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10 days until the tour starts

I enjoy reading first hand accounts of tours.  I remember listening to the Henry Rollins "Get in the Van" book on tape at a young age and being fascinated.  I remember reading the John Lydon autobiography Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs in my teens and being amazed.  I even found the Keith Richards autobiography Life interesting and I am not much of a fan of the Rolling Stones.

I watch biographical movies of various musicians and they all seem to have this story arc of the musician overcoming some sort poverty in their youth, meeting people who discover their talent and help them to fame. The musician goes on tour and becomes a huge fucking asshole and then tragically dies or gets old and makes ammends with the people that helped them in the begining...

While all of these biographies are presented as non-fiction/based-on-actual-events I feel like there is a lot left out in order to create some sort of fantastical element.  I sometimes feel like these books and movies are supposed to make the audience feel like anybody could be a famous musician and they too can go on tour and be huge fucking assholes and do tons of coke and die or somehow make ammends with all the people they fucked over when they are older because they are so great and have made so many great songs.  I also feel there is an entire sustainable market for musical instruments based entirely off of people who watch/read these things similar to the market for Disney toys that children can play with after they see the newest Disney flick.  

Why do I bring this up on my tour journal? I feel like I need to write about the sorts of things that get left out.  I brought up Martin Atkin's Tour:Smart in a previous journal, which presents a more realistic view of touring. I still feel like a lot of things just aren't discussed in it.  I don't feel like a lot of information is actually shared about the excruciating process of booking shows and the logistics of setting up a DIY tour.  No one has ever told me how to do it. I have friends who tour frequently and they never discuss this process.  Maybe someone will read this and tell me I am doing it all wrong and I can finally figure out how to not have a terrible time booking shows.

I hate booking shows. It fucking sucks.

I hate the process of trying to convince someone to let you play at their venue. It is basically like applying for a job but you are entirely judged on how cool you are and how many people like you.

Booking a tour is like doing hundreds of job interviews over the course of 3 to 6 months.  

A long time ago you had to create a physical press kit which was basically a folder with a bio of your band, press quotes and pictures. You then had to drop these press kits off at clubs or mail them, wait two weeks and call the club and speak to the booking guy about getting a show.  Once social networking became accessible to everyone you had to create an "Electronic Press Kit."  Companies like Sonicbids would charge you to host an "Electronic Press Kit" and you could submit them to different venues and that sucked but it was easier and cheaper than creating a physical press kit and sending them out. You could just write an email to the club trying to convince them to let you play there and link straight to your EPK (electronic press kit).

EPK's made it way easier for bands to flood bookers with tons of promotional bullshit and lies about how many fans they have in every city and book shows that suck and make everyone sad.  Luckily, press kits got labeled as "folder rock" and the process of submitting press kits and EPK's is typically looked down upon by most bookers who know what is going on with music. And what is going on with music is that touring bands don't bring in people.  People booking DIY tours aren't going to draw 50+ in every city and everyone can usually see through the bullshit and lies contained in press kits.  Local bands will draw.  So now people just send short emails with links to their music and a lineup with compatible locals (who people will actually come out and see) or a short email with links to their music and a query about finding compatible locals.  

Occasionally I encounter clubs who are still into the old game of lying about your huge draw in their city (that you have never played before) and demand you supply them with all this folder rock bullshit about how great you are.  Its super frustrating that everyone doesn't know that most touring bands aren't going to bring in anyone.  Its a trade off, you book one touring band and two locals. Maybe someday you are that local band that brings in a crowd to watch a compatible touring band. Maybe I am missing something but its really a courtesy for smaller venues to book someone from out of town.

I also encounter local bands that think there is money to be made from these shows and demand a minimum guarantee.  From me, the touring band.  It's insane!  For this tour I had a Friday booked at a nice venue but the booker for the venue didn't know of any compatible locals.  I set off with the task of finding locals to play with and asked approximately 12 bands and got a lot of No's and a lot of people not even returning my email.  I finally found a band who said they could be available but they would need a guaranteed minimum to play the show and wanted to discuss "gratuity" with me...

Fuck OFF!!!

At this point I would literally have to pay locals to play a show so I could play.  Maybe its because I grew up listening to punk music and feel like there should be some level of community and ethics amongst bands, that I am shocked by this.  I would pretty much be the local act for any touring band if the club was decent and it was a friday night and not expect anyone to pay me (assuming my share goes to the touring band who is struggling on the road).  

Anyways I couldn't find a single band to play the show and then emailed the booking agent asking for help finding people.  At which point he decided to also ignore my emails and not respond.  That show is apparently not happening anymore but I never even received an email confirming that the show is canceled.  The drawn out confusion caused by the booker confirming the show and then not emailing me caused it to be too late to book anywhere else and as a result I have a day on my tour schedule where I have no show and no hope of getting on a show.  

I could go on all day about how confusing and shitty booking is but I would rather explain my process:

First I plan a route and then I take a day and do research on every venue in each city on that route and calculate appropriate drive times.  My goal is to have a show every day along the route with no drive time being over 5 hours (I am alone and can't switch drivers so short drives are necessary to my survival).  Once I find appropriate venues I send basically this email but taylored for each venue to be more personable:

 I am currently booking a US tour for my music project Uglyhead. I am trying to book a show in your area on October 26th. I am doing a one man electronic show with a 30 minute set with sequenced light show. I travel with my own monitoring system and just need a PA/sound system to plug into. The music is experimental and a bit dark and noisy, and compatible with most other electronic or rock bands with keyboards. For more info and audio please checkout http://www.uglyhead.org/bio
I am on a label http://www.automationrecords.com that can help with tour promotion and I can send full color flyers out ahead of time. If you don't feel Uglyhead is a good fit, any suggestions for places to play or bands to contact close by would be VERY appreciated. 
Jake Alejo

I then receive one of three responses that get filed into the following folders:
Tour Yes's- This folder contains emails of people that want to work on putting together a show
Tour No's - This folder contains all the clubs that took the time to say the don't have the date available that I need. This helps me to not re-email clubs and piss people off. 
Tour Helpers - This folder contains people who can't fill the date but give me lists of suggestions for venues to try and compatible bands to check out.   


I move on to a new location and then send more emails until my eyes feel like they will pop and then I go to sleep.  The next day I go through my folders and follow up and then move onto another location and keep sending out emails.  I have sent out hundreds of emails for this tour every day since late June until mid September and could only score about 23 shows.  Some of the shows I am still trying to finalize as I type this. In fact I should probably be working on that right now...

Sometimes I get clubs who will offer shows and then just not follow up at all.  I had a show in Chicago where the booker made me wait for details about the show. After following up a few times and the booker insisting he will give me details, I check their calendar and Uglyhead is not on it for the date.  When I asked about it he no longer returned my emails.  Luckily I was able to reschedule that show but similar situations happened in cities where I waited so long to get dicked over I was not able to book at another venue.  Super Frustrating!

Booking a one man show is difficult.  A lot of people aren't into it.  I have had to reroute a couple of times and have established some clear zones where absolutely no one will book uglyhead.

I have emailed every club and DIY venue in the red areas and can't get a show.  It has left me with two sets of 5 nights on the tour where I have nothing to do, nowhere to stay and no possibility of making any money to help with tour costs.   I think I have the first set of 5 nights figured out but the second set I have no idea what I am going to do.  I am just going to sleep in my car or something for a week.  I won't have any money or friends on my path to the next shows.  Its going to make this tour very difficult.  


Before every tour I get intense waves of immense fear.  I think about all the variables and how many things can go wrong. I question my motives and life choices and I have trouble breathing when I think about it too long.  I have to ignore my brains base function of self preservation.  I usually have a blast but the period before leaving I am constantly teetering on the border of having an anxiety attack.  What happens if I break down in the middle of nowhere? What will happen if my gear malfunctions or I accidentally leave it behind? What if I get hurt?  What if I die? I don't really have answers to those questions.  Its useless to think about it, but I can't help it. 

I don't usually see these subjects covered in autobiographies or films about musicians.  They seem to always have a lot of support and touring is fun and easy and successful...
If anybody has a different experience with booking tours that is easier than spending months sending out hundreds of emails and dealing with really unethical people, I really want to know about it.  My method could use a revision.  


...Also not all booking is terrible.  There are some venues and bands that really have their shit together and don't have ridiculous expectations.  Its so great to find those people and usually makes all the bad stuff worth it.  I think a lot of people put business before art (or heavily integrate business into their art) which makes the art less interesting and subsequently less profitable.  You have to create something interesting before people will put any sort of monetary value to it.  Once art has a monetary value it is pretty much dead anyways...

Shouldn't venues be more interested in creating a community space where people interested in music can find new music instead of shutting new music out?  Do people even like music or do they just care about how famous the band/artist is making the music?  I am confusing myself and it is getting late...

 I don't know how to end this journal entry.


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Reader Comments (1)

Your dedication to your art is very admirable.

September 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChris

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