Tour Booking Will Never Be The Same After This

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Between 2006 and 2009, brothers Kyle and Bryan Weber had played (and booked) over 600 shows with their band Zelazowa. From conversations they had with other bands they met on the road about the best venues to play in various cities, the Weber brothers got an idea. Because there really wasn’t a web based venue directory with interactive band submitted reviews, they decided to start one. “I had really only used the Musicians’ Atlas [to find venue information]. And I’d only ever used the hard copy. There were paid directories out there, but they lacked a community aspect,” Kyle mentioned to me over Skype. So, with the info they had acquired through their own research, they decided to launch a complete venue listing service that was fully interactive, user  generated, and focused on the DIY musician community.

The Weber brothers launched Indie On The Move in 2008. Bryan explained that “it really began as a community based rolodex of music venues, booking agent contacts, venue reviews, and tour-related resources.” They started with about 950 venues and the site now hosts over 6300 venues (US only) complete with contact info and band reviews.

Personally, I’ve booked hundreds of shows around the country and used Indie On The Move to seek out venues and contact info for nearly every new market. It is a tremendous resource and incredible time saver for any self-booking band.

Think of Indie On The Move (IOTM) as the Yelp for venues. Bands can leave reviews of venues they’ve played (or couldn’t play because of the booker). The venue pages on IOTM have full filtering options with all the information any band (or agent) would need when booking their band: location, website, genres, capacity, age restriction, booker name, contact info and calendar. Some venues have photos and videos included on their venue page. They have a very extensive festival and press outlet listing section as well. The site feels very DIY. It’s not slick like most hot new startups. Quite fitting for its target demo.

There has not been a resource like this for self-booking bands before Indie On The Move. This is revolutionary for the DIY community.

Something that did stick out as a little odd to me is on every venue page the talent buyer (or booker) is called “Booking agent.” This is just improper terminology and a bit confusing for those who understand the personnel roles of the music industry. Kyle mentioned that they do this “for SEO purposes. People don’t typically search ‘talent buyer.’ They search ‘booking agent.'”

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Currently there are over 52,000 active accounts on Indie On The Move.  Of that, 32,000 are bands.  IOTM has been the best kept secret that self-booking bands love to share.

Their  testimonials section is filled with happy users, however, IOTM should work on this filtering as the “How has Indie on the move benefited you?” forum which is listed first on the Testimonials page, begins with the oldest posted comments (from January 2012). Some of the bands have since broken up and venues have closed.

Creating an account is free and most of IOTM’s features are free as well. Extra filtering options (such as cover versus original venues) are available to those who register a credit card on file (however the filtering options don’t cost anything extra).

Like Yelp, anyone can send in information to update venue listings. IOTM approves all new information before it gets added.

Solving Show Holes

If bands are on tour and in need of local openers, or if venues need to fill holes, they can list a “Show Availability” and IOTM will send that avail out to all bands in that region. Similarly, if a band is in need of a show they can post it in the “Band Availability” section. There’s also a separate Craigslist-esque classifieds section for musician focused equipment and services.

Club Booking 2.0 In The Digital Age

IOTM recently rolled out some paid features. The “Quick Pitch” allows bands and agents to put together one form email and get it sent off (automatically) to every venue selected through specific filtering for each market. “Quick Pitch” costs $.25 per venue. The emails are all approved by staff at IOTM and get sent through IOTM’s interface, however, the return email address is from the user’s email account.

For the bands that have a bit of a budget and want to hand off most of the initial work, they can hire IOTM to craft the pitch and send out all initial emails to all venues for a tour.  This DIT (Do It Together) campaign includes one consultation to put the pitch email and tour itinerary together, as well as create a marketing plan for the tour.  IOTM will then contact all venues and make initial contact.  These emails will still be sent from the band’s email account and the band will have to field all follow up emails and negotiations.  IOTM charges $10 per market and $110 for the consultation and prep work for this DIT program.

And About Colleges?

The newest addition to IOTM (and most expensive service) is their college directory. For $59.99 a year, you can subscribe to a regularly updated directory that contains contact information for “talent buyers” at around 600 Universities nationwide. I put “talent buyers” in quotes because that’s a very loose term for who these people are. The “talent buyers” at universities are actually just young, college kids on the campus activities committee who have no real world experience and don’t really know anything about the music industry.  They are typically very sensitive and require many exclamation points and smiley faces per email to not be offended.  Try that with a legitimate club talent buyer.  See how far that gets you.  (My tour manager once made a college “talent buyer” cry because she told the “talent buyer” that I would not send 300 of my CDs to the school, for free, for ‘promo purposes’)

And colleges book 6-18 months in advance.  Most musicians can’t see more than a few weeks ahead of them let alone a year and a half.  Playing colleges takes lots of preparation.

I have played over 100 universities around the country and know this circuit very intimately.  I’ve worked with a couple college booking agencies and have successfully booked myself at a few schools.  But I’ve attempted to book many many more.  Even as an experienced college performer it was nearly impossible to book myself.  These campus activities committees typically exclusively work with agencies with whom they have built relationships over the years.  These are not veterans in the music industry.  They are college kids.  With a high turnover rate.  Most committee members last only a few semesters and the “president” of the committee usually is only crowned for a year – at most.

Being on the campus activities committee is about being a part of a club on campus.  They bring comedians, jugglers, hypnotists, bands, singer/songwriters, cotton candy machines, inflatable moon bounces, and lecturers.  Musicians, to the committee, serve the same purpose as a hypnotist or a cotton candy machine: entertainment for their students.

But boy do colleges pay well. Unknown singer/songwriters average about $1,200 plus travel, lodging and meals for a 70 minute performance (of originals). Unknown bands average about $1,800 plus all expenses for the same length performance. I’ll wait while you pick up your jaw and wipe away the drool.

The college entertainment world is a tight niche and nearly impossible to break into without an experienced mentor or a college booking agent. IOTM’s directory may be a decent resource for someone who has a ton of experience in the college market and wants to attempt to setup a few college shows for the coming year, but it’s quite impractical for the average DIY band. I would not recommend bands subscribing to this directory without an experienced mentor. The learning curve is too steep.

Kyle mentioned that 250-300 people have already purchased the college directories. I’m curious to know if any of them have actually gotten any college shows booked. My guess would be no. But sound off on this in the comments if you have!

If IOTM is going to offer this directory, they should accompany it with a full how-to guide on college booking from an experienced college booking agent or musician, because otherwise, club touring musicians won’t have a hope in hell.

Above all, IOTM is a tremendous resource for self-booking bands and I highly recommend it. It’s currently only available in the US, but I foresee it expanding to Europe and the rest of the world very soon.

8 Responses

  1. Roxi Copland

    Hey Ari,

    Thanks for writing insightful articles for independent musicians and bands – it takes talent to write something that’s both informative and entertaining, and this piece definitely succeeds. Keep up the good work!

    • Ari Herstand

      Thanks Roxi! Very rarely get nice comments on here 🙂 Appreciate it!

  2. Clint

    The band I play with has been doing the college circuit for a while. We’ve found the majority of our success in booking college shows comes from playing the series of NACA conferences, meeting “talent buyers”, playing for their schools and getting booked again for return shows.

    The only flaw with this system is the promotion (or lack thereof) behind these shows. Sometimes we legitimately get flown across the country to play for fifteen kids who’ve never heard of you or the show you’re playing. Other times, however, you step under an outdoor tent and 600-2,000 kids are screaming every lyric to every song you’ve write.

    The NACA market can be tough to tap into, but if if you’re looking to play colleges, this seems to be the easiest way get a start in the scene.

  3. duderino

    I bought a subscription to the list. It’s super incomplete and like 50% wrong. Just sayin.

    • Kyle - Indie on the Move

      As mentioned in the article, these contacts have a very high turnover rate. With that being said, we make a point of actively checking and verifying the content multiple times a year and encourage community feedback (just like all the other sections of Indie on the Move). If you come across any outdated info in the future, please just let us know and we will correct it ASAP.

      When was it that you reached out to the contacts? Again, these are students, so doing so between semesters while they are in transition can certainly lead to a lack of response or an outdated email. The universities/college don’t always make the new information available right away even after someone has moved on.

  4. Jeanine

    Wish I’d known about it before my last tour… so many hours wasted pawing through the Indie Venue Bible and going to each. individual. website. to find the contact person. This is fantastic!