What Do Record Labels Do? Part 1 – Tour Support And How To Do It Without A Label

stop graffitti.jpgIn this new series we will examine what on earth record labels do or even used to do before they started cutting employees down to make up for their flimsy business model. In order to educate everyone as to what the labels responsibilities usually were and how you can fill them in the future, we will now explain what they do and how you can fill the void.

Tour support it’s that thing every band seems to desperately want from a record label and one of the reasons everyone wants to sign with one. When I think of my days helping doing tour support at an indie label I think of headaches from inhaling Sharpie ink writing “Live @ ___ 8/12/09 with Cocaine Blowout, Death Panels, and Shark Jam” at the bottom of a poster that had the bands latest album cover on it. We would then stuff these into a large envelope and mail it to the venue and any cool indie mom and pop record store or coffee house that we thought might hang them up. Follow me to the jump and I will explain to you what else goes in to the term tour support and how you can do it yourself.

What Goes In To Tour Support And How Do You Do It?

  • Like I mentioned before, mailing out lots of posters is one of the biggest things that goes in to tour support. We would mail these anywhere that was friendly with the label and kept a list of places in each city that may potentially hang them. We also had a street team where we would either ask people on our team to hang them around town or we would ask them where to send them. In rare cases we would send out free samplers to be left at the record store that had the upcoming concert date posted on them. How Do You Do It? You can do this from the tour van by stopping off at the post office. You can also do it before you even leave for tour. Simply bring posters and envelopes and send them along your way. Make a .CSV file in Google Docs of addresses and places to send posters before you come to town with a nice note asking them to please hang it up. If you have superfans or street team members, contact them ask for help or where to send posters.
  • If there was a budget behind the band we would do ad shares with local record stores that would promote their latest record as well as the upcoming concert date. They would be posted in local music pages or college papers. How Do You Do It? This is tricky since it is expensive and most record stores have died, but if you really wanted to call up any local mom and pop stores you know of and see if they are interested in doing this.
  • We would contact via phone or email local writers on our press list and see if they would like guest list spots to review the show. These were usually very welcome and helped a lot to get in good graces. How Do You Do It? Look inside your press list and keep track of where they are from. Pick up local papers every time you come to town and enter their contacts in to a .CSV file. Sort your .CSV file before you come to town each time and contact these people to see if they want on the guest list.
  • Make sure every college radio station has your music and send them an update on your upcoming date. We would see if they are interested in ticket giveaways and guest list spots to the DJs. How Do You Do It? Offer a ticket giveaway by putting people on the guest list, which will give them incentive to advertise the show more. If you can find a DJ that plays your style of music in a city this can really help get in good graces and promote your dates. Offer them all of your music and guest list spots if they like you.
  • There is a common myth that tour support means the label pays your rent on the road. This is RARE and when I say RARE I mean RARE aka it doesn’t happen. What all of these techniques do is hopefully drive enough people to your shows that you get enough people at them to pay your rent. Get to work!

Jesse Cannon is the editor of Musformation. He produces records at his studio Cannon Found Soundation. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseCannonMusF. For more info please visit his website.