Most of us musicians live for the live show. And the idea of touring is the real dream. Especially if we get to do it abroad. Something magical about the idea of playing a different county, to a new crowd night after night. How to tour abroad with your band? This is a question I get asked a lot, You see over the years I got to tour quite bit with few different bands, but by far the most with Sliotar. Sliotar plays contemporary Irish folk and traditional music with a heavy modern twist. Our set consists about half songs and half instrumental. We work as a trio and to get you up to speed with what this article is going to be about, you should read “Trio” as three people = cheaper to transport.
So how do you get to tour? Well first let me demystify few things here. The idea that some promoter from a far distant land is going to see your bands Facebook page, or walk into a show in your local town, decide that you are brilliant (I am assuming that you are, as without this you have no hope to tour successfully) and that he want to organize a tour for you, does not exist! For someone to organize a full expenses paid tour for you, they would need to know for sure that they can make money out of you, and lots of it. I can see you looking at me in horror, “surely they don’t do it for the money?” Get a grip! If you want to play the big boy game in the music business, let’s start with the fact that it is a business! You as a touring musician provide service, which is a live show, and a kick ass one at that. Also the market for live music is as over saturated as is the rest of the business. I don’t personally think this as a bad thing; it’s just the way it is.
Arts are doing well in the creative sense, but that makes the business side more competitive. So the days of someone bringing you over for a tour just because your music is great are long gone. You need to have some pull. You need to fill the concert venues. I can hear you screaming “promotion is the promoter’s job!” Well… it is the promoter’s job to let people know there is a show in the town, but that is all he can do. He can’t force people to turn up at your show. Now if your band name on the poster actually means something for the people in the town, they have heard of you, they know your music, they have heard rumors about a fantastic live show… Then you might be in business.
Now, here is another point I like to make for our friends from USA. You have a circuit of college concerts. We don’t have them in Europe. Coffee houses, sell coffee… The ones with live music are pretty much non-existent. The European circuit is made of Festivals, Large purpose-built venues, theatres, Concert venues, clubs, pubs and restaurants. There are some DIY venues in the punk scene, and there are exceptions to this, but basically that’s it. So if you are lucky enough to have a promoter to book you a tour. You might get to do some of the venues, maybe even theatres, and the days between probably will be filled with the clubs. If you don’t have a promoter, you can still tour, but it will take a lot more work. Basically you need to organize the tour by yourself. This is a massive task to take on! I know, I have done it.
But this reality check is enough for this blog post. I will continue with another post on the DIY tour booking. Also there will be another post on Festivals. But to get you started you need to have the basics in place. Website, Mailing list, substantial following on your social media sites and preferably in the areas you are hoping to tour is a must. You could do much worse than implementing some of my suggestions in an earlier blog post: Music does not promote itself. Don’t get disheartened, it can be done. It just takes commitment and hard work.
(Part 2 of this series on touring abroad coming soon…Thank You.)
The author J.P. Kallio is a singer / songwriter / coffee aficionado