(This is Part Two of a series about my experience at Berklee Onsite 2017. Read the previous post here.)
Any band that has routed their own tours knows the emotional and physical exhaustion that can go into months of planning, marketing, and rehearsing for out of town shows only to have a half dozen people show up for your Friday night show.
Without personal contacts in major markets, how do you decide between Cincinnati and Cleveland, or whether a West Coast tour is really a good idea for your band?
I attended two Berklee Onsite panels hosted by Bruce Houghton, founder of Hypebot and Skyline Artists Agency, in which he outlined how bands can book their own DIY tour to maximize their fans and minimize losses on the road.
Data Driven Touring & Tour Marketing
Bruce explained there are three main sources of data to pull when scheduling and marketing your tours:
- Social Media
If you distribute your music digitally, your distributor (TuneCore, CD Baby, DistroKid, etc.) will have geographic data for your album sales on iTunes, Amazon, and other outlets. This data, owned by the retailers, is not terribly specific (or useful) unless you are selling lots of music or looking to expand internationally.
However, don't overlook Bandcamp, one of the most artist-friendly services for distributing and promoting your content. Artists that distribute on the platform must purchase Bandcamp Pro ($10/month) if they want fan insights, which contain specific city and discovery data useful in routing in marketing. If Bandcamp is your main sales platform, it might be worth subscribing for a even few months when planning your tour.
Unlike traditional downloads, not all streaming is created equal. Streaming encompasses everything from the curated Pandora, to the aggregated Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play, and expands all the way to the low barrier to entry (but highly active) platforms like YouTube, SoundCloud, and Bandcamp.
Due to backlash of low royalty payouts, streaming services have started including their analytics data to artists for free in efforts to appear artist-friendly. But still, not all streaming services share geo targeted data.
Spotify, Pandora, SoundCloud, YouTube, and Bandcamp all share streaming data with their artists.
- Sign up for Spotify for Artists to verify your artist profile and view the top 50 listening cities for your music
- Next Big Sound (as mentioned in my previous article) is the Pandora-owned analytics tool. You can also tie in all social media accounts and other services such as Bandcamp, Google Analytics, and Hype Machine
- YouTube for Artists offers free charting data, really only useful for major artists.
- SoundCloud offers two paid tiers that provide varying levels of insights for $7/month to $15/month
- Bandcamp Pro ($10/month) provides a heat map of streaming listeners
On the other side of the coin, there are players such as Apple Music, Tidal, Napster/Rhapsody, and iHeart Radio that keep their data closed off to independent musicians.
Before shelling out any money for a paid service, see how much geographic and demographic data you can get across your free platforms.
Social Media Data
Social media provides some of the deepest insights and behaviors into your fan demographics. Facebook and Instagram Insights, along with Twitter Analytics and Tweets Map can provide an accurate map of your engaged followers.
Again, you can link all these account into a dashboard such as Next Big Sound or Emerging Artists Network for a comprehensive snapshot of all the data.
Be sure to consider your other geographic data sources, such as your band's email list, Google Analytics (tied to Gmail/YouTube), and sites like Bandsintown.
For tips on how to publish geo-targeted messages directly to fans in your touring cities, check out my post Quick Hacks to Promote Your Concerts.
Bruce Houghton's final advice? "Never rely on a single source of data," he says. Look for patterns across data sources. For instance, if you have 5,000 Pandora listeners in Tokyo, it probably wouldn't be wise to schedule an international tour using only that data point.
Look out for Part Three of Berklee Onsite, a continuation of this piece entitled Grassroots Touring.