The Alternative Guide to Indie Booking

The Alternative Guide to Indie Booking

Alright guys. The other day I was casually speaking with Michael Shoup, Creative Director/Founder of 12South Music, and we happened upon a conversation about booking tours I found to be extremely resourceful. Michael has a way of saying absolutely brilliant ideas offhandedly, so I didn’t think much of it at the time, but the entire week I couldn’t get it out of my head. In fact, I’ve been preaching this concept to all of my friends who play in and manage various Indie bands around the Nashville area.

So what the heck is it?

Well, it’s a way to accomplish almost all of the legwork of booking a DIY indie tour through outsourcing.

Outsourcing!? No way man. That sounds way too businessy. Well, musicians, managers, and other music professionals are running a business... aren’t they?

This idea sparked from a concept some of you may be familiar with: Tim Ferris’s 4-Hour Workweek. If you don’t know the concepts in that book, I highly recommend purchasing a copy. 

Here are the deets:

Compile a list of similar artists

You need to come up with a list of twenty or so artists (the more the merrier) that you think have a similar demographic. If you're unsure about your choices, using social media metrics can be an easy way to validate your assumptions by comparing fans and followers. These artists should ideally be slightly further than you in their career and are acts that have toured in the past two years.


Find a freelancer

Find a freelancer via Upwork or any other freelancing website. Get someone cheap. Don’t be afraid to work with someone far from the U.S.. In fact, it can work in your favor in a variety of ways. For example, Michael worked with a guy from the Philippines that was a magician. He charged around $4 an hour, finished tasks promptly, and the time zone works in your favor. Assign a task, wake up, and boom. It’s finished.


Have the freelancer gather venue information

(You may have to outline the information below to find your freelancer in task #2).

Tell your freelancer to look up each band’s touring schedule over those two years and compile a master list of various information on the venues they tour. Get them to list name, capacity, address — anything you want, but most importantly, an email address of the booking contact.

Ah… you see where this going now. Right?


Deliver booking emails via your freelancer

After this master list has been compiled, draft a booking inquiry email. Then, tell your wonderful freelancer to replace the name of the booking contact (a.k.a. personalize) each email and send out that barrage.

Tip #1 - Include as many details for your freelancer as possible.

The more details you can give the freelancer the better. Don’t leave out any seemingly trivial bit of instructions. If you want the work to be finished correctly, be thorough — especially if English is the freelancer’s second language.

Tip #2 - Draft a booking email that gets to the point.

In your booking email, give specific dates you’d love to play there and ask about guarantees/their usual booking process. Give them the option to ask you to confirm a date within that first reply.

Tip #3 - Reach difficult contacts by providing value.

Say you have a venue you really want to play or have a contact you’d like to make sure hears you, the trick is to find something those people find value in and deliver it to them with no strings attached. Say you monitor a particular booking agent’s Twitter account and notice they asked a question about the best booking agent tools. What if you rounded up three or four blogs about the subject, picked the highest rated tools, found links to free trials of those tools, and just delivered those to his or her inbox without asking for anything in return? With a subject line about that question, it will catch their attention and give value to your name. This is a great way to begin relationships with tough-to-reach individuals.  


"Say you have a venue you really want to play or have a contact you’d like to make sure hears you, the trick is to find something those people find value in and deliver it to them with no strings attached."


Finalize your bookings

At this point, you should be able to handle everything yourself, but if you’re pressed for time you could outsource even more work: have your freelancer comb for all the rejections and place them in a rejection folder. Draft a thank you letter/we’ll be in touch email and blast that out to the rejections.

For the follow-ups, it’s best you handle it from here. There will be too many variables to tell a freelancer, plus you want to get a feel for these venues yourself anyway.

O.K.! — so that’s the relatively quick way of explaining it. If you find the right freelancer, you could do this for <$50. I swear. Freaking sweet, right? I’d love to hear how this works for you!



Tip #4 - You can use outsourcing for so much more than booking.

You can use outsourcing for a lot more than booking tours. Think about it. Time is money. Try and place a value on your time and use that for making purchasing decisions. If your time is worth $25 an hour, paying someone to pay your bills could save you money. The possibilities are limitless.

 Do you have experience with outsourcing? What do you use it for? Hit me up in the comment section.

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Nathan Phelps

Nathan Phelps

Nathan Phelps is the Brand Advocate at 12South Marketing and is our Quincy Jones to Michael Jackson's Thriller.

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