Let's say you've decided to bite the bullet and book your own tour. So, you pull out a map and, uh, what now? The world is a big place, so where exactly should you focus your hunt for the perfect gig? Consider the following when you're picking your short list of cities to hit up on your tour:
Your first choices should be cities in which you already have a following, or at least some name recognition. Maybe you scored a review in the paper, have been picking up some plays on the college radio station or your last group played there with success. You'll have an easier time of convincing promoters to give you a shot if you're not a completely new name to the gig-goers in the town.
Next, consider cities to which you have some connection. If you're signed, your label's hometown is a must. Connections with local musicians always help - they offer a great opportunity to set up a gig swap. Even having a concentration of family or friends in a certain town can help, especially if they're all willing to come down and help you pack out the venue.
Your genre of music may dictate a few "must visit" tour spots. Genres of music often have a concentration of fans and musicians in a certain areas, so you'll want to hit up your musical homeland.
If you are just getting started on the touring circuit, plan shows in cities that you think you can visit regularly. For instance, that gig 600 miles from your hometown might have been a lot of fun, but long distance travel and accommodation expenses add up fast on the road and the audience there will likely have forgotten about you by the time you save up the money to do it all again. If you're booking a "cross our fingers we at least break even" kind of tour, it makes sense to stick to a region where you will financially be able to visit every few months so you can more effectively build a loyal fanbase.
Last but not certainly not least, think of the big markets. Where does the music industry exist in your country? For instance, if you're in the UK, a London show matters because there's such a high concentration of music media and industry there. You've got to get your show in front of the tastemakers and people who can open doors for you.
Of course, there are other considerations you need to keep in mind. First and foremost - how much is this going to to cost you? For instance, if you live in the US, it's tough to justify booking a tour that goes from Atlanta to Fargo to Memphis to Seattle to Boston. Jumping all over the map jacks up the cost of your tour in a hurry. You'll want to book your shows in as logical a progression as possible and keep the tour within a manageable geographic region.
Your touring window is also a factor. Having a tour that is all over the map not only makes things more expensive, it takes up a lot of time. If you're still in the day job stage of your music career and only have a limited number of days you can devote to being on the road, plan your tour stops so you can maximize the amount of time you spend on stage (as opposed to behind the wheel).
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