Booking DIY tours is challenging work. Believe me, I know. My band has been booking DIY tours for years.
Generally, we start four to six months out, route the tour and start pitching. We’re not just contacting venues and promoters – we’re also contacting bands and trying to get added to bills.
We’re organizing promo, emailing college radio, emailing various local print – you get the idea.
Typically, we put dozens upon dozens of hours into booking a two- to three-week long DIY tour.
This process would be enjoyable if it was all smooth, but it’s not. Sometimes, it can take weeks to get a simple yes or no from a venue. Trying to coordinate with promoters can be frustrating.
Sometimes, you send 10 emails to an email inbox that is no longer being checked, or a venue that has just closed its doors.
This kind of thing gets tiring very quickly.
That’s why brothers Kyle and Bryan Weber (members of the band ZELAZOWA) started Indie on the Move.
Basically, their band played over 600 independently booked shows from 2006 to 2009. They acquired a ton of venue information, and wanted to organize it for the benefit of other indie bands.
The site started with around 950 venues, and today, they have over 5,500 thanks to a community of artists who keep the database alive and growing.
At the heart of the site is a well-kept venue database with all of the most up-to-date info: Contact info, listings inventory, as well as reviews about club staff, pay, professionalism, staging, crowd, what to expect, and what to avoid.
You can sort their database by state, genre, city, radius, and premium members can can sort through original music venues vs. cover band venues, capacity specs, and the days of the week the club books live music.
It’s an incredibly resource, and I wish that every country had it. Let’s take a closer look at how to use it.
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Free vs. Premium
Indie On The Move started out as a completely free service, but they’ve now become so well-known, reputable, and well-used that they offer a premium membership as well.
On top of that, they offer a few premium booking services, which we’ll discuss later.
So, should you get a free account or get the premium account? Here’s the breakdown of services offered.
- Artist profile with songs, photos, videos, etc.
- Music venues database and basic search functions.
- Access to IOTM’s discounts.
- Ability to follow venues, promoters, etc. and see when they have openings.
- Gig swap and forum.
- Post and respond in Classified Listings.
With the premium account, which costs $6.99/month, you get all of those things, plus:
- All the detailed booking information. Name, phone, email, and booking tips.
- Ability to email talent buyers directly through the site.
- Advanced venue filtering.
- QuickPitch Emailing ($.25 per venue).
- Access to DIT (Do It Together).
Frankly, I would advise you to get the Premium membership. I’m not in any way affiliated with the site, but I have to say, it’s not a bad deal.
It will save you a lot of time, and for seven bucks, you can’t go wrong. I’ve spent more money on two coffees.
Not being able to see the detailed venue info is annoying and defeats the purpose. Buy the membership, even just for the few months that you need it.
How To Use The Music Venue Database
First and foremost, Indie On The Move has a killer music venue database.
When you click on the database, you’re immediately shown a few venues and a search bar with various fields.
Here, you can choose a state, city or region to find venues, and you can also enter a zip code and search within the area of the code. Then, you can narrow it down by genre. See my example below:
Once you find a venue you’re interested in, you can click on the comments to get an impression of what other artists like/didn’t like about the venue. This is also where people tend to post any corrections to the venue info (updated contact info, etc.)
When you click on the venue name, you will get all the contact info as well as a map and a calendar of their events.
It’s everything you need!
All of the other databases that IOTM offers are formatted in the same way.
Now, let’s take a look at IOTM’s paid services as well as their other databases.
What Is QuickPitch?
QuickPitch is IOTM’s automated pitching service. Basically, you select the venues you’re pitching, and QuickPitch will deliver the booking request for you. It costs $0.25 and is very efficient.
I’ve never personally used it, but I have to say I'm a little skeptical.
It seems too impersonal to send a generic email to every venue. The only time I would use it is if I was just trying to cast a wide net in an unfamiliar area. Even then, I don’t think it’s necessarily ideal.
However, there is something to be learned from QuickPitch.
QuickPitch ensures that you’re sending a venue everything they need to book you.
Live videos, contact information, details on the band, press, everything. You should always be providing promoters with that kind of information.
Take the formula and make it personal. That’s what I would do.
What Is Do It Together (DIT)?
IOTM launched a service called Do It Together (DIT), which basically allows you to access IOTM staff and have them help you book the tour.
They’ll discuss your touring goals, they’ll help you route your tour, they’ll craft a pitch email the staff will use to book shows, and then they’ll do most of the work for you.
Once the venue responds, they send the response to you, and you have to take things from there.
It’s kind of like hiring a booking agent, except you pay them a flat fee instead of the agent taking a percentage.
Their basic pricing model is this: $130 upfront, $10/market for initial round pitching, and then $5/market for follow ups.
I think this is fair, and some artists might benefit from it.
That said, I think there’s a lot to learn from booking your own tour, so why not try that first, and then experiment with their paid option.
It should be noted that they can’t guarantee any success, and they certainly can’t guarantee the shows will be good. That part is up to you!
College & University Database
IOTM offers a database of student programming/activities board contacts, which you can use to get your band booked at a University or College. These gigs are stellar, but in my opinion, this is not the best way to book them.
My experience is that these shows are mostly booked through college showcases. Try looking into those first, but if you’re not having any luck with showcasing, it’s definitely worth emailing!
This service costs a flat $75 for the directory, which seems a little steep, but these people are college students, so the contact info changes all the time. I imagine it’s quite a bit of work keeping the database current.
Music Festival & Conference Database
Along with clubs, IOTM also offers a completely free database of music festivals and conferences.
This is a useful tool for finding small festivals.
It can be very hard figure out which festival exists in a given area (there are lots of small ones that are worth playing), and finding out how to apply or contact the artistic director is even harder.
While it may not be totally comprehensive, IOTM’s database is a great place to start on festival booking. At the very least, it gives you no excuse for not trying to get booked.
The music conference database is less interesting to me, because most conferences are easy to find and booked through Sonicbids.
I also think that most music conferences are a waste of time, and you should only worry about playing the big ones. In fact, I am very skeptical about playing a conference as an indie artist in general. To make an impact at a conference, you need at least one good team member.
That said, the resource is there for you to take advantage of.
Press, Radio, & Media Database
Press, radio, and other media are an important part of a tour.
As an indie, however, it can be hard to secure anything worthwhile. This doesn't mean it isn't worth a try.
It’s important to keep in mind that this extra promotion won’t put many butts in seats, but it will elevate your overall profile and make your tour more worthwhile.
Promoters and venues also love when bands go to town on promo. It makes them way more likely to have you back.
They have a ton of contacts for press and radio, and it’s all free. So have at it!
It makes sense that IOTM would also have some resources available for promoters. The site is designed for bands looking to gig, and promoters are looking for bands to book; it’s mutually beneficial!
IOTM has a bands directory for promoters, which is searchable by city, state, radius, and genre. It also has a show availability feature, which will let you know when bands you want to book are available.
I am not sure how many gigs are booked through IOTM (I have a feeling it’s not many), but I can definitely see it being a useful tool.
Whether you use any of the paid services, IOTM is an incredible resource. If you are not using it, you are missing out.