Tour:Smart is the brainchild of Martin Atkins. The ex- Public Image Ltd / Nine Inch Nails and Pigface drummer has applied his decades of experience and educated vision of the new music industry to a book, a DVD, and a series of crash-courses / seminars / discussions / school-events designed to aid musicians on their journey through the industry.
I don't know how to describe the latest offering, Tour:Smart PLUS!, it is essentially a four year long educational course crammed into one 48-hour whirlwind weekend. It was intense, energising, humbling and motivating. Starting with learning from other band’s mistakes of touring, to learning to print your own merchandise, to filming and editing your own videos, and then what to do with them in the crazy online world of social media. This is as complete a course as you could find, without all the fodder of the ways the industry used to work or hiring other people who then get in your way (and cause you costly mistakes). It is the nitty-gritty of what YOU need to do to propel YOUR career forward; it is about taking responsibility, creating plans and leaping into action.
There is no magical guide to make you famous in six weeks, the music business is a long and dirty road, but with a hand from Tour Smart you will have all you need to prepare and inspire you to take this road, and start eating up the miles.
As I said, I could not even begin to regurgitate the learnings of last weekend, but here are just a few key snippets that were delivered by Martin in his own passionate way, and how they resonated with myself.
“The Music Business is Participatory...”
As a musician, you have to not only practice and record your music, but promote, network, hack, sell, distribute, tweak, market, deliver and everything else in order to create your own success. Sitting back and waiting to be ‘discovered’? (LINK) I’ll tell you now that it is not going to happen.
“Beware of Smokescreens...”
Hardware or soft synths? Cubase or Logic? MP3, CD, Vinyl or cassette tapes? Getting caught up in these arguments is a waste of time. Use what works for you, make your music, get it out there. Using your music wisely is far more important that the software involved.
“Free is the New Black...”
Giving your music away is pretty much essential. However, you shouldn’t be doing it just because other artists are, but because there is a lot to be gained. Collecting emails in return is often the simplest idea, but so much more can be created and retained, from remix competitions to treasure hunts, all in the name of promoting awareness of your music and your brand. Which leads nicely into...
“Sell the Space Around Your Music...”
If fans like your (free) music, how else would they like to relate to you and how can you monetise that? Live shows? T-shirts? DVDs? Skateboards? Coffee Cups? Music fans often want to be part of a community, and anything that they can wear as a badge to say that they are part of your support will appeal to them. Of course, the individual items or events will depend on your (sub-sub-sub-) genre of music.
“Data Driven Decisions...”
This is not about trial and error. There is something to be said for going whole-heartedly into a project, but you use the data you have to make smart decisions, and then commit yourself. Fanbase details can be collected and dissected in ever-more inventive ways, such as Google Analytics, Youtube Insights, mailing list tracking and good old at-the-venue discussing with fans.
Although just the tip of the iceberg, each of these points should give you and your career something to think about, and for further elaboration, I can’t recommend enough getting in touch with the Tour Smart Team.
(Cross-posted at US Music Jobs, the premier online community for US music industry professionals and jobs in the music industry)
Class photos (c) Lee Jarvis 2009.