How to start a concert tour across the country

How to start a concert tour across the country

If you’re a performer, concert tours might be special for you.

Even if you’re not a performer, you’ll benefit from meeting people who love what you do.

My friend the metal guitarist, Andrew Baena, is home from touring across Canada so of course we had to sit down. He first started playing guitar in his bedroom, and made some smart choices that grew his solo act into Galactic Pegasus and their concert tour across the country. (Today, we’ll reveal these smart choices!)

Andrew just signed on with The Collective, that manages channels like Linkin Park, Slash, and Godsmack on Youtube.

I’m excited to introduce Andrew as our guest– I picked his brain for you, and pieced together a recipe to starting a concert tour across the country, into 5 steps.

1. Find your sound

Stop rushing.

“Before you gather members,” Andrew says, “have an idea of what you want to sound like.”

It’s the first stumbling block: most people gather “members” first, which is a waste of time– the group will be jamming then scratching each others’ throats. It’s easier to get people to work with your vision if they know what it is first.

Andrew Baena and Grace Miles

2. Record music in a bedroom (or anywhere)

“I started off doing covers of famous songs in my bedroom,” Andrew says.

“How did you record?” I say.

“I learned everything off Youtube; some people have been really helpful.” Andrew uses a Pod HD Pro, which is an amp, I think. “I use Reaper to edit the music,” he says.

“As in Grim Reaper?” I say.

“Yeah.”

“Is this a metal thing?”

“No,” Andrew says, smiling.

If you want to check it out, there’s a free trial.

3. Build an audience in a place you own

“Have you thought about this,” I say, “if you keep your fans on social media, you don’t own your fans– Facebook and Twitter does. Facebook can play around with their API, like, make you pay a ridiculous amount.”

“Yeah,” he says. “We’re looking for new ways to communicate with our fans.”

“Why don’t you try email?” I say. “That’s what I’ve had the best experience with.”

You should build their own audience from day 1– I’ve worked with too many people who realize this years into the game.

Whether you teach music, or perform piano, or make music apps, try collecting email addresses using opt-in forms on a website. Email is personal– many people check their inboxes first thing in the morning.

Experiment with the website’s design to get different results. When you’re starting out with email marketing, try MailChimp. To upgrade to sophisticated campaigns, try: Aweber, Infusionsoft, or ConstantContact.

4. Earn revenue without being sleazy

“I’d rather people come to our live shows than buy our music,” Andrew says.

I’d encourage creative people to experiment with big wins. For example, selling ONE $30 concert ticket vs five $1.99 songs on iTunes. The latter takes more effort for lower return.

Here is a break-down of two basic revenue models:

a) Go for the big wins. If you give your music away for free and a fan listens to it everyday, they will jump when you come to their city. If you give away your best stuff for free and a person loves it, they will not doubt your premium content. Like, if you are a piano teacher and your tips help them out immensely, they will sign up for your lessons.

b) Stepping stones (to premium products). When someone buys your $1.99 song on iTunes, you’ve introduced them to your lowest pricing tier– now they’re invested in you. The key is to invite them up higher. Perhaps offer exclusive tracks, or even the opportunity to spend 8 hours with you. Music can be pirated, but if a person goes through the effort to pirate your music, they’re invested all the same.

5. Go on tour and keep earning

“Our drummer, who’s 18 years old, booked the entire tour,” Andrew says.

First, Dallas, the drummer, got in touch with bands in other cities and invited them to join the tour. Then he’d call the promoter in the city, to see if they can run an event.

Make sure you get a contract signed before you hit the road. And rope in as many sponsors as possible– food, travel, accommodations– you want to avoid dipping into red, because catch-up is hard to play.

Our coffee shop is loud, so I lean in. “You know what I think,” I say. “I think you’ve changed since the tour.” His trademark sleepiness is almost gone. “You’re like sunshine.”

Look, we couldn’t find a photographer on short notice so I’m about to ask someone to take our photo. I snap a random shot to test the lighting and Andrew is sitting like this.How to Tour Across the Country With Your BandWith that being said, going on tour will serve you best if you’ve built a solid fan base.

If you’re not ready to go on tour yet, perhaps enter a competition. Music competitions help you practice performing and reach a large audience that you can charm, kind of like giving a TED Talk.

“Do you enter competitions?” I say.

“Most metal competitions are in the States,” Andrew says.

“I came across an interesting competition for bands in BC,” I say. “It’s for covering songs– just your thing.”

vanCOVER is a competition where bands choose a song from the 70’s or 80’s to put their own spin on. LG 104.3 chooses a winner for vanCOVER each month, that will have their song played on the radio. Plus, they hold live events.

This is the type of competition you’re looking for; bands should already be playing good music and experimenting with recording techniques– so you’re producing music that can be used elsewhere– and the platform spreads your music to more ears. (Avoid composing music that only fits one competition, e.g. lyrics that mention a company, unless the odds of winning are high.)

If you develop a system for producing music you enjoy, it won’t matter whether you are going on tour or competing– there will always be an arsenal of music in your back pocket.

And if you know a friend who will find this useful, feel free to send it to them.

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