Man, this takes as much planning as all your other Get The Word Out efforts put together, but it’s a heck of a lot more fun than mailing out postcards or making media call backs. It’s a road trip, baby, one where you’re the center of attention in every city that you land.
And touring doesn’t just help you meet and expand your audience. The fact that you are in a town makes your story local, and therefore you’re more likely to get press coverage in publications that would normally not cover or review your project. And if your tour involves music, you might also be able to get yourself interviewed on the local radio stations to promote your album and your shows.
A whole book could be written on touring… the best cities to go to, the best freeways to drive, places where you can pull over and shower, how to utilize Greyhound to get from point A to B, C, D, and E and back. What to pack, where to eat, how to handle a broken down car. The list goes on.
First and foremost, you have to plan your tour way in advance. Figure out what cities you want to visit, then start making arrangements for free places to crash all along the way, and most importantly, start booking venues. The cities where you have an established audience, can find free places to sleep, and are able to book shows should determine your tour itinerary.
At this early stage in the planning it’s also a good time to consider joining forces with other people and going on tour as a package. The benefits include the sharing of resources and the promotional workload, as well as the combined force of each person’s/group’s audience. This should translate into a cheaper tour and bigger crowds at your events. Plus, you’ll also have people to hang out with during the down time, not to mention someone to take over the wheel when your eyes get bleary and all you want to do is sleep.
Two, announce the tour on your website, and update the tour details as you book shows.
Three, do your research and get good press contacts for all the local publications and radio stations for every city on your tour. Start the PR effort, not only to get advance listings and feature stories, but to encourage the media to come to your shows.
Four, start figuring out ways to promote your events. Enlist the help of friends, family, colleagues, and fans to help spread the word.
Five, come up with a strategy to further your distribution network. Locate stores that will be interested in carrying your project, or make plans to meet up with the managers of stores that are already selling your stuff.
Six, make arrangements so that your project can be sold at your events.
Seven, encourage people to join your mailing list. You want to keep in touch and create long-term relationships with the folks who come to your shows while you’re on the road.
And eight, talk to people who have been there and done that, old pros that can give you real-world advice and information about hitting the road.
Some items to take with you on the road:
Bulk, non-perishable food stuffs that are ready to eat and drink. Things like granola bars and bottled water.
Good road maps.
In your glovebox should be an auto maintenance manual specific to your car’s make. You may not be able to fix a broken down car, but at least you’ll be able to communicate on some level with the mechanic who may or may not be running an honest shop in the middle of nowhere. If your car is gonna breakdown, it’s going to happen in the middle of nowhere. Make sure you at least know how to change a flat tire.
A cell phone. Be sure your cell phone plan includes a good supply of free long distance and free roaming minutes.
Here’s some insight from an article entitled "Do-It-Yourself Indie Touring" by author Jim Munroe. Munroe, who has done several tours to promote his books, explains and encourages people to do something a little different with their show:
"I’m a big fan of people thinking creatively not just in their art, but in how they present it. If you’re a fantastic reader, with material suitable to be read aloud and an incredible delivery, then great. But as I’m dissatisfied by the obligatory fifteen-minute reading, I decided to launch my book (about a guy who goes to another planet to teach English) in a somewhat different way. I did a recruitment seminar on why you should teach English on other planets, complete with slides and alien artifacts. While this ain’t for everyone, it’s good to think about adding a little performance zing to the show. Think about what would interest and intrigue you as a launch goer. Mixing up the genres by also having locals present their short videos or playing a few songs can make for a fun night."
[See the rest of Munroe's excellent article on DIY touring at www.nomediakings.org/touring.htm.]
Here’s a great example of what Munroe is encouraging:
Rock critic Jim DeRogatis, author of Let It Blurt, a biography of the legendary rock critic Lester Bangs, went way beyond the traditional promotional reading with some of the events he organized for his book tour. In keeping not only with the subject matter of his book, but the spirit of the book’s subject, DeRogatis organized rock shows featuring the music that Bangs loved. The Lester Bangs Memorial Tribute Band — which featured DeRogatis on drums and a revolving membership of mostly rock critics — also rocked out at a couple of the events. Not only were these events excellent tributes to Bangs, they were also the kinds of events that packed people in and gave those in attendance a real good time.
NOTE: A good source for DIY touring information is Book Your Own Fuckin’ Life, a resource guide for the DIY punk community. Visit www.byofl.org for more information.