Guest Post - An Alternate Route (Cross-Border Touring With Side Door)
Hello from Montana!
I drove across Canada this summer from Halifax to Vancouver Island! I have been touring for almost 10 years now mostly in the US and Europe, and this was one of my favorite tours ever. Many memorable moments from Toronto, Winnipeg, Cold Lake, AB, and Vancouver.
I have successfully booked many tours in North America, the UK and Europe without an agent. You can do it too with some careful planning and some persistence! I booked almost 30 shows in all the lower provinces, 10 with Side Door, and yes I know Canada goes even farther north! Sorry to Newfoundland and Yukon Territory, but maybe next year!
I have been booking tours myself for a long time and I wanted to tell you how much I love this new artist tool Side Door, and how it really could be a game changer for artists like us. Side Door gets you in front of music lovers and hosts the kind of champions you need to have a successful tour.
First of all I am American so the first thing you need to do is check visa requirements so that you can work legally in another country. I do not need a work permit to work in Canada, but always make sure you check the requirements for every country, because things change fast, and you don’t want a whole tour to be cancelled by not being prepared.
When crossing the border it is a good idea to print out your itinerary, all your merchandise and equipment inventory, and at least one contact of one of your promoters. This makes the border crossing a lot easier. Unfortunately touring in the US is not as easy, you will definitely need a work permit to tour in the US, and the UK don’t risk it. Most of the EU you don’t need a work permit so I would focus on that if you are just starting out. Germany is probably the easiest country to book yourself.
My Experience with Side Door
I booked my first house concert with Side Door last year in Jasper, AB at the Outpost and it was a great experience. The show sold out and the hosts were a friendly family of music lovers. I spent an extra day in Jasper and even stayed with them!
I always wanted to see the Canadian Rockies and this match inspired me to book some shows around it. I reached out on Social Media and told people where I was headed and a few people wrote back with suggestions of other people and places to contact. I knew some other Canadian Musicians from touring and from Folk Alliance so that was helpful. Always talk to other artists that are touring and check out their tour dates. See where they are playing.
I usually chart out my tour route with the exact dates leaving a little flexibility for things to change. Then I research each city’s music scene. This is a lot of work! That is why the Side Door Schedule Builder is such a useful feature because hosts can see when you are coming through their area and then choose to host you.
The last few years I usually target a specific country or region I want to go to like Scandinavia, or Canada, and then book as many shows as I can. Usually I meet new people and learn about more venues and go back the next year and book even more shows! So think long term.
Last year my Canada tour went so well I decided to start booking earlier, and get more ambitious, and cross the whole continent. I really wanted to go to Nova Scotia, Toronto, and BC. I knew I could book some on Side Door and I would fill in the rest the best I could. I started in January booking for June and July, but be aware, some people and especially the best house concerts and festivals book the year before. Some venues responded that they were interested, but were already booked up. So I got back on Side Door and started matching.
Make sure you match with all the hosts that look like a good fit for your music, and even check back every week to see if there are new hosts. Side Door is fairly new so new hosts are always joining. I started matching right away, and booked some right away as well. Others we couldn’t line up the dates, but don’t be discouraged if someone matches with you that is a good thing! That means they like you. Maybe you will book something next time with them on the next tour. I always try to pick someplace new that I want to travel and keeps me motivated through the booking process.
Number one - be nice and friendly!
The hosts are here to help you, and they will be your biggest champion, so be polite, grateful, and appreciate everything they are doing to help you. Answer all their questions promptly and volunteer to guide them through the booking process.
You have to remember just like artists hosts are at all different stages of experience. Some are seasoned artists or hosts and others are just music lovers trying something new. Never assume anything, so I always ask them what works for them, and make suggestions on what my experience has worked in the past.
Every show is different so be flexible, but professional. Side Door makes it easy to iron out all the details. Remember every show is a partnership between the artist and the host, and you can not have a successful show without cooperation from both.
Also be prepared for bumps in the road, some of my most memorable shows have been with 10 people, make sure you give your audience a show they will never forget!
Since I had such a long tour booked in Canada this time I decided to hire a publicist. This isn’t always an option for every artist depending on your budget, but if you plan to go back to certain markets and want to be successful long term it can be a good investment.
Obviously Social Media is important, but I have done a lot of DIY PR marketing and there are websites now like https://www.submithub.com and https://www.storyamp.com/ you might want to try.
Social Media, local media, friends, facebook events, word of mouth, an email list and a great host partner are all necessary ingredients to a successful marketing strategy.
The road can be a magical place where things will go wrong and you will meet the most amazing people and have the most experiences. I made lots of new friends and professional connections and I can not wait to start booking my next tour. Remember to have fun, and be professional! Good luck!
About the Author
This Frontier Needs Heroes is the moniker of singer-songwriter Brad Lauretti, who in various forms and lineup changes, has spent the past 10 years playing shows all over the world. One night with Brad will run the gamut of all human emotions from humour, hedonism, activism and heartbreaking sadness. From Folk-rock anthems, to indie folk, flares of psychedelic, alt-country, to straight up storytelling you get it all in one song. Influenced by songwriters like John Prine, Billy Bragg, Kris Kristofferson, and Townes Van Zandt his timeless songs mix love, humor, and protest seamlessly to get you through the tough times. Logging thousands of miles in his car, touring the greatest cities of North America and Europe, selling one record at a time. This determination and DIY ethos brought him on an epic journey around the world, playing listening rooms, clubs, house concerts, and festival stages.
Originally from Brooklyn, NY Brad is now based in Nashville, TN. He has performed at Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, Folk Alliance International, Nordic Folk Alliance, Magnolia Festival, Hickey Fest, Gamble Rogers Folk Festival, Gram Parsons Guitar Pull, End of the Road (UK), Reeperbahn, Incubate, Athfest, Clean Water Music Festival, Connection Festival, Sing Out Loud, Savannah Stopover, Stetson Kennedy Foundation Literary Landmark Celebration, and is the winner of the Artsville Songwriting Contest. He is also the founder of the Stetson Kennedy Songwriter Residency. http://www.stetsonkennedy.com/residency.html
This Frontier Needs Heroes has released four albums This Frontier Needs Heroes, The Future, Hooky and Real Job. He is currently working on a new album with producer Johnny Irion.