Developing A Home Base of Support to Build National Success: Part 1
Andy J - Music Business
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There is great advantage to concentrating the majority of your development in your hometown as you plan for future tours to new territories. I have always been a believer in starting your career in a central place, like your hometown or a town nearby that would be conducive to your career development. Then, expand outward systematically from that central point. I picture a stone dropped into a pool of water—ripples cascade outward from the center where the stone landed. This approach helps you build your fan base and business skills in a step-by-step strategic manner.
Let's examine some of the benefits of developing a home base of support.
- Build performance confidence - Your home base provides a supportive environment to test new songs and performance styles. Hometown fans want you to succeed and will be encouraging of each new effort. Most artists will be quick to say, "There is nothing like playing a CD release concert for their hometown fans." As you network with other artists locally, open mic nights and songwriter's groups offer avenues for creative growth, testing and critique. Your first fans grow out of those creative groups turning out at upcoming gigs to fatten the audience. These fans are also among the first to promote you to their fans as your accomplishments grow.
- Build a local reputation - Creating that, all-important "buzz," needs to begin somewhere. Some
of the most fertile ground to begin that process is in your home base. As performance confidence
grows and you being to play more often, a solid foundation of fans forms. When you work within a
concentrated area such as your hometown, the word can spread quickly about an act that is unique
and has something new and exciting to say. A loyal audience begins to grow that might be counted
on to attend your shows consistently. Once a solid following is built in the hometown, it is possible
to expect some of those fans to follow you to the nearby towns when you begin to expand your touring.
A local reputation has a tendency to filter out beyond the home base as fans share their excitement
about newfound acts.
I can cite many examples of major recording artists touring today that started by developing a loyal home base of support. One of the closest examples to me living here in Charlottesville, VA is the Dave Matthews Band. He grew a solid home base foundation before moving into other parts of the southeast region. We all watched as his solo gigs at the local bar moved to a regular Tuesday night gig at the local club with his band. He expanded strategically around Charlottesville and throughout the southeast region--the rest is history! He remains committed to Charlottesville today as his entire organization still lives and operates out of Charlottesville. They consistently pump funds back into this community to support local businesses and charities. All of this grew out of their original development of Charlottesville as their home base. The community offered their loyalty as fans helped the band gain a local then regional then a national reputation and now the DMB support the community in return.
- Keep costs down - Touring is expensive and touring long distances can whither an already slim budget. When concentrating on home base performance dates, you're not spending unnecessary money on hotel, meals and gas since you are sleeping at home. When guarantees are low and sometimes nonexistent, additional travel costs can deplete your motivation as well as your budget.
- Daily routines remain familiar - You can comfortably go about your business in familiar surroundings when most of your gigs are home based. The interruption to your daily routines is only for the brief time when you pack up and go to play the gig rather than days of preparation and being on the road for just a short tour. You can continue working on larger plans and projects within your normal, supportive environment.
- Develop business skills - Just as you seek to practice your performance skills in a supportive
environment, you need the opportunity to practice your business skills and become proficient. Working within
the home base allows you such golden opportunities. Here you may work on your booking, phone techniques,
build your confidence as you negotiate with local promoters and draw upon your network of musicians for
gig information. There is less at stake in these circumstances rather than those of intense road touring
situations. You can ease your way into better venues as you develop the various aspects of your performance
career and business savvy.
While home based you can also begin to create a network of potential financial supporters or sponsors. Here you are constantly in touch with local businesses and organizations that are becoming familiar with your act. You can take the first steps to contacting some of them with proposals. Once you have success on the homefront, it will be much easier to attempt a proposal to a regional, statewide or national business or organization.
- Develop marketing know-how - What better way to become familiar with the marketing game than to practice in your home base. Here you are already aware of the various print media outlets and probably know each of the radio stations intimately. You won't have to spend much time researching in order to begin any marketing campaigns. What is unfamiliar to you, can probably be gleaned from one of your musician friends in your now growing network. Developing a marketing template here at the home base should be relatively comfortable and easy. Once you have a working system for the home base, it is easily applied to distant touring markets with a bit of research thrown in for each new market. If you apply the concentric circle expansion plan, you can use your home base media contacts to begin networking with those markets nearby. It is very likely that the features editor at your daily paper knows the name of the features editor two towns up the road. Similarly, your hometown radio and television contacts can toss you some names to help get your foot in the door at nearby towns. Once you've established working relationships with the hometown media, their network can be open to you for your expansion. Use these contacts that you've worked so hard to develop and who have become supportive of your efforts.
HotTip: As you play more home base performances, consider creating a savings account for future tour dates out of the area. Take a percentage of each home date profit and place it in the savings account. When the time comes to launch a regional tour, you'll have funds to invest.
Next time I'll offer you a simple assessment questionnaire to help you determine your current position within your home base and what are your next logical steps toward growth and success in your home market.
Jeri Goldstein is the author of, How To Be Your Own Booking Agent The Musician's & Performing Artist's Guide To Successful Touring 2nd Edition UPDATED. She had been an agent and artist's manager for 20 years. Currently she consults with artists, agents and managers through her consultation program Manager-In-A-Box and presents The Performing Biz, seminars and workshops at conferences, universities, for arts councils and to organizations. Jeri has released a 3-hour seminar on CD-ROM, Marketing Your Act. No expensive conferences to attend-learn at your convenience to boost your career. Her book, CD-ROM and information about her other programs are available at Performingbiz.com or phone (434) 591-1335 or email Jeri.
* If you would like to reprint any of these articles, please contact Jeri Goldstein for permission.