Performing in a New City? Tips for the Traveling Indie Musician

By Michelle Aguilar

This article originally appeared on the TuneCore blog

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When I’m not studying, freaking out during midterms, or in the mountains, there’s a high chance that I’m at a concert seeing/dancing to one of my favorite musicians or serendipitously coming across a fascinating artist.

After getting to know several indie artists and hearing their stories, I thought it’d be a great idea to write an article specifically aimed at the traveling or touring musician… and assuming that you’re an artist since you’re reading this:

Hello! I hope you find the following mini-guide helpful when planning your next journey.

1. Health

But First: Your Health

I never thought I’d be the one saying this — it’s what my mother would say to me each time I’d skip out on a doctor appointment — but, your health comes first. A few things you can do to keep your health in check:

  • Party in moderation. Although there’s much to celebrate, touring is not a vacation. You know yourself best, so whatever that means to you, do it. Also, be sure to sleep as much as you can. Your brain, body, and everyone else will thank you!
  • Eat right. This may be difficult, especially when you’re on the road. Great news is that you can always buy a cheap cooler (use Freez-Paks, not ice) and fill it with fruits, nuts, veggies, and other healthy snacks. Buy lunch meat and other food from a nearby market and make your own sandwiches.
  • Stay sanitized. Bring hand sanitizer and wipes and use them. Wipe door knobs, shower handles and other objects if you’re staying at a motel. The constant moving between different venues, restaurants, and meet-and-greets is an easy way to get sick.

2. Planning

Always Plan for the Worst-Case Scenario

They say, “Hope for the best, and expect the worst,” you say “%$!*, we should have done that.” Don’t worry, it happens to all of us, but when it comes to traveling to play gigs, the consequences are no joke. A few things you can do to prepare:

  • Try to have extras of everything: cellphones, laptops, amplifiers, guitars, mics, cables, XLRs, stands, extension cords, batteries, picks, stings, straps, and drum parts.
  • Know your back-up lodging options — what hotel are near the venue and do they have availability? Even if you already have a place to stay, it’s always good to have alternative options at hand.
  • If you’re traveling by car, make sure that your vehicle is thoroughly checked and cleared of any issues.

3. Booking

Avoid Over-Booking

It can be tempting to get overly adventurous or fill your schedule up trying to squeeze every last penny out of tour… but if you stretch yourself too thin, it may have a negative effect on your overall performance and motivation.

Know yourself. How many hours of sleep do you need? Do you get tired easily, or are you naturally on the go? Keep all of these in mind, and give yourself space to recharge and perform your best.

Read up about your venue options online before you start booking, so that you know you’re choosing the right venues for your music. Indie on the Move is a great resource. This can help you prioritize venues and efficiently narrow down your options to avoid over-booking.

4. Promotion

Be Ahead of the Game with Your Promo

With so many elements of managing your music business moving online, it’s easy to rely on social media and be satisfied with simply posting your events. However, we must not forget the fundamentals of music promo! And if you do use Facebook, do more than just post:

  • Send a press release about your tour to local radio stations, newspapers, and weeklies at least six weeks before your appearance.
  • Build relationships with established bands in the city you’ll be playing. Start by befriending them on social media and reach out. You may even land another gig with them that same weekend or in the near future. Swap offers such as opening for each other in each other’s towns.
  • Use Facebook Ads effectively. Target ads to people living in or around the zip codes of the venues you’re going to perform at. You can even limit your ads to people who are interested in your genre.

5. Networking

Stay a While

Regardless of where you are in your music career, there’s always room for an after-show meet-and-greet with those who supported your performance. After all, being an artist is never a one-way street. You are here because of your hard work, and you are also here because of your fans’ dedication and appreciation of your music.

  • Depending on the venue that you’re playing, try to squeeze in at least 20 minutes of meet-and-greet time. This shows you appreciate your fans, and it will most likely increase fan loyalty. Also, you never know what you can learn by meeting a fan; they may be in the industry and have some advice, or they may be that drummer you’ve been looking to fill in — you never know!
  • Hang out near your merchandise booth to show appreciation to those buying more than just the concert tickets.
  • Take initiative and snap pics/videos with your fans, then upload them on your social media. Humility stands out.

I hope these tips have been helpful in preparing you for your next show. Of course, there are so many more things to keep in mind when preparing to perform in a new city, so trust your own experience, and seek out advice from your management and fellow musicians.

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