On the road: 8 Things Touring Bands NEED to start doing NOW for packed clubs

Henry Rollins has a great bit about the value of making connections while you travel. He’s on a date with a woman and in an effort to impress her he starts bragging about all the stamps he has in his passport as if it makes him oh-so-worldly.  But she sees through him and puts him in his place telling him, “You have only visited the airports, hotel lobbies and venue.  You never get to stop and interact with the real people.”  Essentially telling him all his touring experience means nothing because he hasn’t stopped to connect with the people he’s playing for.  His response? “You sunk my battleship.”  He knew she was right and now literally wanders looking for people to meet in new countries.

vincent vega

Now I’m not saying that you need to wander the earth like a bum, to quote Vincent Vega, but to stop and try to connect to who your audience is.  It’ll only take a few minutes and will mean the difference between a half-empty club to a packed crowd dying to buy whatever it is you’re selling.

Even Johnny Rotten when the Pistols first started touring didn’t wear that snear full-time. He’d talk to the people and find out where they were from, why they were at the show, and generally what life was like for them and how he could relate.  Simple, right?

Wrong. Touring bands you NEED to connect with your audience beyond just a friendly merch-booth hello while 90% of your band packs up or finishes the rest of the drink tickets so lovingly bestowed upon you by the promoter.

Here’s how you can connect:

  1. Tweet/FB where you’re going to be playing.  Use the hashtag for what town you’ll be visiting, e.g. “Hey #winnipeg! We’re playing at #thetavern, any places we should hit up first?”
  2. Reach out to the college/university radio stations a few days in advance – just by iphone is super easy- offer to drop off some CDs on the way to the show or guestlist the local DJ.  Again, all this can be arrange via Twitter
  3. Ask if people have any recommendations for a cool café or restaurant nearby the band should check out
  4. Ask those people posting if they’d want to have a pizza/dinner with you (You can create life-long superfans like this! They’ll always remember!)
  5. Ask the local fans where they buy their music/instruments.  You’re creating a dialogue and interaction as if you’re not SELLING your band, you’re just naturally curious about the city you’re playing.  You’ll learn something and chances are if you’ve got a gearhead on your FB, they’ll want to talk more to you after the show.  You may also just convince them to bring a friend or two that wasn’t going come out before.  Give up a drink ticket and chat with them over that beer.
  6. Just interact! So often I see bands just posting as if each status update was an advertisement.  It doesn’t have to be.  Post a silly picture from the road with band members pointing your mouths or stomachs and ask for the best burger joint.  People, regardless of if they’re in that city, will leap to give you suggestions.  Same goes for it you get a flat tire, post and be PRESENT DAILY.
  7. Always have FREE stickers/cards/download passes with your contact info.  Give them away at gas stations when you are filling up. Chat with the attendants, waiters, all of them.  Don’t sit on your dreams of becoming a full-time touring musician by not engaging with those that serve thousands of artists a year while they are en route to their next gig.
  8. Lastly, don’t be afraid of your audience! They’re there because they like live music. Even if they’re only there for the opening band or sound man, they wouldn’t be watching the show if they weren’t at least at little obsessed with music.

Good luck out there!