The Science Behind Touring
Written by: Holly Ciampaglio, Marketing Intern
Published: January 31, 2019
Today’s the day. The day your favorite artist announces the schedule for their upcoming tour. You take to their social media pages, only to find that - rats… Either:
a) They are coming to a city HOURS away from you.
b) The day they do come into town, you have a previous engagement.
OR c) The ticket prices are nowhere near what you are willing to pay.
You feel defeated, betrayed, and upset. Why didn’t they decide to come to a city closer to you? Why didn’t they add more tour dates so you would have a better chance of making it to a show? Why do tickets seem overpriced?
I’m going to help answer these questions by telling you why artists and their management choose their show dates and how they go about booking these shows.
The first thing to know when understanding how booking works is that there are usually only two people communicating show dates: Booking Agents and Talent Buyers.
Booking Agents work with the artists to understand what kind of atmosphere the artist is looking for in a venue, which venues the artist has potential to fill the most seats, figuring out a positive ratio between how much money they can make on the show, how much the venue costs, and which cities the artist will reach the most fans and be able to gain more fans. Talent Buyers, also known as local bookers, work for venues or promoters/promoter companies that are contracted with the venue. These guys make deals with the artist/band management to play at a venue for a sum of money. The relationship between a Booking Agent and a Talent Buyer is crucial when booking shows. If a good foundation is laid out from the beginning, these two people will rely on each other to schedule shows for multiple years, and sometimes they will keep this business connection for the rest of their careers. This is one of the reasons why artists could be doing a show in one city, and not the next city over.
Another big part of touring is creating a route of all the cities the artist/band wants to perform in. Since most tours travel in buses or vans, making sure that they aren’t going to waste time and money traveling from show to show is crucial to having a successful tour. First, management will work together to plan a route they would like to see play out, at the venues that fit the artist’s vibe, and where they think the artist can fill the most seats. Then, they start emailing and making phone calls. The sooner they start this process, the more likely they are to “hold” the date they want for their chosen venues. However, often times someone is ahead of the game and may have contacted the venue about the same date as another artist/band. In this case, they will put the other tours on a list of people wanting to perform that day. The venue will go down that list and email management from other tours to confirm the date, until someone wants to make a deal. If another tour has already confirmed that day, management will either a) confirm a different day closer to the original day they wanted or b) re-route the tour to reduce rest days (days the band isn’t making money).
The last- and probably most important part -of why artists and bands choose certain cities to perform and not others is GROWTH. This is the main reason artists and bands tour in the first place, to grow their fanbase. If there is a city with more press coverage, they are more likely to go to that city. If they know a large part of their fanbase is in one or two cities, they will play in or close to those cities. Think about it, have you ever wanted to go to a concert by yourself? Probably not. So, you invite your friends, even though they may not be familiar with who is playing. They decide to go with you, and if they had a good time, they become a fan of the artist or band. So, if you have 250 fans wanting to go to a show, and they all bring a friend who may not be fans, and they all have a good time, then BOOM you now have 500 happy fans who will buy an artist’s merch, album, tickets to another show, etc.
I hope this helped give you some insight on how much work goes into planning a tour and know that artists/bands are doing their best to make sure they reach most of their fans, without getting too burnt out. If you would like this information in more detail or are interested to learn more about the music industry, I recommend diving into All You Need to Know About the Music Business by Donald S. Passman. It’s a great read!