How to Get Tour Support from Your Record Label


In my article, How To Get Tour Support for Your Musical Act, I discussed alternative methods of funding touring expenses if you are an independent artist. This article focuses on how to work with your record label and what expenses might be likely for the label to fund. Most of you who have been signed to a label are probably working with a smaller independent label unlikely to have the financial resources at their disposal that most of the major labels have. All is not lost. This is a process of working with the label, whether an Indie or a major label. Creativity is one of the greatest resources we have, and it will be greatly appreciated here.

The one factor that every record executive will agree upon is the more you tour, the more recordings you sell. If you have had your own label, you will certainly attest to this fact. When you’re not out gigging, the CDs remain piled in their boxes in the storage room. If you are a new artist to a label, the execs are even more anxious to have you on the road, playing to support the release of the new CD. It stands to reason then that the label will be more interested in helping support your touring efforts in order to sell more CDs.

The time to think about this is when you negotiate your record deal. Always have your marketing plan in mind, even before you have the product in hand. Discuss your touring plans with the label as part of the contract negotiations. Ask for specific items to be included in the contract, items that can reduce your initial touring expenses. Some items to suggest are:

  1. Promotional photos
  2. Promotional posters and flyers
  3. Advertising slicks with the CD cover that can be sent to newspapers and magazines
  4. Additional promotional copies of the CD for your agent or the person booking the act beyond the normal few boxes, or additional promo CDs at cost, much lower than the normal artist buy price
  5. Budget for a radio promotion campaign if the label doesn’t have an in-house promotions department
  6. Budget to hire a publicist if the label doesn’t have an in-house publicist
  7. A separate touring budget for an initial tour of targeted markets in addition to the recording budget that might include:
    1. A touring vehicle, depending on band size and equipment, this could be a van or a bus with driver.
    2. Equipment rental package, sound and lights, engineers and tech crew (depending on band)
    3. Hotel subsidy for the length of the tour
    4. Per Diem per band member for the length of the tour
    5. A road manager

Items 1-4 are comparatively low-cost and very likely to be approved. Items 5-7 are the real challenges for an Indie label. Most major labels have in-house promotions departments or the resources to hire appropriate promotion companies when necessary. As you work with the label, look back at last weeks article and suggest some of the ideas presented there if the label doesn’t have the available budget for certain items. Perhaps the label can save money on printing costs by getting a sponsor to cover those items and reserve their budget for the promotions company. Perhaps you can offer to get funding support for some items in exchange for other items being funded by the label’s resources.

Certain items may be considered luxury items at this stage of the touring game and the band may opt to forgo things such as the bus if they can tour in a van with band members or a road manager driving. Clearly, the items to press for are items that help market the CD and the band. With a publicity campaign forging the way for your upcoming tour dates and a radio campaign opening the airwaves, the tour will have far greater success drawing audiences and selling merchandise. The bus can be written into the next contract after realizing the success of the first recording and touring effort.

Now how can the band help the label once the tour support items have been agreed upon? The band must be available to assist with the marketing campaign and must agree to tour in markets suggested by the label. The label will work closely with the person booking the band to arrange any promotional appearances.

Some of the band’s marketing responsibilities might be:

  1. Media interviews live or by phone
  2. Live promotional appearances on radio and television
  3. Live in-store promotional performances
  4. Opening act appearances or short teaser performances

Some of the band’s touring responsibilities will be:

  1. Have the booking person work closely with label sales department to coordinate important target markets to support the label’s retail outlets and distribution network.
  2. Have booking personnel work closely with promotions and publicity departments to play media-rich markets and maximize publicity efforts.
  3. Band must be prepared to play non-paying promotional dates to support publicity efforts.

This becomes a team effort. The band gains tour support from the label in return for the band’s cooperation in marketing and planning tours to meet sales goals. The key is planning ahead and knowing how you want to market the band, where the band will tour and what the band needs to accomplish these goals. Tour support is not an afterthought and must always be considered during the early stages of considering a label deal. 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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