In part 2 of this blog series on “how to book a concert tour for yourself” I discussed the four levels of contacts to approach for help. I realise that it’s somewhat unconventional to do so.
Most musicians would contact the concert producers and venue owners directly by blitzing them with generic, templated e-mails. Any replies would then be followed up. While this may be the fast and efficient way, I prefer to know who I’m writing to. That’s why I advised to look into other indirect approaches to getting a concert. It may take more time, but in the end, it’s more rewarding as relationships get formed and built.
Now that you have your sizzle and contact list, how do you go about getting concerts?
Let’s take a step back and set the constraints and objectives of your tour.
What are the earliest and latest dates of your tour? In other words, give yourself deadlines. For us, we had to arrive in the USA by 21st October 2010 or else our visas would expire worthless. For that reason, we were happy to get a concert on 21st October 2010. This meant we had to arrive by then. We also fixed a date to arrive in Maui, by Thanksgiving.
What are the must visit places on your tour? You can set your priorities by deciding on people you want to see and places you want to visit. In our case, we chose to begin with New England in the Fall — a top tourist attraction. It was that time of the year that was the prettiest to visit Massachusetts. We spent the first two weeks of our tour in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. As neither of us had been to Phoenix, Denver, Davis, or Sacramento, we looked forward to new experiences. Finally, we plugged in other cities where we had friends and/or concerts booked: Durham, Houston, and San Francisco.
Decide on your objectives of your concert tour.
If you want to cover your expenses, be sure to book enough gigs and sell out your CDs. Try to get as many concerts in one area as possible. We gave 4 concerts in 2 days in Phoenix. There was one day in Houston that we clocked in 2 radio shows, a duo concert, and a guitar solo concert.
We approached our America Tour very differently from tours in the past that were primarily vacation with a concert or concerts that did not cover the expenses (Slagelse 2004, Cape Town 2005, Cortona 2006, Houston 2007, London 2008, Madrid 2009, and Taipei 2010). We obtained visas for the USA to work not play. We were not on vacation though it felt like we were because of the generous hospitality provided by our hosts. All concerts that we gave were paid for — either by the hosts or the audiences, except those that we volunteered ourselves for, e.g. MD Andersen Cancer Clinic, and radio shows.
Besides covering the expenses, we wanted to broaden our network. We did so by contacting composers, producers, patrons, performers, and just about anyone who loved classical music enough to be involved. We reconnected with old friends, classmates, and colleagues we had not seen in years. They introduced us to people they knew. We made new contacts at concerts. It was very enriching to meet people who so supported the arts — face to face.
Back to the first question I posed in this 3-part series on booking a concert tour for yourself: which comes first — the concert or the tour?
If you get invited to give a concert somewhere, see if you can stay longer and give other concerts.
If you want to go somewhere (for vacation, training, family visit, etc), see if you can book concerts while you’re there. The spin-offs are considerable: leads for concerts in the future, hospitality, reciprocation, and surprises.
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