.

You may already have a street team you’ve yet to tap, fans in other parts of the country ready and willing to spread the word about yr imminent arrival. Ain’t no shame in tapping them – these folks want to belong, and relish a feeling of ownership and involvement in yr success. And they WILL stick with you in the long term – so tapping them now means being able to activate them again in the future (back to that “subsequent tours” idea in point 1).

4. Keep interrogating yr promo methods, and review yr “this worked for others” findings.

I find promo to be an ever-shifting, living conundrum (hence my constant reinvention of my approach), and your approach has to change and adapt accordingly.

– – –

ps. after all that, I actually left something out – an idea which frames everything I had to say above: Don’t to put all yr eggs in one basket – eg. spend on radio plugger AND run yr Facebook game AND tap yr people AND any & all other good stuff you can get going.

– – –

Ray Mann is struggling to pay his bills again this month – fund his shenanz via the online store or at gigs and thems.

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