So here I am, a singer-songwriter in Houston, TX with a respectable local following and a shiny new album. What’s next? Well…
1) Submit album in its various formats to as many music writers as possible for review and hope they care to review the album…favorably.
2)Book a sweet tour
4) Generate tons of online content for fans to enjoy (during steps 1,2,3, & 5)
5) Record another album, rinse and repeat
As an independent musician one month post album release, the majority of my time is spent sending out emails for booking shows and getting the album reviewed, 90% of which never get a response or tell me no. It’s like applying for a job online. It’s frustrating, but as they say in the Godfather: “This is the business we’ve chosen.”
The fact is, I’m making progress, it’s just not happening at the speed I want it to happen. You finish an album and you want to be on the road with it because you’ve been in your hometown working on it and dreaming about taking it on the road, but it’s your first album, no one knows you, and it’s your job to find a way to book shows out of state. It will be months before touring can begin, and even longer before you start to play venues out of state that are worth the drive. You’ve spent all your money from working two jobs on recording this album, and now you have no money to tour. But you need money to tour, so you spend several months saving up more money, and before you know it, your album is 6 months old. Sucks, right? Oh, and the product you’re selling is available for free somewhere online thanks to someone else. Or maybe thanks to you. You can give away your record for free from your web site. It’s just a teaser for the live show nowadays, it’s an advertisement. People love free stuff and you’re not in this for the money anyway.
But you need money to tour…
So make some money with your day job, maybe even get a second job again for a while, and just focus on what you want.
Here’s what I want:
a good, well produced album thank you SugarHill for being awesome and in Houston, TX
a publicist thank you Monica Danna.
a booking agent
a tour manager
So let’s talk.
My two projects:
Runaway Sun – Four piece band. We’re able to cram all of our gear and ourselves into a Dodge Grand Caravan. How do we know this? We rented one once for our trip to Mobile and Pensacola, and it worked out.
Solo Project – to reproduce the album’s feel on the road, we need to pack acoustic guitar, cello, violin, upright bass, drums, pedal steel, and the 6 people who play these fragile, unwieldy instruments. Requirements: probably a 15-passenger van and a modest trailer.
Renting a van costs about $100/day. Buying a decent van will be around $3000. A trailer will cost about $600. You can’t pull a trailer on a rental van, so you have to buy the van. Total Cost: $3600
When you say booking agent, do you mean citywide, statewide, nationwide? I mean statewide and nationwide. I want someone who knows people at quality venues, venues that will put up the posters you send to them, venues people check on in city’s equivalent of the Houston Press, venues with a demographic interested in my kind of music. I’m not trying to conquer the world, I’m trying to play shows at quality venues in front of people who will enjoy them. Booking agents want to see a track record of quality shows that you booked on your own, just like festivals. How often do you book a quality show out of state without a booking agent? Not often. This is what we call a catch-22. Oh well. Don’t give up. Giving up means no shows at all.
This is the last stop in the chain- being able to hire someone to help you manage your tour!
So what do I need to do? I need to buy a van and a trailer, play a bunch of so-so shows until the big ones come along, continue to pour all of my waiter money into repairing the van, and keep on emailing booking agents with my list of latest and greatest achievements.
This stuff takes time, so don’t get discouraged. When a booking agent takes you on, it’ll be after you’re a self-made experienced badass. Maybe you’re playing songs in New York that were released a year ago for the first time, and written four years ago. It doesn’t matter. Focus on writing timeless music, songs that people will want to hear again and again, and do not give away your whole album. Let them go through the trouble of finding it for free somewhere online, let them steal it, but don’t devalue it yourself.