By Robin Davey
The last time I did a lengthy tour of the states it was funded by a major record label, booked by a major tour company, and our mode of transport was a 12 person sleeper bus with two lounges, entertainment system and kitchen. Today with my new band Well Hung Heart, I embark on a tour that was self booked, promoting a self released album, completely self funded, and our mode of transport is a Rav 4 pulling a small trailer.
I wanted to share my experiences with the good readers of Skindie for two reasons:
1. To show the practicalities of touring outside of the label system and utilizing digital tools to do so.
2. I have a good number of hours traveling between shows so have the perfect opportunity to jot my thoughts down as I go.
So here goes…
Stage one was booking the shows. This started with us landing a spot at Rocklahoma, a big rock festival close to Tulsa. The show came about by entering a jivewired.com search for bands to play. We were one of two artists selected to play from all the bands who submitted. Although our slot is on a smaller side stage, the festival boasts appearances from Guns and Roses, Bush, Alice in Chains and Cheap Trick. Being on the same bill immediately gave us some weight to approach other venues. Once this was confirmed, my partner in crime and lead singer of Well Hung Heart - Greta Valenti, went into overdrive, reaching out to venues and musicians across the country to try and piece together shows leading up to Rocklahoma.
It took a lot of hours and a lot of persistence, all the while trying not to bug people, appealing to their good nature and hopefully genuine love of music. It really was a case of opening a map and looking at which towns we could hit along the way to make it work.
Slowly but surely the dates started coming in. As a result we have managed to secure a wide range of shows, from small bars, to opening slots with major label artists. Amanda Palmers recent TED talk centered around the notion of just asking, and that what we did, we asked for gigs and we ended up with a pretty comprehensive two week tour. Mind you we had to ask a lot of people and get creative with our avenues. We got a lot of no’s, many never even got back which is demoralizing for any musician, but those who said yes couldn’t have been more helpful, often times turning us onto other shows too.
Networking was done by finding emails on websites, searching out people on Facebook and most importantly making friends with other bands who would in turn connect us with the local scenes.
That’s the romantic picture painted, however, there are a few hard truths that you also need to consider to make it happen.
Firstly you need some sort of capital. Our first show is in Chicago and we are based in Orange County. That is a lot of miles and a lot of gas money before we even reach our first gig. Some shows pay, some you take a risk on a door deal, and others you simply do for the exposure. This makes having merchandise essential, which is expensive. We don’t have he luxury of rich parents so everything we do is funded by us. The reality of today’s business is that if you are not the beneficiary of a trust fund or investor, you have to be prepared to invest in yourself somehow.
Myself and Greta run a production company called GROWvision which she started as a web design business a few years ago. We have since built it bit by bit, job by job, client by client. Essentially it is still just the two of us but we now handle everything from producing TV shows like Live From Daryl’s House to making commercials for corporate clients. We work hard so we can not only pay the rent, but also invest in ourselves and our projects and do the things we love to do.
These include launching two of our own shows Made In 48 and Discussted, plus building our bands career. As a result our Company GROWvision continues to grow and now is also our label and management.
I say this because this is the reality for every band nowadays. You need some sort of cash influx and more than likely it is not going to come from a label. If you get an outside investor it is very hard for them to understand the likely lack of return, and how the music business is very unlike the business in which they made their money. If you work hard to earn money to fund yourself, in whatever way that may be, you will be much more likely to invest wisely in your own career.
If you want to get fucked up and pretend to be a rock star in your local bar you can go ahead. But as the Rap and Hip Hop world has taught us, to succeed in music today you have to be a smart businessman, that is the new Rock and Roll and your business is not always just music.
So there you go that was the prep. Day one of the Well Hung Heart Summer Rocks Tour kicks off tonight (Wednesday) at The Elbo Room in Chicago. We are currently somewhere in Colorado rotating driving shifts, on our nonstop route to Illinois.
I will be back soon with part two and explore the task of actually getting people to shows and making the biggest impact on those who do. If you can make it to a show come say hi and and in the meantime, we have a weekend open on the tour, so of you can offer us a show anywhere between Springfield IL or Tulsa OK on the 19th May drop us a line at email@example.com, cos hey there is no harm in asking right?
Full list of tour dates can be seen at http://www.facebook.com/wellhungheart
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