Wednesday, January 21, 2015

An article about touring

Last few years were very intense touring years. So I would like to share some thoughts that were influenced by my experiences.

I know quite a few artists who basically doesn't stop touring, although I may look the same, especially when it's a long - month tour, but literally there are people who don't stop doing it for many months, even years and that's really crazy.
But then, let's think why, what is the motivation? It's a really hard thing, requiring huge amount of energy and of course quite often loosing money, unless you are popular artist with a good agent.

So, I'd like to specify types of people that are touring. At some points I may be wrong, but this is the way I see from 8 years of organizing events for touring artists and by 5th year of touring myself.
So, I will talk about more or less alternative, experimental music field, the one I know best.

The most common type is simply musician - usually it's the one whose motivation is about gaining popularity and earning money. These people are often on good labels, in proper booking agencies, their tour schedules are usually tight: show each day and it lasts for a month or so. They get the best venues, play in famous festivals, in word doing simply rock-star kind of business. They come, do show, get money, go out. That‘s it, which is cool, cause of course if you do good stuff, you will probably become big one day and won‘t be able to do things DIY. And from this point, let‘s better talk about DIY artists.

I‘d split DIY touring artists into a few categories:

a) a novice, who was creating music for a while and suddenly thought he wants to tour abroad even if he didn‘t play that much in home country, doesn‘t have enough experience and sees it as a possibility of sharing his music and gaining experience.

b) experienced artist who has quite a few released recordings, did enough shows to feel that he came to the point that he wants to reach new audiences, communities, share his music abroad, make connections and to see the world in general.

c) experienced artist and curator, who works in organizing shows in his home country for touring artists, makes connections and after a while of doing things for others in his country he decides to go on tour abroad, again to reach new audiences, communities, share music, make connections and to see the world in general. Either at home or on tour, his work is based on building the worldwide community.

d) experienced or newcomer artist who works with the intent similar to popular artists, that means his main motivation is more or less reaching new audiences, share music, make money and gain popularity.

e) the artist that who just want to play and doesn‘t care about anything else.

Which one is you? ; )

Of course each artist has his own motivation and intent. These categories are quite rough, but it can draw the picture. The rotation of touring artists is big and it grows everywhere, probably especially in Western Europe, but also in Eastern. In the beginning, 8-6 years ago, I was very happy to receive mail from touring artist, in fact this hooked me on organizing events Lithuania, and since then if i‘m not wrong, there wasn‘t any event without touring artist on the bill.

Constantly working on organizing events, together with friends and colleagues, we managed to build the community and we can keep on putting shows for artists and to know that we will get the support from the audience and venues and that we could guarantee fair conditions, which is about taking care of the artist from the beginning (messaging) till the end (departure).

And here I come to the point, which is about talking the way promoters and venues work in the countries I have visited in the past years. USA, Canada, Russia, Germany, Netherlands, UK, Norway, Denmark, Serbia, Czech republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Austria, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Ukraine – these are the countries I did shows in.

In all the music scenes there are non-written basics – conditions which you as an artist expect from the promoter or the venue. The worldwide community of experimental / noise / improvised music has all the same rules. Being a part of this community I feel the need to share the experience and information, cause I care about all the components and particularly the relation between the venue/promoter and the artist.
Once you do good music / art, people notice, and if you keep on touring, you can basically play everywhere. There are more places to play as never. Probably deep Africa, Central America, some Middle East and Asian countries would be harder to get shows but the rest of the world is full of possibilities.
But then you hear bad stories.. and you hear good stories. I really wish every artist to get into good hands, to be fed, have a normal couch and get enough money for the show, but bad experiences are also good and usually included in each tour. So be ready and be brave.

So, now I‘d like to split venues / promoters into categories, so we could see the picture of what waits the one who goes on tour:


a) proper venue made for concerts (club, bar) that exists for many years, has all the technical necessities, but usually doesn‘t offer sleeping place or meeting artist. Has built audience, doesn‘t need much promotion or thinks so. You get good money or bad money (usually door deal or money from the bar), but at least good sound system to enjoy your music. These venues get booked quickly, so you have to inquire quite a few months before.

b) new venue (club, bar), wants to do things well, takes care more of the artist, works more on the promotion, building the audience.. You may get audience, even random one, or you may not. So the same with money (usually door deal or money from the bar).

c) gallery, non-profit space, quite often not that good sound system and not that much feel of freedom, but they may have funding so you get guaranteed money (or door deal) and art people in the audience and no random people.

d) squat, community based space, dirty place as usual, good for partying, so, more freedom of expression. Probably you‘ll be fed, but you may sleep on dirty couch. You‘ll have local community audience, which is often quite political, so be careful with jokes. You‘ll get door deal.


I‘d suggest firstly to look for the promoter instead of contacting the venue. Best combination is when the promoter and the venue is one thing, but if not, then at least he/she knows better which venue to choose for the event.
Promoter is much more motivated to bring the people, to do real promotion and to take care of the artist of course, although sometimes there are some exceptions. So, let‘s categorize promoters:

a) long time working, stable, has good recommendations, does everything from picking up the artist from the station to driving back after the show. Has built the audience, so you get enough people for the show and not random. The money thing depends on the way he/she deals with the venue. It maybe less than you‘d get straight from the venue, but then you get well organized event. He/she especially if it‘s official organization may also have funding, which makes things easier.

b) novice, who has quite a lot of enthusiasm and curiosity, who doesn‘t know that well how to do things, but tries it bests. Yet hadn't built bigger audience, but at least will bring his friends.

c) rarely you may get the promoter who doesn‘t care that much about you, and you may not get food, sleeping place, nor money or simple meeting.

So, basically that‘s what I wanted to tell for the moment. I didn‘t want to write particular names of the venues or promoters I recommend, but you can always ask and I will help with contacts. I hope you'd get into good hands and will get hooked on touring and / or organzing events for touring artists. Again, if you do not agree with something, feel free to comment. My next plan is to make a website of database featuring venues and promoters and other segments of the scene. Hopefully this will appear in a few months.

Thank you for your attention.

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