If you’re returning from last week, I hope you enjoyed the Lungs and Limbs concert! If you’re a newcomer, here’s a recap. This is the second and final part of a blog series about real, actionable touring advice for local bands. Because I’m sure we all need another eHow listicle advising you to “make a flyer” or “have a car”.
The goal of this series is to provide you with the strategies and tactics nobody tells you about planning and executing your local band’s first – or hundredth – tour. It’s also to introduce you to excellent bands that are worth seeing live and connecting with in the industry. To do this, I interviewed two Bay Area bands, Lungs and Limbs and Doctor Striker, to procure real-life insight and actionable advice from their most recent tours. This is Part 2, with Doctor Striker.
Doctor Striker: House Parties, Facebook Hacks, and Time
Doctor Striker is a heavy pop band based in Oakland, CA, known for their “incisively optimistic” brand of music: an aggressive fusion of party time rock and roll, catchy electronic pop, shredding guitar solos, and nasty
industrial bite. They’re throwing a rager titled “Reign of Darkness” at The Knockout in SF on Saturday, December 10th, along with Unlikely Heroes and The Mud Lords.
Going to Doctor Striker shows has become something of a tradition for me. I’ve been told they’re rapidly gaining a reputation for themselves as a band that has to be seen live, and I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise. My first show was a 4th of July themed show titled “Party Time America”, and I’ve been to three more since then. Each one has been rad as fuck.
What I really appreciate about Doctor Striker shows is the commitment to making each one – and indeed, the entire concept of “live music” – a visceral and engaging experience. You’re not just going to a bar to hang out with friends, and kind of listening to the band playing off in the corner. When you go, you become part of the show – and the bands make damn sure of it. Each show has a theme to tie it together. There are weird performance art pieces. (I was promised candy for one and willingly ended up biting it off a candy bra.) No show is the same. It reminds me of what makes live theater great, and that’s probably why I like it.
So what does the Doctor himself have to say about taking this experience on the road? I talked to frontman Paul Striker about his most recent Northern California tour, and his overall strategies for booking packed shows, and he gave me the prescription.
Location: 6 cities in Northern California
Length: 8 days
Purpose: To expand from being a local to a regional band
Describe Your Tour in 3 Words: “Fun, formative, educational.”
#1 Secret to a Successful Tour?: “The Facebook graph search. There’s a very specific way to look up friends you have on Facebook who live in specific cities. And then you can personally message them and get a few people to come to each out-of-town show.”
Author’s note: From a quick Google search, it seems like Facebook has made the graph search functionalities more hidden. It’s still doable, though.
Top 3 Takeaways:
Do house parties.
Paul: “I’ve done 5 tours in my life, some as a solo act and some as a band. If you can get someone to let you perform at their house party, that’s the best way to play for packed crowds when you’re out of town. House parties have built-in crowds, so you don’t have to worry about drawing on your own. They’re always a lot of fun, and sometimes you even get paid. But they’re also hard to find; you basically have to have friends in the areas you’re trying to tour. (Author’s note: who also happen to be hosting house parties.)
There are downsides to house parties. One problem is the free barrier: people who see you will remember you for playing for free, which may reduce your leverage going forward. People who attend house parties may also not necessarily be the type of people who go to venues, so it can be hard to translate. And the biggest barrier to entry is knowing the right people in those cities who will let you play their parties. But if you can do it, do it.”
Give yourself a lot of time.
Paul: “The show in SF I did by myself, the way I do everything else locally. Out of town, I did the most work in San Jose, where I did the local show process as well as some networking: finding a venue, talking to the Balanced Breakfast group in San Jose, finding a band off Craigslist, forming a show, and inviting a whole bunch of people. I had to drive down to San Jose a lot.
Time is key. You need to give yourself a lot of time to be able to do all these things. Even if you yourself can do things in a specific amount of time, you will need significantly more time to get everyone on board, and time to convince all the different people involved that it’s a good idea. These people include other bands, venues, potential tour partners, and people in these external networks.
The more time you give yourself, the more organized it will look to your potential audience. If the show seems chaotic, people will care less about it.”
Be prepared for everything to go wrong.
Paul: “Anything that can go wrong with a show locally can go wrong with a show abroad. You’re making all the effort that you make locally, only now you have to do it out of town, and you aren’t physically there. It’s really hard to organize with people who are over 100 miles away from you, who have no relationships with you.
If it’s close enough, like San Jose, you can make the trip. Otherwise, try getting a tour partner for the more distant venues. My tour partner Buck Stallion helped me book shows in the Central Valley.
Some examples of unexpected happenings: sometimes the other bands will fall apart, and you have to find someone really quick to fill the spot. A band might quit the show. Or a member might get seriously injured. Give yourself enough time to plan ahead.”
If you want to learn the ins and outs of effective promoting, connect with Paul at “Reign of Darkness”. He’s one of the best people to talk to. This is a tour-focused post and I’ve left out a lot of details, but as far as booking the perfect local show, he shared with me the secret formula. Who knows – it might even be a future blog topic.
Got an idea for a blog post that would help your career? Want me to promote your band or show? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and Lex Talk Music.