The Importance of Touring as an Indie Artist
If you are an indie artist reading this then you’ll remember this moment: you get your first single or album in your hands and you think to yourself, now what? In reality the list of the next step is massive. Today we will tackle a very tough but important part in an artists rise to the next level. Touring.
One of the most important things for an indie artist that wants to get the next level to have is a very smart game plan for their home base. Next on the list and one of the biggest parts of your business plan to remember, is avoiding hometown oversaturation. The only thing that playing more than once every three months locally does is destroy any chance of you building a solid fan base. If people know they can see you once every few weeks, they will probably start showing up every 3rd or 4th show. Playing a large sold out event every few months versus playing a show once every two weeks for your friends and family does more for your career than you could imagine. That however is for another article. The question here is: “ We want to play! What are we supposed to do if we can’t play?” The answer is tour.
Touring requires being honest with yourself, digging deep, connecting with your band-mates, and learning to face rejection. It truly hardens you, makes you realize that you can accomplish anything. Many may not see the importance of playing to five people at some dingy club in Thunderbay, Ontario or jamming five guys and a ton of gear into a van and driving countless miles across the country for nothing more than saying that you did it. For me, it was always a huge step to our end goal. Every time we went out we came back stronger, tighter and better at our craft. The confidence touring gives you is immeasurable. It’s an amazing feeling. On the other side of the coin you get to connect with a broader range of potential fans, which really is the main reason you’re doing it in the first place!
Now don’t get me wrong. I get how hard it is, how much work goes into booking it, promoting it, getting time off work, ensuring you have merch ready, and the daily grind of working each city before you get there so that you’re not playing to an empty venue. Then of course comes the big one of course, the money. I’m a firm believer though in seeing that touring is worth the money, however way you have to get it. Thinking outside the box is crucial, and there are a lot of ways in this day and age to do it. Crowd funding is a great way because every dollar counts, and if you have people who believe in your music and live shows you will get some of those precious dollars. Even if you only raise a thousand dollars, that will go a long way. Those big events I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago? That’s the perfect way to throw an easy one or two thousand dollars in the old bank account. We would also put on yearly outdoor ball hockey tournaments. Ask the city to let you use a local tennis court, buy a few hundred dollars worth of fencing to split the court in two( if you have a tournament every eight months to a year its well worth the cost), invite every local band and artist you can, and let everyone know it’s a tour fundraiser. One call to Gatorade got us a sponsor and a ton of free product; a BBQ from home and we had free hotdogs for all the participants. Ten teams of 10-12 people at twenty dollars a pop and a beautiful trophy for winning band bragging rights and voila, another eighteen hundred dollars in the bank after some factored in costs. I’m not going to say it’s simple, but I will say it’s 100% doable.
Being an indie artist isn’t easy, but don’t let anyone tell you it’s impossible. Wake up every day and work hard on all areas of your craft. Just like everything else you work hard at, touring will get easier as you figure it out. Just keep those thoughts of we can’t tour or it’s too hard, out of your mind and just do it. You’ll be glad you did.