It’s a new year and among all the many resolutions you and your artistic family are bound to be pursuing, perhaps 2017 is the year your band finally decides it’s ready to take your presence to a level beyond that of your local, hometown scene. The question that immediately follows, of course, is, “Okay, but how?”
Outlined here are some objectives to consider and explore. If your goal in the new year is to finally break through the local ceiling, we’re here to help and supply the sledgehammer.
Prior to drafting up that laundry list of to-do’s for hitting the national circuit, take a step back and see where you or your band stands with regard to some of these status questions:
1. Do you have a solid catalog of original and/or cover music available for sets of varying length? Once you book outside your familiar venues, the expected amount of music might be more than you are used to preparing for a night. It’s always better to have too much material to play than not enough, so make sure you beef up your setlists!
2. How established is your social media presence? Bands need to be able to connect with any fans they might encounter — especially the ones who are far outside hometown boundaries. An official website and accompanying social media pages let your fans feel equally connected and up-to-date on announcements and new music, whether they’re a regular at your local shows or live thousands of miles away. Building a rapport with far away listeners via social media can help create an initial sense of familiarity with destination audiences before your band ever even hits an out-of-town stage. Plus, having a few “friends” in the audience can calm your own nerves about how a new crowd will react to your music.
Make friends, trade shows.
You’re invited to a party of someone you don’t know that well, but you have a good time because you went with a mutual friend. Once the party is over, you leave with twice the friends!
This is a great way to approach breaking into a scene outside your own. Connecting with bands that fit and/or compliment your sound is a common way for two groups to mutually benefit from one another’s established fanbases; each getting comfortably introduced to the other’s uncharted community of listeners.
But how do you get that conversation started? Is there a touring band with which you could see your band sharing a bill, who will be playing a show soon? Go to the show! Stick around to chat afterwards and see if that group is up for any collaborative billing in the future. You get to hear new music, make new friends, and have out-of-town musicians help expand your audience. It’s a win-win-win!
+ Learn more on Soundfly: THIS is the year you bring your band on that national tour you’ve always talked about! Get some pointers on booking, managing, and promoting a DIY tour with our free course, Touring on a Shoestring!
Press and radio are your friends.
If you’re feeling ready to tackle new territory, chances are your band has risen through the ranks around your hometown. That being the case, start to compile links to any reviews written about your band, and of course, interviews — the more positive, emphatic, and recent, the better. This material will serve as a résumé or portfolio of sorts for promoters and bookers to give you slots.
You can further enhance your band’s appeal if you can show that your music is being played on radio stations that have listeners across a wide area. Bonus points if there’s direct crossover into a town your are trying to book!
Hint: College radio stations have a huge influence on your target market in each city, and are much easier to pitch with music submissions than commercial radio stations. So start with those!
Fear not if getting placed on terrestrial radio seems daunting. There are many established streaming radio channels that take submissions directly from bands and often are accessible from around the world. Everyone has to start somewhere and showing that you take the initiative with putting your music out there can make all the difference for a booker who is deciding whether you’ll put in the effort to get people out to a show.
Book and pitch with similarities in mind.
At this point, you’re in the throes of planning a small tour that will take your band across a handful of new cities. It can be hard to establish credibility with a venue if your band is just passing through for a night or two. Nonetheless, you want to play a gig somewhere in town, so some convincing needs to be done…
One great way to approach a completely new city is to inquire with venues that mirror places your band frequently books at home. Yes, reputation is a big factor: If you live in a city with a legacy venue and you have headlined there, that feather in your cap can often transcend local lines. But if a famous, historical venue is absent in your performance history, sending a booking inquiry that lets the booker know your band a) plays often, b) plays a variety of venues, and c) draws crowds to venues of comparable size and atmosphere, can help convince them that your music will transfer and blend well with the venue’s regular crowd and local acts. For tips on which venues to approach, look at bands who play at your favorite local venues and see where they play when they’re on the road!
Every band is different and exactly where yours falls on the spectrum of overall progress when weighed against any of these specific areas of development is likely to vary. The important thing to remember is that the better established you are in more areas (performing, marketing, networking, and booking), the better the odds that a booker will take the time to evaluate your music, and ideally, offer your band a show in a new location.
After that, it’s all about promoting the show, packing the house, thanking the venue, and then repeating the process for the next new place you want to reach. Pretty soon it will get easier and easier to gain the attention of new locales because your portfolio will show the wide range of places you’ve been. Everyone has to start somewhere, so there’s no better time than right now to get the ball rolling and the shows going!