My post for Warren Ellis about pre-sold tours got picked up by BoingBoing which spread out and got all kinds of people talking about pre-sold shows and tours. I hear the New Music Group at Mills College in Oakland, CA was discussing me in their email group. Yeah, that means it went deep. When a small group of experimental musicians at a liberal arts college are talking about you in an email group – you’ve made an impact. (Hi, Mills!)
Hooray! People are talking. But what next? This is one show. And I am one very particular case. I did this to solve a problem in my career: I’m too busy with this music thing to work another job, but not making enough money to tour properly. It’s a terrifying gap in a creative career that almost every artist must face at some point. Too busy to make money, too broke not to. Sucks. So solve it.
I knew I had more fans than were coming out to shows. Part of the problem is that one person cannot possibly do all the things I attempt to do and promotions suffer. So I figured out a way to promote first, then sell, then book.
I am so excited about all the things I’ve been learning in the past few days. Several artists and websites have been mentioned. And because this is the internet there are a few people saying, “She’s not doing anything new. This is an old idea. Here are examples 1 – 67.”
I’ve looked. And I can’t find anyone who is doing it. Not at my level and not in this way. I would love to see someone else pre-selling tours. But you know, when it comes down to it, it really doesn’t matter whether I’m the first, or the last. What matters is that I’m doing something that people are thinking might work for themselves or for other musicians.
Here are a few of the things I’ve learned about:
There are sites like www.eventful.com or www.upcoming.org that allow fans to “Demand” an artist in their town. But that’s not pre-sales, that’s just clicking a button. Singer-songwriter and internet celebrity Johnathan Coulton has been using Eventful as a gauge of interest for his shows. Seems to work well for him.
Comedian Paul F. Tompkins has fans set up Facebook events for their towns – when that event hits 300 attendees he’ll book a show. And his website states it works really well. Once again it’s just clicking a button, but since it’s really fan motivated I think it’s probably better. We talked a little bit about pre-sales. He said my plan seemed less anxious. I said his plan seemed less needy. He’s funny, check him out: www.paulftompkins.com
The founder of www.dukits.com contacted me and they are going to be doing EXACTLY what I’m talking about, but they’re not quite ready to launch yet and their site is a mess – don’t try to click anything on it but do go look. If you’re interested you should check back in with them soon. They look like they could actually be great when they get it together. I hope to work with them at some point.
Friend and social media pioneer Amanda Palmer pointed me towards www.nuevostage.com which has also not launched, and while they will be pre-selling shows in a way, they will also have bands competing against each other for the same venue, getting fans to commit to buying tickets in the hopes that their band will “win” the show. Looks like a bad deal for fans and bands but great for venues and nuevostage itself. Competitions are the worst part of the internet. Let’s move on.
www.queremos.com.br contacted me, they’re from Rio, Brazil. They pre-sell shows by getting backers to pledge to bring big famous bands to a country that otherwise might not ever get to see them. So these backers put up large sums of money (in smaller, bite-sized chunks) and when they reach the minimum they book the gig and start selling tickets. If the show sells well the backers get their money back, they get credit on show promo, and they get to go to the show. I think it looks pretty great. But once again, for the already famous. And in Brazil.
www.gigmaven.com in NYC has also been in touch – they don’t pre-sell shows, but they do put venues and bands in contact with each other and they’re helping me find a venue, so they get a shout out.
So far, no one doing the pre-sales the way I’m talking about doing them. I’ll keep looking though and would like to keep hearing about it.
I think what has people excited about my plan is that I’m just me, not super famous, not represented by a manager or agent, and not letting anything stop me.
- It’s only worked once. So far. So there’s that.
- It might not work for everyone. I mean, I know it won’t. This isn’t the magical answer to solve all touring problems. It’s just an awkward first step.
- It’s way more work than just showing up at an established venue and playing my 45 minute set.
- All ages venues are as rare as unicorns, or people who don’t promote themselves, in NYC.
- Venues are hard to book this short notice. I might have to rent an empty room and have to get my own sound system and staff.
- It’s a hard sell. I’ve made enough money to put on the show, but there still aren’t that many tickets sold. I have incredibly supportive followers who are backing this very generously just to see it happen. The press on this has gotten me even more generous champions, but not high volume sales. That’s okay for this show, but it makes me realize just how hard it will be when it’s not my first show this way and I don’t have all the internet poking at it.
These aren’t complaints and they aren’t going to stop me, I just know I can’t solve the problems if I’m not making them (errrr… thinking about them.)
- Fans in each city get to make a show happen! That is maybe the most exciting part of this whole thing. You want me to play. I want to play. You know I can’t afford to travel, and I know you can’t afford to fly me there yourself. But I can give you the resources to make a show happen. I’ll set up a Kickstarter (or some such) in each city/town/hamlet/shire/what-have-you and then you and me get to work together to sell the show. Sweet!
- Little cities in the midwest or Florida (or wherever) that feel left out of the cultural loop because bands always pass them by get an equal chance to bring me there. (The caveat being that I can’t be everywhere at once and might not make it to every city this first time.)
- No more empty venues! 10 people buy a show, I play in a living room, 100 people and I book a small and lovely venue. 300-500 people and I get a small to mid-sized venue. 3,000 people… 300,000… it just works.
- Venues get a guaranteed audience to buy drinks and/or food. Venues lose lots of money all the time on shows. It sucks. That’s why so many of them try to sell you lots of alcohol – hence the serious dearth of all ages places to enjoy music.
- Everyone feels invested in the show. Me, you, the venue. We make it happen, we’re all financially risking something and we’re all working as promoters. And let me tell you that nothing tastes as sweet as the fruit of your own labors. You help me put on the show and it’s your show too. I love that.
- Equal commitment equals happy relationship. I commit to play for you. You commit to come see me. We meet each other halfway, and then we go all way (no, not that kind of ‘all the way’ just all the way to a great concert.)
I feel really lucky to be at a point in my career (and in the history of the world) where this can work. I have the fans. I have the network. I have the tools.
Twitter, Facebook, email, Kickstarter and one very determined me = good things.
X O X O – BoingBoing Girl
p.s. NYC July 21st. Buy Tickets