How to Successfully Book and Execute Your Own DIY Tour in 4 Simple Steps

Lillie Lemon Album Release show 2.28.2015

STEP 1. PREPARING FOR BOOKING

Get a handle on your social media presence. When it comes to booking your own DIY tour, you’ll be sending venues links to your music online, so it’s important to have a consistent brand and look on each of these sites. Make sure your website has links to your social media. Be prepared with videos and be ready to provide images for fliers and more.

Create a template for your booking emails. Avoid re-writing your pitch by having a concise booking email that can be used over and over again. This template should include your available dates, a brief description of your music, and pertinent links to social media and streamable tracks. NEVER make a venue download an attachment to listen to your music unless they request MP3s.

RELATED: Create the perfect band one-sheet.

Keep track of contact information for venues. Even if they can’t book you on this tour, they might be interested on your next go-around. Google Sheets is perfect for this. This spreadsheet should include the venue name, contact information, and any info you think you might find useful in the future. This information is also vital when you follow up with venues that don’t respond to your first contact.

Lillie Lemon (photo by Darin Donohue)

Lillie Lemon (photo by Darin Donohue)

STEP 2. COMMUNICATING WITH VENUES

Be professional at all times. Venues care about how you communicate with them, and they notice when you’re polite and professional. Treat your band like a business and the venue as a client, and don’t be offended if you’re not the right fit for their space. Be gracious always. 

Give venues at least four months’ notice. If this is your first tour, you’ll learn rather quickly that many venues want six or more months of notice, especially if you’re touring the summer months, but you can probably get away with smaller venues and coffee shops if you’re a bit crunched for time. 

Get contact information for venues on Yelp, Facebook, and Indie on the Move (IOTM). IOTM is a site geared toward indie touring artists that has an extensive database of venue and booking contacts. IOTM is especially useful as you can sort venues by city, capacity, and genre so you don’t waste time sending emails to venues that aren’t the right fit.

Keep a good calendar as you begin to fill dates. Google has a great (free) calendar app that allows you to create separate calendars and share them with multiple people. Make sure all of your bandmates are connected to your touring calendar and mark dates as they fill, providing details about sound, compensation, and other details.

If you’re down to the wire, use IOTM’s Do It Together (DIT) to help fill dates. IOTM can help you fill dates by contacting venues you haven’t been in touch with yet, sending potentially hundreds of messages in a few hours (a feat that might take you weeks). You get to field responses from venues and solidify booking information. IOTM charges for this assistance on an affordable per-market basis.

STEP 3. PREPARING TO HIT THE ROAD

Calculate the costs of your tour and plan accordingly. Make sure you’ve calculated the cost of gas, hotels, food, and drinks. Don’t rely on shows to cover these costs unless you have guaranties in place. With shows that compensate through ticket sales or bar sales, assume the worst and mark them as zero profit. It’s very easy to underestimate the costs of a longer tour, and planning for the unforeseeable – breakdowns, illness, and more – is vital if you’re going to survive the road and turn a profit. Unless you have a clear track record of selling merch and you have a big draw in the cities you’ll be visiting, never assume you’ll sell anything.  

Copyright Darin Donohue-4

Hire a designer to make professional tour-related materials. Having a cohesive tour image will help draw people to shows and make it easier for venues to help promote you. Have a Facebook banner that matches the posters you’ll be sending. If you have the budget, make special stickers or t-shirts for your tour using the same imagery to give your audiences something special.

Use Bands in Town to list your tour dates online. I prefer Bands in Town because they have a mobile app, they link to your Facebook page, and their widget can be easily added to your website. Promote the app you decide to use so your friends can follow your tour. The app should also be one that alerts your fans when you come to town.

Have a budget to promote your tour. Hiring a PR person is expensive and we’re lucky to be able to afford it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t promote yourselves without one. Create a short press release that you can send to multiple press outlets, including hard copy papers and local event blogs. Promote on Facebook and target the location you’ll be playing. Follow up with venues to make sure they’ve listed your event on their various calendars and on their Facebook pages.

Have your vehicle inspected before your tour begins. Our first tour was a wonderful disaster when it came to car trouble, and much of the strife our Ford Econoline put us through might have been avoided had we taken the van to a mechanic before we left. Have a full inspection of your vehicle done, and don’t wait to replace parts that might be in need of replacing.

RELATED: Tour Van Survival Guide

STEP 4. BRINGING IT WHILE ON TOUR

Social media doesn’t stop while on the road. Make sure you’re taking a lot of pictures and video so that your fans back home can follow along on your adventures. Continue to push your upcoming events on your social media, and utilize Instagram and other apps to share your adventures. Encourage each audience to follow you on social media, as well.

Lillie Lemon live (photo by Darin Donohue)

Lillie Lemon live (photo by Darin Donohue)

Collect emails and zip codes at each show you play. One of the biggest mistakes I made on my first tour was ignoring this advice. In a world of social media, it seemed counter-intuitive at the time, but I have since seen a noticeable difference in audience attendance when I send out emails to my fans vs. using only social media. As you build your audience in new locations, it’s important to have a mailing list to give venues a tangible idea of your draw. Facebook is great, but email targeting still has one of the best click-rates of any form of contact for my band, even with social media promotion. I use MailChimp for this, but there are lots of similar services out there.

Bring as much merchandise as possible. We found out very quickly that our initial stash of merchandise wasn’t enough. We are currently selling a lot of gear on the road, and we’ve had things shipped to UPS Stores a few times to keep up with demand. Don’t underestimate your potential sales and make sure you have enough gear on hand for your new fans.

Eat real food and don’t overdo it with drugs and alcohol. The quickest path to illness is junk food and booze. Bars often compensate with drinks, but don’t forget that hangovers suck. Instead of stopping at McDonald’s, find a grocery store and grab carrots, apples, a loaf of bread, peanut butter, and other fresh foods that you can snack on. Bring a cooler so you can keep fruits and veggies on hand. With a cooler, you can also carry pickles, which I’ve found are the perfect salty treat. Carry bottled water and avoid sodas. If you have to stop at a fast food restaurant, try a salad rather than a burger. Road snacks should include granola bars, nuts, and dried fruits. Keep multivitamins on hand. As an added bonus, grabbing groceries rather than burgers and fries will save you a lot of cash.

ABOUT LILLIE LEMON

Monterey, CA-based synthpop duo, Lillie Lemon, recently kicked off their expansive US tour for their latest EP, Aether. Bringing their music to the masses, the nine-month stretch of shows was plotted completely by the band. The band started as the solo recording project of Lille Lemon (songwriting/vocals) on the shores of Lake Michigan. While pursuing a degree in Creative Writing, Lemon relocated to the sunny bay of Monterey, CA. It was there, in 2011, that Lemon crossed paths with Erica Wobbles (keys/rhythm/production), a classically trained instrumentalist with a self-taught understanding of synthesizers and electronic music. After seeing each other at several open mic nights, Lemon and Wobbles decided to collaborate and found they creatively complimented one another. Together, the two combine acoustic instrumentation with electro-pop production, crafting soundscapes in line with contemporary acts such as  CHVRCHES and Passion Pit.

Follow on Twitter @lillielemon

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