Today it’s easier than ever to get your music out there and in front of potential audiences all over the world. But there’s still no substitute for being there in the flesh, playing live for fans at a packed venue.
For new artists considering taking the plunge, when’s the right time to grapple with overseas touring, where can you find the right support and what should you consider before you set off?
We were at The Great Escape’s Export Conference: Breaking Out Beyond Brexit strand to learn from the experts on how to navigate the tricky world of international gigging.
The session, which was moderated by Wicksteed Works’ Jessie Scoullar, gathered LoneLady manager Sam Smith (Fairsound Management), ATC’s Phil Middleton (who looks after Temperance Movement) and David Manders, manager of Public Service Broadcasting and Flamingods.
Here are the highlights…
Don’t say yes to everything
Sam: The strength of the LoneLady campaign was saying no to certain things and making sure we really investigated the venues, promoters and audiences in each country. Don’t jump on everything that comes your way. You might get offered four dates in Spain but that could cost you £5,000. Ask yourself, ‘Would that money be better spent on a new video that would have more impact in every territory?’
Phil: You’re ultimately managing a small business, so timing is really important. Don’t invest in overseas shows at the wrong time in your career, or you’ll waste your money. You can get through £100,000 very easily and only make £5,000 back – and then you’re taking three steps backwards.
Build an overseas team
David: Phone friends for help in the territories you’re interested in. Ask people who they use in the countries you’re targeting and get on the phone to them. Seek advice: it’s a lot of trial and error to get the right teams on the ground. You need to find people who are a good fit for the artist and get what you’re trying to do.
Fly in, fly out
Sam: Playing overseas requires careful planning, budgeting and balancing. It’s really exhausting and time consuming to go off to Europe. You don’t necessarily need to get in your van and do 15 dates in a row. You can pick off one or two territories and come back. Fly in and fly out. Make sure you’re asking your agent lots and lots of questions and making sure it’s worth spending your time, money and energy doing it.
Digital has completely changed the way you approach international touring
Sam: These days, when you put a record out everyone around the world knows about it at the same time. So, if you’re going into a territory five or six months after your album is out, the interest might still be there but it’s very difficult for local journalists to show their support because of all the other new records which are out that week. Bear that situation in mind.
Performance royalties make a massive difference
Phil: PRS for Music royalties from international shows kept Temperance Movement going for two years. So make sure you let PRS for Music know where, when and what you’re playing on your international tour.
Embrace the funding application process
Phil: In these uncertain, post-Brexit times, things are going to get harder and harder for UK artists in Europe. Funding support is going to become increasingly crucial. Seek out suitable schemes, know exactly what it is you’re asking for and put a business plan together. Embrace the funding process, because it will help you formulate the plan you will go on to enact in the real world.
Build interest before you go
Sam: Liaise closely with your local teams in each country, and give them promo, a story to work with. You need to build up interest before you go. That’s completely necessary, or your visit will be a drop in the ocean.
Are you sure you’re ready?
Sam: Think about what you’re giving up in the UK to go overseas. Really consider if you’re ready for it. There are a lot of things to do as an artist today, and you need to make sure that every show you perform, in the UK or overseas, is the best you can possibly do.
David: Every time you’re away, you’re taking time out from creating – and without that, there’s nothing.
Ask and you might get
Sam: Ask promoters for hotels, backline, transportation – all those things that really add up and push the costs through the roof. It’s really exciting when you get those offers, especially as a new artist, but make sure you’re getting the most out of it you possibly can.
There’s no quick fix for international success
David: When tackling international touring and music export, there really is no quick fix. You have to be committed long term. It’s about trying to develop something over five or 10 years. It’s a lot of hard work and you can’t spread yourself too thin. You have to pick your markets carefully and go there at the right time.