Touring with your band is a great experience no matter what, but the feeling of driving for hours to a new city to perform for a new audience and then showing up at a venue that just doesn’t fit the vibe of your music can be extraordinarily deflating. At some point, your band is going to get to a place where you can adequately control that sort of stuff, but for now, on a DIY level, it’s up to you to put in the hard work of researching the right spaces for your music to make sure each stop on your tour is a success. With that in mind, here are six tips for finding your ideal venues on the road.
Know the scene in the city you’re visiting.
If you have a basic handle on who’s making your same kind of music, or putting on the kind of shows you like you play, in the cities you’ll be visiting on your next tour, you’re off to a great start. Knowing who plays where in a given city is going to give you the best possible chance to convert new fans, reach a new audiences, and make strong connections with artists and promoters. So do your research!
Analyze your sound.
This pairs nicely with the first tip. The better you know your own musical or technical needs, the easier it will be to find spaces to best accommodate your live show. If you’re making quiet chamber music, booking a rockabilly dive bar is probably not the best idea. That might sound obvious, but it’s often surprising how much the context and the environment of a show affect how well it comes across to an audience. Even if you play the best set of your life, if the sound is bad or the venue doesn’t really suit the emotional effects you’re trying to achieve, it may fall short.
Take after similar artists.
Did a band you like or are friends with recently go on tour in the same are you’re looking to perform in? Steal their venue list! If your sound and aesthetic really are similar, chances are those venues and promoters will be glad to hear from you when you reach out.
Break the rules.
We love it when bands from out of town go bold and set up shows (usually through local organizers or other local artists in that city) in strange, unusual places. There’s no better way to make a great first impression on a new crowd than to bring them out to spots that don’t usually host live music. Get creative and don’t be afraid to chase your wildest ideas!
On this note, our friend Jessica Allossery did a nationwide tour consisting only of house concerts, and she wrote about the experience here.
Look out for theme nights.
Once again, if you’re blazing into a new city without a built-in audience waiting for your band to show up, you have to get kind of creative. An easy way to guarantee that the right people will hear your music is to pair up with a promoter whose themed event your music fits into.
Every gig is access to a tiny community.
Use every show you play as an opportunity to network. If you’re planning a show in a few months in Burlington, Vermont, and a band from that city comes to play where you live, go see them and support them, and tell them you’ll be coming through, too. If you don’t already have a gig, pick their brains about where to play, ask them their favorite places to grab dinner, or where the college crowd hangs out on weekends. The more you tour, the bigger your network becomes. Eventually, a huge chunk of your gigs will be booked hassle-free by friends and people owing each other favors. It’s a beautiful live music ecosystem, and you deserve access to it!