While I was dancing around my middle school bedroom screaming into a hairbrush dreaming of my future rock stardom, I had no idea how many spreadsheets and e-mails I would have to send to make it happen. Even after you’ve spent hours in front of your laptop booking your tour, it’s not over yet. You may already be a rock star, but now it’s time to make sure the world (or at least the cities you’re touring to) know just how much of a rock star you are! It’s time for the insanely tedious task of tour press.
In college I was lucky enough to intern at Girlie Action and learn how to do basic press for my band Sharkmuffin to help us get off the ground, and I have also done some freelance PR for friends’ bands under the name Sugarmama Bk. It’s frustrating, time consuming, and lonely sending hundreds of emails into the black hole of the internet in hopes of getting even one response. When I hit a wall with my contacts and had some extra funds, Sharkmuffin was able to work with some amazing publicists like Melissa at Citybird PR, Jillian (now at Big Hassle) & Meijin (Rocker Stalker) at EIPR and Debbie at Girlie Action who have helped build the band’s reputation and get more people out to our shows over the years. Here are some of their thoughts on how to do tour promotion successfully.
“My advice is do your research. Find out who is writing about bands you enjoy/tour with/respect. Follow them on socials to get to know them even more – many of them will have their email address in their bio! Only use one platform to contact them, and email is always best. In your email, have as much information as possible without being too wordy. Make sure your subject line is informative. Do not follow up right away – give the writers/editors time to ingest the music. Don’t follow up too much. Silence might equal a pass. Most importantly, treasure/respect even the small blogs!” – Deb Pressman, Girlie Action
“I’d say that for a band going on the road, if you’re really looking to elevate and make an impact, hiring a publicist is really helpful. Numerous reasons, the most important one being that you want to be able to focus on the music! It can be so daunting to try to do it all, and often when you spread yourself too thin, everything starts to suffer, including your health. And we all know how hard – and important! – it is to stay healthy on the road. Also, we already have a lot of relationships and knowledge of the market.
If it’s a situation where working with a publicist isn’t in the cards, I think the most important thing is to bring your A-game to every opportunity. Treat everything, even an interview with a small local blog, like it’s the cover of Rolling Stone. Treat everyone like they’re Jimmy Fallon, every performance opp (local TV, online sessions, etc.) like it’s your late night debut. Be kind and gracious. Introduce yourself to absolutely everyone – bloggers, influencers, interns! Don’t believe the ‘nice guys finish last’ thing.
All in all, hustle. Take care of yourself, rock your ass off, make enough noise and people will start to pay attention. “ – Jillian Santella, Big Hassle Media
Sugar Mama Bk Tour Promotion Tips
- DIY Tour Press
- Research: Find all the newspapers, blogs, and zines in each city you’re heading to and find the writers that cover music that is similar to yours. Stalk them and find their e-mails (usually on the ‘contact’ page).
- Press Kit: Consists of your band’s photo, bio, music/video links, social media links, tour dates. Check out this example of Sharkmuffin’s presser for handy reference!
- Canned E-mail: Create a template e-mail pitch that has blank spaces for the writer’s name (“Hey ___”), the name of the publication you’re pitching to and the Date/Venue/City you’re playing in to fill in accordingly. Include a summarized version of your press kit in the body of the e-mail. Try to make these messages as personalized (and as brief) as possible. Writers and editors get hundreds of emails every day so do not be offended if they don’t respond!
- Know what you’re pitching for. The types of coverage a blog will do can vary, but generally speaking they’ll fall into one of several categories…
- Feature: One page or longer on the band, usually includes an interview and/or photo shoot, for which you’re responsible for setting up and making happen. Should pitch 3-4 weeks before show.
- Profile: Longer than a paragraph about the artist, can include an interview/quote from the artist, also use as a preview for the show. Should pitch 2-3 weeks before the show.
- Preview: More than one sentence about the artist that includes a listing for the show, usually with a photo. Previews can also be linked to features/profiles/mp3 or album reviews.
- Reviews: A review of your last release or the release you’re touring around, alongside the date you’re playing in their city.
- Live Reviews: A review of your live set – you can invite writers to your show and give them a guest list spot.
- Local Radio: Same rules apply for research. You can pitch to have an interview or play an in-studio performance on their show, for them to talk about your show and give away tickets, or to just play one of your songs.
- One month before your tour: Send an e-mail blast announcing your dates to give everyone a heads up. Sometimes you’ll get responses right away!
- Personalized follow-ups start about a week later (3 weeks before your tour).
- Guest Lists: Usually sent to the venue prior to the show for writers and/or photographers who are interested in doing a live review of your set. Try to also set up an interview with them. Aside from press, guest spots are generally reserved for family members or whoever your bandmate is trying to fuck.
Even if you’re not handling press entirely on your own, you can still be proactive about promotion. Here are some additional tips to keep in mind even if you’ve got help from a professional PR team.
- Advancing Shows: Know your schedule (load in, set times, backline) and find out about the other bands playing so you can tag everyone. Make friends with the bands you’re sharing a bill with in advance and make sure they’re inviting their friends, since that will be the main draw you’ll have in a town you’ve never been before.
- Social Media: Have your tour dates as easily accessible as possible. Put them on your website, Facebook, Twitter, and Bands in Town (or any other touring app). Make sure that there is a Facebook event for each show and a Facebook event that links all the other events for the entire tour. Promote each show on all your social outlets in advance.
- Tour Poster: Is someone in your band a graphic designer? Have them or one of your artistic friends make a poster with all your dates. Print a limited amount on nice card stock to sell on the road and/or print paper ones with space at the bottom to write in the specific date of the specific show to mail to each venue so they can hang them up in the bathroom or window or wherever their regular patrons will see it.
- Be nice to your Publicist: If you have the privilege of a budget and can hire a publicist, understand that it’s a ton of work and be respectful and grateful for them. Try not to have crazy expectations. Especially for new bands on their first tour, appreciate every single person that will cover you no matter what the size of the outlet. Try not to get upset with your publicist; they love you and have the best intentions. Remember they’re dealing with the endless void of Internet media and are trying their absolute best for you and your career.
- Promoting Press: Don’t forget to promote whatever press, regardless of how small, on all of your social media channels and thank every writer and blog and credit every photographer. Keep in touch! Gratitude really does make a difference.