BOOKING PROMOTION 101 - Home Based Gigs, or Tours?
New for 2017: There are two basic types of gig routings that you can do: Home based, and tours. "Routing" is the setting up of the times and dates of gigs so that they fit into your schedule, and it applies to either touring or home based plans. None of this applies, however, if you get signed to a dream agency or dream label. If you are not getting signed to such, then the cost of activities is going to be the most important thing to consider. Here are the differences:
Home Based: This is where you stay at home, drive out to gigs, do them, and come back home. You might stay at a motel after the gig and come home the next day, but it's really the same thing. And if you are lucky you might get offered a gig for the next day at a nearby place to the one you just did, but generally it's just the one gig.
Home based gigs are by far the easiest to set up, and should probably be what every artist and band start their shows with. You have the advantage of no lodging ("hospitality", i.e. motel) costs, and usually no food costs either (food is always more money on the road), and the venue people that you talk to will believe you more when you tell them what your draw will be at their place, because you should have a "regional" name that fans will know locally even if they are an hour or two away.
A big advantage of home based gigs are residencies, where you are scheduled one or more gigs a week, every week, at a particular place. And the extension of this, a house band, is about as full-time-job as you can get and will pretty much eliminate any more booking that you'll need to do for a while.
The disadvantage of home based gigs, of course, is that you are home based, or regional at most (an hour or two distance), and therefore you might over-play the places in your area within a year or two. Depends on the population, but smaller towns will be "exhausted" sooner, whereas large cities can handle three to five years of gigs before exhaustion.
Tours: The definition of a tour, here, is when you do not come back home after each gig. Instead you go point-to-point from gig to gig, which usually means town to town, and motel to motel. Tours are almost always what new artists want from day one, and what everyone aspires too "one day". Tours may or may not actually be good for you however. Here are the differences:
The big advantage of a tour, and what everyone thinks is absolutely needed, are the "extra fans" and "far reach" of their music into the world that will come from a tour, which would not come from home based gigs. The traveling and food-from-exotic-places appears to be nice too, but you can get that on a vacation, so we'll concentrate on just your music and marketing. Also built into the desire for tours is the notion that somehow the gigs will all be bigger (more fans, more pay) and that you'll be more respected by everyone along the way. Well, if everything were the same as home based gigs, then yes this might be the case. But everything is different. I've found that the universal desire for tours always come from artists trying to do what their favorite major label artists did, and this is an unfortunate part of their financial decision making process.
The first big (huge) difference of tours, and thus disadvantage, is that venue people in distant lands are not going to believe you when you tell them what your draw will be at their place. That's if they reply to your call or email at all, which you will find out is very difficult. If they do reply, they'll usually save themselves some time by starting the communication with "what's your draw?" Without signed reference letters (see article #7) from similar booking people in their area that say what your draw actually is there, there is not a whole lot of good trying to answer them, because they won't believe you.
As a matter of fact, contrary to "bigger gigs in far away lands", your gigs on a real tour might be smaller because your draw will be less when you are farther from your home area. If you get the gigs. When you combine this with the extra costs of motels, food on the road, etc, it can be an easy decision to just stay home based. Yes you can be a band-in-a-van, or you can stay with fans and eat their food, but this is still extra work and planning that does not need to occur when you are home based.
Another sometimes overlooked disadvantage of a tour is that you will probably loose any residencies you had locally, and certainly you could not be a house band anymore. However you might be able to come back home and get them again. Equipment wear-and-tear is also more, and can add thousands of dollars to the tour cost. Sickness of anyone in the band can throw a huge wrench into the plans too. Same with a broken car/van.
The difficulty of routing is enormous for a real tour. The time and date of one gig must be had, before the time and date of another gig can be set. And then, any other gigs between these two must follow a logical date and geographical sequence from one to the other. Problem is, the venue people don't care about your sequence, and only care about how many fans you are going to bring into their place on Thursday the 5th, at 9:30pm, because that's the only time they have for you. So yes it can take lots of juggling, re-contacting, endless (thousands) of emails/texts, hundred of hours on the phone (mostly just trying to get the right person), all to find out that you barely broke even with the pay after a year of touring.
Home and Tour Mix: Acts that have saturated their home region, but are not capable of staying (or setting up gigs) on the road for months, can do mini-tours and come back to their home based gigs periodically. This is a nice compromise, and can happen sooner if you are in a small town, or years later if you are in a major city. Staying out for three weeks seems to be the most common time frame, especially for people traveling to other countries for each mini-tour, because you can stay at a single motel or fan's house for that time and make that your remote home base, thus eliminating at least the hassle of finding new places to stay. A traveling van/bus/RV of course, fixes this.
For your mix, you can start with just one or two big or "anchor" gigs, and fill in the rest of the weeks with smaller gigs within a drivable distance from the big gigs. And staying in the area for a while makes it easier for one fan to see you and recommend that a friend go see you at one of the other gigs there. This can't happen if you leave the area right away. Each fan and their friend(s) is a big deal at this small DIY level.
I'm personally a fan of any type of communication with any type of venue or place, because the basic work, hours, words, and energy are the same. But the artist/band is the one who must also look at the cost (in money, time, and hassle) of the promotion work that is required to get the gigs, and decide at what level to concentrate on.
Happy gigs to all!
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