When booking tours I have found ReverbNation to be a valuable tool for connecting with local bands in foreign cities in order to find gig swapping opportunities and develop relationships for the longer term.
As an indie musician, touring is a key aspect of a successful career but finding bodies to fill up a venue in a foreign city or town is nearly impossible when you are first starting out.
Almost every band on ReverbNation is an indie muso just like us and we all share the same struggle. Who better to connect with and build a network with than people just like yourself?
In this presentation, I show you my method for finding bands to contact as well as provide insight on making thoughtful decisions when conducting business with strangers. I even share a war story from the 2014 At It Again Tour.
This is practical advice every indie musician with a DIY marketing approach can appreciate and put to use immediately.
Transcript (from slides)
1. How To Use ReverbNation to Book Tours and Find Gigs navigating ReverbNation’s local charts to fill tour dates, gig swap, and build a network of indie musicians @midtnmusic MiddleTennesseeMusic.com
2. Local Charts ReverbNation’s local charts have proven (to me) to be a valuable tool for finding artists or bands in a specific zip code.. After using those charts to fill dates during our 2014 tour season, the local charts have become my favorite feature of RN. I don’t really use the platform for anything else. The key to success is knowing what to look for to determine if a band or artist is worth contacting. I will basically share my insight because we managed to build some great and long-lasting relationships due to this but also got screwed by a couple of bad promoters.
3. Why? The majority of bands using RN are independent and fill the spectrum from hobbyist to full time touring acts. All possible leads to build contacts in foreign cities. It’s a convenient place to find bios, links, send messages (or dig up e-mails) and gauge how often an act performs. It is simple and quick to learn and make informed decisions about a band. You can browse RN’s venue directory and view which bands play them; again, making it quick and easy to dig up info and do research.
4. More Why? Great way to find venues in foreign cities that locals play on a regular basis… If a venue is supporting local indie music, they will probably support touring indie music. As an unknown indie, you need to tour to market your music but bringing people to a venue far from home seems impossible…unless you have the support of local acts and their (hopefully already established) fan bases. You might not be able to convince a venue owner or booking agent to give you a show but a local band who already has a relationship with said venue or agent can easily book a show and throw you in the line-up.
5. Additional Notes Many times weekly or monthly events are the perfect opportunity to make noise in a city for the first time. If it is a successful, ongoing event there will be a built- in audience for your music. It is possible to book small, regional tours by appearing at various weekly events or open mic nights. Once you find bands, meet people, and develop relationships, using RN’s charts will become obsolete as your network grows. However, you will want to remember this tool when you are ready to tap into new territory.
6. Finding Bands Using RN’s local charts, enter the desired zip code or City, State to begin browsing bands (make sure the genre is your style). Typically I stick to the Top 10 for each city but due to the nature of RN’s charts and the amount of spammers, you should look past the Top 10 when necessary. Do not let a band’s RN chart rank cause you to pass (mis)judgement. Bands can boost themselves to the top of the charts (temporarily) using spam techniques and paid promotional services.
7. Choosing Bands How does their profile look? Is their bio professionally written? Is it filled with punctuation and grammatical errors? Is the band mentioning any press from blogs or media outlets? Do their social profiles have followings? Are those followings engaging with the band? Engagement is more important than likes or followers. You can buy followers but it doesn’t mean they are engaged.
8. Choosing Bands Listen to their music. Do you like it? Would your audience like it? Would your music go well together at a show? Do you think your personalities would mesh…or clash? Check their website and social media links to gauge their online presence, how active they are and if fans are engaging with them. Check for press, reviews and interviews for 3rd party opinions.
9. Choosing Bands Check their show calendar. When was their last show? How many times have they performed in the past 3 months? 6 months? 12 months? Are their shows local? Regional? Do they tour? Search for show reviews or live performance clips on YouTube.
10. Contacting Bands You can simply use RN’s built-in messaging system but this isn’t necessarily the best method of contact. Many bands include booking info in their profile…use it! RN allows bands to list links on their profile, visit their websites to look for a contact form, booking info, or email address. You can also contact bands using social media. Be professional. Establish contact and state your intent. Keep it short and to the point. In my experience, email is the best means of contact so try to find an address or contact form first.
11. If they respond… Assuming someone replies to your message(s)… Did they respond in a professional manner? Are they asking you the right questions? Do they seem experienced with the booking process? Was their email all lowercase with no punctuation? Did they use slang and sound ignorant and/or uneducated? Are they feeding you false hype or coming across as genuine? Use the transparency of the web to do your research.
12. What about getting paid? Any act who performs regularly should be familiar with the various methods of compensation such as guarantees, door deals, percentages of the bar, and even offering the simple things such as a free meal, beer, or lodging. Visiting a city for the first time, don’t expect much but always be prepared with a full merch table to make sure you have a revenue stream while on the road. The idea is to build your own network, from scratch, that you can visit repeatedly. Use the web to get the attention of local media, target promotions to the cities you play in, and over time you will see growth.
13. What about getting paid? No matter what you agree to… Get. It. In. Writing.
14. Things to Ponder Do you trust this band, promoter, individual to do good business? To hold up their end of the deal? If you spend money to ship the band or venue promo flyers, posters, stickers and swag, do you think they will distribute them and properly promote the show? Can your new contacts help you get local media attention – blogs, newspapers, magazines, college radio, public access TV?
15. Things to Ponder Be wary of flakes… you know, that guy who is an artist but also a wannabe-promoter who books the show then calls you the night before the gig minutes before you’re about to go on-air in Boulder, Colorado for a live-stream radio appearance to tell you he decided to cancel the event because his lazy ass didn’t book any opening acts, didn’t promote the show, and didn’t come up with the money to pay the venue like he promised 3 months earlier… And, yes, this actually happened.
16. Things to Ponder HOWEVER… When the venue announced the cancellation on their FB page, we responded by calling out the wack promoter and warning others not to do business with him…a long thread of heated comments followed from the locals. By the time we made it from Boulder, CO to Amarillo, TX – we had another show booked, at a different venue, and although no one came out (there was a foot of snow on the ground), we made life-changing connections and are now able to book successful shows in Amarillo on a regular basis. We also signed an artist we met to our Hip Hop label.
17. Summary ReverbNation’s local charts are a useful tool to establish first contact in foreign cities in order to build a network and begin spreading your music to new territories. Be thorough with your research. The web and social media provide you with plenty of transparency and information to make informed and educated decisions before conducting business with a band, venue, or individual. RN’s charts are a starting point but will eventually become obsolete as you establish contacts and develop relationships through email and eventually face- to-face contact.
18. For more tips, strategies, and information about ReverbNation and other topics related to digital marketing and online music promotion, visit our website at MiddleTennesseeMusic.com.