In 2006 Sliotar set out on our very first European tour that we organised ourselves. We performed in France, Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. It was over six-week tour that took us from Atlantic coast to Mediterian and to the North coast of Germany. We had an old tour bus that we traveled, slept, cooked and lived in for most of the tour. It was our first long tour and it was exiting!
So how did we organise it all? On this post I will tell you about how I went about booking the shows. Before this tour Sliotar had done a handful of festivals around Europe, so the first thing I did was to contact all of them, as they knew us already. I informed them that we will be touring in Europe around their festival and asked if they would be interested in having us perform. Most of the festivals jumped at it and this became my base plan. Then I took a good look at the map and calendar and figured out possible connecting routes between the festivals. I did extensive research on Google on the possible routes looking for Festivals, venues and Irish pubs. I sent out somewhere around 2000 emails. And if you are not familiar with this work, here’s the first rule: never send mass messages. Every one of those 2000 emails were sent individually! If at this point you think this sounds like too much hard work, I highly recommend you sell your guitar and apply for a cosy office job, being an independent musician is not for you.
I also contacted quite few booking agents and we already had a good one in the Czech republic, who believed in us and was willing to fill 10 days of our tour. This was a big help. So slowly and surely we started to fill in the dates, If my memory serves me right we had about 7 festivals and 13 other shows, which were mixture of Pubs, clubs and outdoor concerts. We also had quite few days we had to solely dedicate for driving. To think you can do 800km drive in one day and perform a great show at the end of it is not realistic at all. And five days of driving and playing every night you will need a night off from both.
So back to the booking. How many of those 2000 emails got back to me? rough guess, about 50. And how many of them ended up in a booking? maybe ten… That’s the fact of this game, most of these venues get hundreds, if not even thousands of Emails every month. There were few venues I asked years later what was it in my email that made them take the risk and most of them said it was the fact that they could see I wrote the email to them, not copy and paste and send a mass message to hundreds of email addresses at the same time. Also some venues simply require you to call them to make the first contact. If you are on a tight schedule (less than 6 months) I would recommend you to just make phone calls, or be prepared to have a lot of days off on the road.
In the past you needed to mail a CD to the venues, and this is still the case sometimes, but most venues and promoters prefer a live video of your performance, you do need to have some good pictures of your band for when they decide to book you and a good bio. It would not be a bad idea to translate your bio as well. But most of all you need to have a good quality website that has all of this material available and your band name as the domain, no free sites and no pop-up ads. You want to be professional? make sure you look professional.
9 years and over 20 tours that we booked ourselves later I can assure you this method works provided your live show is tight and you know how to connect with your audience 😉
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The author J.P. Kallio is a singer songwriter
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