Hey Friends! It's June and we're getting right into the thick of tour, festival and gig season. With that, we thought we'd share some wisdom from our friends at TuneCore and their blog on tips for independents to tour successfully. It's never too late to start implementing some of these, even if you're already on the road. Of course, we just love number 5 on this list! ;)



TuneCore, May 21, 2019

[Editors Note: This article was written by Rich Nardo of NGAGE]

If you were to survey one hundred independent musicians who have spent at least a full year touring, I’m willing to bet that at least 75 of them are going to say the experience did not live up to their expectations. Touring is arduous, it’s difficult and there is, by no means, a guaranteed light at the end of the tunnel. 

That being said, it’s 100% worth it. If you’re willing to take the risk and smart enough to approach it with a degree of preparation and hard work, it will be the source of a lot of the best memories you’ll ever create in your life. Also, if you’re serious about making a career as a musician, it is necessary to start generating enough of an income to dedicate your life to what you are passionate about. 

It won’t be easy, but if you’re ready to take the risk and hit the road, here are six things that you and your bandmates can do in order to make it the most successful experience possible. 


It seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many bands go into a city for the first time without preparing and are shocked when they end up playing to just the bartender. The internet makes it easier than ever for EVERY artist to promote their shows. Make sure you’re promoting on your own socials and sourcing the venue’s pages for people to spread the word to. Also, do some research to find local press.

Depending on the venue, ask them for a “media list” – which is a list of writers that the venue regularly reaches out to about events. They’ll usually be happy to pass it along to an artist who is willing to do some outreach around their show.


Playing with a local band is by far the best way to put yourself in a position to get in front of a crowd when you’re away from your home market early in your career. That being said, it’s important to do your research. Find a band that has a sound where their friends and fans would also enjoy your music.

Also, look at their social media sites to see if there are decent crowds in the pictures or scan their previous gig archive to see if they are playing reputable clubs or the same room consistently enough to indicate that local promoters trust them to bring a crowd. It’s also important to remember that finding and booking with these bands in other cities is just step one. Make sure to stay in touch afterwards and take the time to talk to as many people as possible at your show. If you convert them to friends and/or fans, you’ve taken an important step towards building a base of people that will come back and see you next time you’re in town. 


One of, if not the, most stressful elements of touring is the fact that it requires a significant time requirement where traditionally you couldn’t make money elsewhere. That is no longer true. If you’re looking to transition into spending more time on the road promoting your music, start taking on freelance gigs or talking to your employer about letting you do your job remotely.

There’s plenty of downtime in the van or opportunities to work from a coffee shop when you’re touring. Why not make use of that time to earn a little extra cash and take the pressure off of having to rely completely on touring to make a living?


Traditional music venues are the least effective way to tour when you don’t have a guaranteed audience. The amount of money that a venue is willing to give a band in relation to their draw and efforts is stingy at best. One alternative is to try to book shows at colleges where you’ll have a built in audience and better pay (colleges have a healthy entertainment budget to work with). You can also usually find a party at an off campus apartment or dive bar to make the most of the evening in terms of money and making new fans.

Another great alternative to traditional venues are organizations like SoFar Sounds that hold private concerts in a bunch of different cities. These don’t always have great pay outs, but SoFar events are guaranteed to have a packed room full of people that are so excited about finding new music that they are willing to sign up to go to a show without knowing the exact venue or lineup in advance! 


The chance to make real money directly from your performance is probably a couple of years away if you’re just starting out, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make money alternatively when you play shows. Young bands hitting the road for the first time will often make around $100 from the venue, but then add another $150-$200 selling music and t-shirts. It’s a huge opportunity to turn a show that might have barely paid for gas into one that will buy your bands post-show burritos and a hotel room to split.

If you can sell enough merch consistently, you can turn a tour that would have ended up costing you a significant amount of money to one where you might walk away a couple of dollars richer. Believe me, that distinction will make all the difference at the end of a stressful run. 


One mistake young bands make on the road is to bring a “tour manager” to take care of the odds and ends of touring. At this point in your touring career that is not only “one more hand in the cookie jar” but it’s also one more mouth to feed.

If you have a friend who just wants the experience and is willing to pay his or her own way, maybe that works. If not, you’re better off appointing one band member to handle all of the traditional tour manager duties (coordinate load in times, venue addresses, collect money, etc.). In exchange, that member can get certain perks, such as not having to drive or first choice in sleeping spots.


Rich Nardo is a freelance writer and editor, and is the VP of Public Relations and Creative at NGAGE.

Click here for more from the TuneCore blog.  

From Your Brand To Your Fans - Making Music Merch Work For You

Your brand is the face that you show the world, and your fans are the people who represent it. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is portrayed in your merch - your T-shirts, hats, CDs and other things you sell, that your fans take home to forever remember that awesome show you put on. 


Merch, especially in today's music industry, is the crown jewel of revenue streams for artists. This being the case, it's important to choose wisely when considering what merch to put out there, and it all starts (or it should) with your brand. If your brand has a feel that represents you in an organic, authentic way, your fans will connect to that which will inspire them to support you. If they're inspired to support you, and you give them good merch, they'll buy it, wear it, and become your brand ambassadors. If they become your brand ambassadors, they're marketing for you, and their friends and people in their network will become aware of you and be inclined to jump on the bandwagon. This is how your fan base can grow. As your fan base grows, you’ll have more fans to spread the word to more potential new fans, who will buy things and help generate more revenue for you. More revenue for you means you get to continue to do what you love. Follow so far?


So what's in a brand? Where do I start if I don't have one? What should I do if I have one but I'm not happy with it or I want to reinvent? Let's take a look at some of the things you can tap into that will help represent you in an authentic, "real" way:

What kind of vibe did you put into the musical universe?Now you’ve made some great music that you poured the very essence of your soul into. Was it inspirational? Spiritual? Hopeful? Motivational? Mystical? Were you angry, frustrated or in a dark place? Focused on a cause (political, religious, social, environmental, etc.)? Happy? Joyous? In Love? Going through some emotional strife that forever changed you? 

What values embody you as an artist and a person?Do you have a high moral compass or do you gravitate toward a more debaucherous state of being? Do you go with the flow or are you rebellious? Leader or follower? Self-serving or humanitarian? Are you honest or do you over-embellish? Are you open and accessible or private? 

What and who inspires you?Love? Relationships? Friends and family? Other artists? Nature and scenery? Spirituality?

What’s your style?

Is it edgy? Conservative? Trendy? Hipster? Glam? Old school? Traditional? Goth? Eclectic? Preppy? Nerdy? Simple? Flamboyant?

How would your fans describe your show to their friends – i.e. your potential new fans?“Wow! That was…” Loud? Raging? Energizing? Mesmerizing? Inspiring? Killer? Mellow? Moving? Soothing? 

Whatever the answers to these questions, own them, start to brainstorm how to translate them into a design, and let them shine through. 


Whether you’re designing your brand assets yourself or using a graphic artist, the results will be the most optimal if you go in with some ideas already in mind. If you're a peaceful soul, you may not want to have daggers, blood, demons or dark colors or aspects reflected in your brand. If you’re more of a straight laced type, you likely won’t have neon colors in your brand. If you’re a heavy metal artist, you’re most likely not going to want your logo to be a pink pony in a flower field (although the irony couldbe interesting). If your music genre is hop hop, you're probably not going to have a cowboy themed logo or brand artwork. BUT if you're a hip hop artist who happens to like to dress like a cowboy, maybe you work those cowboy boots or hat into your branding somewhere. The bottom line is you want your brand to make sense with your overall persona so people can relate to it and "feel" you.  


Whether you’re an artist with an established fan base or you’re building a new fan base, a great way to engage your fans is to invite them into your world and ask them to help in this process. Ask them to vote or give feedback on logos or artwork you’re considering, or take it a step further and ask them to submit some designs based on how they perceive you, and then reward the winner with some incentive. This, in itself, is a way to put forth your authenticity and give fans an opportunity to connect with you as a person or group.


After you’ve honed in on where you want to go with your branding, it’s important to implement it into all aspects of your marketing so that there is some consistency and overall flow – this includes your website, social media content, album artwork, and of course, your merch. So let’s get back to merch for minute. As mentioned, it’s a crucial revenue stream for artists these days, and also serves as a great marketing tool, IF your fans are wearing it. Now that you’ve got this great new brand/logo/artwork, let’s incorporate it into something your fans will want to proudly rep. If they’re wearing your T-shirt as pajamas, it’s probably not doing much for you beyond the dollars you’ve made. Before you pull the trigger and invest in your merch, take a step back and ask yourself does this make sense with who I am, my music and the vibe that I’m wanting to put out there? Would I want to wear it? And more importantly, would someone other than me think this is cool and want to wear it? Pick shirts that are decent quality. Some will argue that it doesn’t matter, that if people love you (or you’re a good salesperson), they will buy it. This may be true to some extent, but with many bands to support and choices to make out there, you might lose some customers who just don’t want to spend money on another stiff white band T-shirt. OR, they may actually buy that shirt and let it sit in their drawer, which again, is not helping to get your brand out there. There are happy mediums out there now where you can find a marriage of quality and affordability.


Maximizing your merch business means also making smart decisions about the merch that you buy, where you buy it, and how you keep track of it and use the data kicked off from your merch sales. When you’re ready, choose a merch provider who has good minimums, good price points, is artist friendly, and has a good variety of merch to choose from.  Merch Cat can help with this! Just give us a shout, we’ve got you covered.