Co-Operative Audience Swaps to Break Into New Markets


Acts looking to expand their audience beyond their known markets need to be open to new options. One such idea is swapping audiences with another musician or band. The idea is perfectly suited to acts that have a strong following in their own market. Here’s how it works.

First, find an artist in a new market where you would like to expand, whose work you like and with whom you think you would be compatible. Second, make sure the artist selected has a strong following in the desired market. You are attempting to break a new market, and it only makes sense to do this with an artist who can sell tickets in that market. In order for this to work, it would be optimal if the selected artist is interested in expanding into your market. Suggest to the artist that you will book and promote at least one gig or perhaps even a number of gigs in your market where you have a strong fan base. You (or your team) will negotiate the dates, do all the press and generally do whatever it takes or whatever you normally do to promote your gigs to their fullest. The other group will provide you with their press materials and will co-bill the show. All the publicity will include the visiting group, and you will even try to arrange print and radio interviews for the group.

Negotiate a percentage or minimal guarantee plus some percentage for the act. Make sure they understand that you will take a larger fee and greater percentage since this is your audience and you are doing all the work to introduce the group in your market. In return, you expect the group to do the same for you in their own market introducing you to their audience.

There are so many benefits to expanding your audience in this manner. When entering a new market where you have no following, you have little leverage to negotiate decent fees. This alone can be a major budget drain when opening new markets. By swapping audiences, you enter a new market with some momentum provided by the other group. There is a likelihood of making more money; selling more merchandise and gaining a larger number of mailing list names to contact for return dates. Since the hometown group is doing all the legwork, you will have the advantage of hitting all the possible media outlets in the area as well as performing in the appropriate venue(s). All of this spells success rather than chance. How often have tours to untested markets resulted in a huge investment expense and small turnouts? Audience swapping can reduce the risks while creating a favorable collaborative effort where everyone gains.

You have a chance to learn a new market and build a reputation within it while expending little of your own energy. Save your hard work for the exchange tour when you host the other group.

When considering this method of audience expansion, it is very important to select a group with similar work ethics as your own. You want to be sure they will extend you every professional courtesy in their market, as you would do for them in yours. It is certainly no benefit to you if they are lax in their efforts to promote you in their market. Therefore, I suggest asking the following questions to be sure the group you are considering is the right one for your audience expansion project.

  1. How often do they perform in their home area?

    You want to be sure they play often enough to have built a loyal following.
  2. When was their last performance?

    You don’t want to schedule a performance on the heels of one just played. Make sure there is enough time between their last gig, so the demand is there to see the group again.
  3. How many paying people do they draw to a concert?

    Obviously, you want to have a group whose income can support a co-bill.
  4. Do they ever perform at events that are free to the public where a large crowd may gather? For example, some cities produce free concerts in the parks or downtown malls.

    This lets you know the expanse of their popularity in the market.
  5. What size venues do they normally play?

    This will give you some idea of whether the tour to their area is financially feasible. Splitting fees at 50 seat venues may hardly be worth the trip whereas co-billing in a 300 or larger seat venue may accomplish your audience expansion goals nicely.
  6. What is the size of their mailing list in their area and the nearby surrounding areas?

    If they have a small mailing list, then again the tour may not be worth the effort. Select an artist whose fan base is substantial.
  7. Who does the booking?

    This is just good to know, so you have a point person. If the group has an agent, there may be some commission to pay.
  8. Who does the publicity?

    You will want to connect with the publicity person to get your materials to them as well as arrange any interviews. You may also offer suggestions on how best to promote your group.
  9. Do they get coverage from local press and radio? Have they ever had a feature article written about them in local papers?

    This relates to question #1 as well. If the group has recently been covered for gigs, the media may be reluctant to offer more space for this act. However, with you co-billing, your act may receive the lion’s share of the publicity in order to breathe new life to the hometown band. Be careful about this one, it could work for you or against you. Make sure they hadn’t recently had a feature article in the main paper.

The above questions all relate to you as the host band as well. Choose dates for your concerts after considering all of the above. You want to gain the most from all of your efforts in both markets.

I’ve seen many acts use this method to gain new audiences. When all of the factors are well suited, audience swapping can boost your career in a new market more smoothly than trying to open the market on your own. The real key to holding the newly-won audience is to follow up with return tour dates.

Good luck.

And, I invite you to learn more about this and other topics important to your career development and to sign up for free weekly audio Biz Booster Hot Tip! Every Monday you’ll get another valuable strategy and technique that you can put to use immediately. You’ll find helpful books, career development seminars, Booking & Touring Success Strategies & Secrets online course and information on booking tours, the music business and performing arts. It’s all waiting for you at Jeri Goldstein is the author of, How To Be Your Own Booking Agent The Musician’s & Performing Artist’s Guide To Successful Touring, 3rd Edition.

* If you would like to reprint any of these articles, please contact Jeri Goldstein for permission.

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