Why college radio is the key to booking a successful tour and growing your network
Let’s face it, booking a successful tour is hard work. You send countless emails to venues, haggle over guarantees with talent buyers, and reach out to local bands in the cities where you want to play, in hopes of building a bill that will draw a crowd. It takes time and persistence to piece together the puzzle, and then you have to worry about promotion, travel expenses, merchandise, and the inevitable fact that you may never see a dime for all of your efforts. However, at the end of the day you’re not doing this whole music thing to get rich. If you’re reading this then there’s a good chance that, for you, playing music isn’t an option, but rather a soul fulfilling obligation. It’s instinctual. It’s mandatory for your well-being as a human. But just because booking a tour is tough, the actual experience is always worth the toil, and there are some time tested strategies that you can employ that will help you to hone-in on your audience, build your network, and ultimately get more people out to see you perform.
Here’s some tips to help you along the way:
- Use the power of Radio (College and non-commercial specifically): Send your latest release, along with a tour flier and one-sheet to college radio stations in the cities where you’re booking shows. If you’re a young band this is a great move to connect with your target audience. If you’re older dudes or gals but you think your tunes will speak to the 18-21 year old crowd, then it’s a good look for you too! Getting your music into the hands of a Music Director at a college radio station is an awesome way to not only garner airplay, but it is a great strategy for leveraging in-studio interviews and performances!
- In my years as a radio promoter I’ve come to find that most of the Music Directors at college radio are musicians themselves and often have a strong network of friends, fans, and fellow musicians. In addition to being stewards of good music they also usually have the inside scoop on house show opportunities, DIY venues, and bands that have local followings. And being the purveyors of good tunes that they are, Music Directors often have a lot of musical influence over their friends and are seen as ‘tastemakers’ within their circles. So if you can catch their attention, then there’s a good chance that they will tell their friends about your music and upcoming gig – which will ultimately lead to a larger audience when the day of your show rolls around!
- Connecting with local bands when you’re on tour is a great way to build relationships with like-minded people that already belong to existing musical communities. Make friends with these people, because who knows, maybe they’ll even open up their home to you and let you crash on their couch or take a much needed shower. Be sure to exchange contact info, so that you can easily send them an email or shoot them a text next time you’re in town.
- You might even want to go so far as to create a spreadsheet to keep track of your new network of friends which you can then organize by city and state. Being detail oriented may seem pretty ‘square’, but you should try to manage your music career like you would a business. Keeping track of little details will save you from scratching your head the next time you roll through Tulsa, OK and you’re trying to remember the names of that one couple who wouldn’t stop gushing over ‘how amazing you were’ and how they were ‘your new biggest fans’. Instead, you can just send them an email or DM them on Facebook, or better yet, shoot them a text. Receiving a personal messages will make your fans feel special, and demonstrates that you really care about them. As is the case with any industry, relationship building is key and the music industry is no exception.
Booking a successful gig is all about advanced planning. You have to put yourself out there ahead of time and be willing to engage with the people that are most likely to support your music. This way you won’t be such a stranger when you roll into town. And then when their band is on tour and they’re passing through your hometown, you can pay if forward and help them out just like they helped you. It seems so simple, but this is a great way to organically develop real, lasting relationships and to ensure that people come out to your shows. Sure it costs a little money to print out a tour flier and mail it to a radio station along with a CD, and sure it will take some persistence to get through to the Music Directors to spark up a conversation, but trust me, it will be worth every penny.
More on proper CD packaging, tactful correspondence, and how to get your music played at college radio, coming soon!
Interested in a full-fledged college radio campaign? Learn more here!