We all want to move on to big regional, national, or even international tours. But, it’s a mistake to rush into touring too quickly and skip out on booking local gigs. I have always been a believer in starting your career in a central place, like your hometown or a town nearby that would be conducive to your career development. Then, you can expand outward systematically from that central point.
If you spend a little more time booking local gigs and really growing and nurturing your connection with the fans, venues, and community locally, you’ll be setting yourself up with a solid foundation to grow regionally and nationally.
So let’s examine some of the benefits of developing a home base of support.
1. You Build Performance Confidence When Booking Local Gigs
Your home base provides a supportive environment to test new songs and performance styles. Over the weeks and months of booking and playing local gigs, you really build a special close relationship with hometown fans. They want you to succeed and will be there to support all your new efforts. And this is exactly the kind of environment that will help you build confidence in your performances. You’ll be more comfortable to experiment and push yourself creatively as a performer when you’re in front of an audience that feels familiar.
Most artists will be quick to say, “There is nothing like playing a CD release concert for their hometown fans.” And that’s absolutely true!
As you network with other artists locally, open mic nights and songwriter’s groups also offer avenues for creative growth, testing, and critique. These other local artists will often become your very first fans. They will come out to gigs once break out of the open mic scene. They may even share your music with their audiences. This is organic word-of-mouth marketing at it’s very best.
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2. You Build a Local Reputation
Creating that all-important “buzz,” needs to begin somewhere. And some of the most fertile ground to begin that process is in your home base.
As your performance confidence grows and you being to play more often, a solid foundation of fans forms. And when you work within a concentrated area such as your hometown, the word about a great, unique performer can spread quickly among friends and communities. From there, you’ll begin to build a loyal audience – fans who will consistently come out to local gigs and support you.
The cool thing about a loyal audience is that they will often follow you as you move to bigger venues or even nearby towns. A local reputation tends to filter out beyond the home base as fans share their excitement about newfound acts.
There are so many examples of major recording artists touring today that started by booking local gigs and developing a loyal home base of support. One great example is the Dave Matthews Band. He grew a solid home base foundation before moving into other parts of the southeast region. We all watched as his solo gigs at the local bar moved to a regular Tuesday night gig at the local club with his band. He expanded strategically around Charlottesville and throughout the southeast region—and the rest is history!
He remains committed to Charlottesville today as his entire organization still lives and operates out of Charlottesville. They consistently pump funds back into the community to support local businesses and charities. And all of this grew out of their original development of Charlottesville as his home base. The community offered their loyalty as fans helped the band gain a local, then regional, then a national reputation. And now the DMB supports the community in return.
3. Booking Local Gigs Keep Costs Down
It’s no secret that touring is expensive. And touring long distances can wither an already slim budget. When guarantees are low and sometimes nonexistent, additional travel costs can deplete your motivation as well as your budget.
But when you concentrate on booking local gigs and performance dates, you’re not spending unnecessary money on hotel, meals, and gas. And that means more profit in your pocket rather than getting eaten up by expenses!
4. Daily Routines Remain Familiar
No matter how fun life on the road may be depicted, we all love the comforts of home. And when most of your gigs are home-based, you can comfortably go about your business in familiar surroundings.
Even short tours can take days (or weeks) of preparation and being on the road. But with local gigs, the interruption to your daily routines is only for the brief time when you pack up and go to play the gig. And that means, you can continue working on larger plans and projects within your normal, supportive environment. You’ll be a lot more efficient and get a lot more done when you stay local.
5. You Can Develop Business Skills
Just as you seek to practice your performance skills in a supportive environment, you need the opportunity to practice your business skills and become proficient. And booking local gigs allows you those golden opportunities!
You can work on your booking, phone techniques, and build your confidence as you negotiate with local promoters and draw upon your network of musicians for gig information. There is less at stake locally compared to those of intense long-term touring situations. Which means you can ease your way into better venues as you develop the various aspects of your performance career and business savvy.
While home-based, you can also begin to create a network of potential financial supporters or sponsors. You are constantly in touch with local businesses and organizations that are becoming familiar with your act. And that means you can take the first steps to contacting some of them with proposals.
Once you have success on the home-front, it will be much easier to attempt a proposal to a regional, statewide or national business or organization.
7. You Can Develop Marketing Know-How
What better way to become familiar with the marketing game than to practice in your home base? I’ll bet you are already aware of the various print media outlets and probably know each of the radio stations intimately. Which means you won’t have to spend much time researching in order to begin any marketing campaigns.
If anything is unfamiliar to you, turn to one of your musician friends in your now growing network for help or information.
8. You Make Networking Contact
Once you have a working system for the home base, it can easily be applied to distant touring markets. With a bit of research thrown in for each new market, of course.
You can use your home base media contacts to begin networking with those markets nearby. It’s very likely that the Entertainment editor at your daily paper knows the name of the Entertainment editor two towns up the road. Similarly, your hometown radio and television contacts can toss you some names to help get your foot in the door in nearby towns.
Conclusion: Why Booking Local Gigs Will Set You Up for National Success
Your home base of support is the launching pad for your expanding touring career. Take your time to develop your fans, media contacts, industry network or other musicians and local venues before venturing beyond your surrounding region. All lessons learned in your home base will serve you well throughout your touring career.
By Jeri Goldstein. Copyright © 2019 Performingbiz, LLC.
Jeri Goldstein was an agent and manager and now an author and music business and performing arts career coach. She is the author of How to Book Gigs and Tour Profitably a new online course from New Artist Model. Having worked with some of the top touring acoustic artists on the circuit for 20 years, she booked national and international tours for artists performing in music, theater, and dance.