Touring is a hugely important part of gaining an fanbase. People who turn up for gigs are arguably the most dedicated music listeners you can reach; and as such they can also be the biggest evangelists for your act if they like the particular type of noise you’re making.
The problem is that touring is also (1) very expensive to do and (2) often incredibly hard work. And it can also be a disappointing experience (to say the least) if nobody turns up to your shows. So in this post, we’re going to give you a few pointers on how you can plan and promote a series of gigs.
1. Capture postcode data before you tour
When planning a national tour, a lot of bands take a bit of a scattergun approach to venue selection (emailing just about any venue they can find and playing anywhere that will have them). However, it makes more sense to take a more focussed approach, and concentrate on towns where you have the highest concentration of followers. So that you have this data handy, you need to ensure that in addition to the bog-standard name and email address fields, you add postcode to your mailing list sign-up forms, because you can then...
2. Use mapping tools to find out where your fans live
Assuming you have followed the sage advice issued in point 1 above, and have a truckload of postcodes handy, you can use mapping tools to get a visual overview of where your fanbase is located.
This is really easily done (and for free) with Google Maps - you just upload your mailing list and Google Maps will provide you with a map highlighting where all your fans are located - you might see that nobody likes you in Leeds, for example, while you are huge in Hull. Or if you fancy something even snazzier, try Power Map for Excel - this will let you play with your data in all sorts of visual ways. But even if you’re only able to put a simple table together based on your postcode data, the point is to create a system or use a tool that lets you find out where your fans live, because that way you can plan a tour around where the relevant ears are. You will also be in a position to say to promoters or venue bookers that you have X number of fans in town Y (and provide them with graphical / statistical evidence if needed!).
If you haven’t got a lot of postcode data to play with, all is not lost. If you have a Facebook fanbase, you can use the Insights > People tab to get a list of cities (and countries, if you’re planning a world tour) to get an overview of where your fan hotspots are.
3. Research the local media scene in each of the locations where you’re playing
As soon as you’ve confirmed your list of venues, make sure that you put together a list of local media outlets in the towns and cities you’re going to be playing. It’s considerably easier to get regional radio airplay and press than it is to do so nationally; but there always has to be a ‘local angle’. And convenient, by playing locally, you’re providing that local angle. Radio, as ever, is particularly important and if you can get on the airwaves of a radio station or two that are in proximity to the venues you are playing at, this can considerably help you boost attendance. If you can stretch to investing in a regional music press campaign to support the tour, so much the better (well, we would say that).
4. Make use of geo-targeting when promoting the gig online
If you’re using online adverts to promote your music (and in 2016, you really should be) the good news is that Facebook, Twitter and Google Ads all give you the option to target fans (or potential fans) in very specific geographical locations. This means that you can focus your ad spend on the areas that you’re playing your shows in, saving money and maximising attendance at the same time.
5. Remember to capture data at the gigs you play
The promotion doesn’t stop once you go on stage - if anything, at-the-show promotion is the key part (and purpose) of the tour: you want to make new fans after all. Ensure that you have a plan to capture data at gigs and that everyone coming out of the show knows your website address. You can do this via on-stage announcements, but there are more sophisticated ways to develop relationships with fans available (as such, you might find our article on data capture at gigs handy). All this is particularly important if you are playing a lot of support slots - you need to win over the fans of the headline acts, and capture their details (so that next time you play the same venue, you're headlining).
Hope you’ve found these tips handy. A final pointer, of course, might be this: don’t forget to rehearse…