NASHVILLE (Billboard) - Developing bands must be in control of their own destiny when it comes to playing live. Yet before booking agents come onboard, they will want to know a band has a budding fan base. An act, therefore, needs to be proactive in its quest to become a professional touring unit.
These five tips can help.
= Weigh the pros and cons of tour support from the label, financial or otherwise. A band has to pay it back, so it's best not to start off in the hole if such a luxury can be avoided.
"But if you're starting at the DIY level, and you have a deal with an independent label and the label is able to give you a little support -- buy or rent you a van, pay for your meals -- you should probably take it," says Tim Borror of the Agency Group, whose clients include Sounds of the Underground. "This is hard work."
= Rent a van, and invest in a Global Positioning System and AAA membership. If the band is far enough along to warrant a contract rider -- and some clubs will scoff at baby-band demands -- be realistic about what's on it.
William Morris agent Kirk Sommer (the Killers, Paolo Nutini) offers this advice: "Request packaged goods with shelf life and clean socks on your rider." Beyond that, Sommer advises, "Change your oil once a week, play each show as if it were your last, actively engage your fans at the merch booth until the lights are out, hold the drummer accountable for all accounting."
= Stay local, and create an online story before expanding into new markets. A band must inspire passion in its backyard before truly embracing its rock'n'roll dreams.
"This allows you to stay in school or work," says Kevin Lyman, president of 4fini Productions (Vans Warped, Taste of Chaos).
And all of this local work can -- and should -- be done before a bona fide booking agent ever comes onboard. "I have this band, the High Strung, that booked their own tours and did over 250 dates a year for two years straight before I picked them up," says agent Andrew Colvin at Ground Control Touring.
= Make friends in each city, and bring along some cleaning supplies. Most young bands are prepared to rough it -- sleeping on floors, in vans, etc. -- but always remember what your mama taught you. "Sleep on the floor of the person who seems the most excited about your band, if you do not have to drive that night," says Tony Brummel, president of Chicago's Victory Records. "If they feed you, do the dishes and clean their house the next morning. Stay in touch with this person and make them your personal evangelist in that market."
= For key festival or tour bookings, get requests in early -- and often. The festival market seems to get bigger every year, and this affords new opportunities to young bands.
"We like to save a handful of spots on all our festivals for indie bands that are booking themselves," says Charles Attal, partner in C3 Presents (Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits Festival). "We get thousands of inquiries, so it is difficult to stay on top of every one, but the ones that are persistent have a better shot."
And don't be afraid to lend a helping hand. "Last year at Lolla we had a local band in Chicago called Musical Outfits that even offered to help flier Chicago," Attal says. "We put them on."