Fan Landers: First Tours, Glow-In-The-Dark Basses, And Dealing With Kicked-Out Members' Backbiting
Are you a musician? Is your band having issues? Our new advice columnist, who we're going to call Fan Landers (a.k.a. Jessica Hopper), is ready to give you Real Talk about any problems your musical outfit might be havingwhether professional, practical, or sartorial. Send your problems to sotc at villagevoice dot com; confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.
I am in a (fairly) young band. We've been playing gigs for about a year and a half now, and naturally we think we're pretty good. What we'd like to do is get out of our home city to play some shows elsewhere, in the hopes of attracting a few more fans. As we're in Ireland, there also aren't that many places to choose from, so we'd probably like to play some shows around the UK as well. What's the best way to go about arranging a few shows (or a tour) outside of our local area? Should we just buddy up with a slightly bigger band and wait to secure an opening slot for them on a minor tour of theirs, or get off our asses, book several venues we'd like to play in, and get from each one to the next, without too much worry over the size of audience we'd be playing to (as we'd be playing in places where people have most likely never heard of us, and therefore don't care about seeing us)?
I am glad you are already pretty realistic about your first tour. Chances are no one will be there to see you, and audience indifference will be pretty high. It is encouraging that you are willing to get out there and start laying the foundation for your band despite this. First tours are generally equal parts miserable and fun. If you are friends with another band in your area that is known regionally, there is no harm in hitting them up, if you have already played shows together and know them. You can also mention it to every other band you play with and open for that you are looking to do dates, or you can say, "Hey, we are looking to come through Cardiff in Septemberwe should totally do a show together!" Playing with a decent-drawing local in each city might even be a better prospect than touring with a more popular band from your hometown. Piece together a tour that waydraw on that reciprocity and networkingand you could wind up with a couple of OK gigs to make up for the show you play to four people in a shed in Dumfries. You could also try hooking up with another local act and doing a few package dates, which might be of more interest to a promoter.
The crucial thing for early tours especially is to assume that everyone you deal with is not doing their job. This sounds fucked up, but it'll save you disappointment on the backend, and being a young band has their shit together will be a pleasant surprise for the promoters/clubs you're dealing with and make them want to work with you again. Xerox some cool posters and fliers for your band and mail some to the promoters you're working with, but also ask them if they have a list of record stores in town you could mail some to, and if they have a list of press and radio contacts. If they don't have them, ask a local what gets people out to shows. If they don't know, Google each area's record stores, college radio, and local papers and blogs. Budget a couple of bucks (euros?) in postage and a few hours of online research for every show. It's a lot of work, but as a result you have contacts for your next time through, or to share with other bands. A few posters and a little writeup can make a differenceyou might get two people coming out to your show instead of none. Applying a little effort is better than just throwing yourself out there and hoping for the best. Good luck!