[4 Min Read]
I wanted this year to be one of experimentation and risk-taking, and I'm interested in whether you'd like to join me in that pursuit?
A week ago, I announced new a new string of tour dates that I needed help booking in and around Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana, but I made it known that I'd accept offers from anywhere in or outside of the country for future opportunities. I've gotten a lot of feedback since then, and I'm still looking for help, here.
To a certain degree, I've always crowdsourced tours. That's sort of what independent, touring artists or musicians have to do without booking agencies and managerial backing. Sure, over the years, I've built relationships with a few go-to people around the country who have always been down to help, but since the majority of them are regular ol' people - great people, but not vocational promoters - they're often not in the same place, or available with the same resources, once you come through next time around. Life keeps moving, of course. So, you put yourself out there again, and again, and again, often something that feels, in a way, like starting from scratch each time.
When I used to book my friends' bands in the hardcore scene, I'd put our routing together and post it online the same way I did last week on my own website. I found it helpful, of course, but their labels didn't like it, or their managers didn't like it. I often found myself in trouble for a lack of professionalism regarding the way I'd represented their artists.
For years, that mentality left me second-guessing how I was representing myself as an artist, and so I compounded what may already be the worst job in the entire world - booking - with booking like a professional, which looked like sending shot-in-the-dark emails to whatever bar or venue or church I could find along my route, hoping someone would want to pick up a poet and pay me what I needed for the date. And really - ask yourself - what rando at a dive bar wants to blow a show on a poet - a poet - he's never heard of?
Of course, you can only get so far that way, and I'd always end up posting "need help" updates, regardless, for empty holes that needed filling. As the years have gone by, more people have been interested in LTP, and I'm grateful for that, but much of the process can remain the same, and I'd be willing to bet that there comes a point in every artist's life, whether or not it is admitted to, where that feels like a sign of defeat.
Recently, though, an idea has been festering in my brain.
I mean, sure, somewhere there are some rules, and I'd be more than happy to abide by them if a solid booking agent wants to pick me up, but until then, as an independent entrepreneur - if you will - can I not create my own standard of professionalism that looks like engaging audiences and inviting them into the process? I think that recognizing my art as entertainment rather than necessity can lead me to self-inflicted guilt trips about the what-ifs of "imposing upon an obligated audience" - as if people don't simply have the freedom to say "no." But why beat yourself up about asking for help when there are people who want to give it?
I've watched more and more artists explore this type of touring over the years - not the least of which: David Bazan and the Undertow roster. They list their desired dates and routing, handle all of the financial end electronically, and - in essence - crowdsource their venues. Granted, LTP is a smaller project than the artists on their roster, but though I genuinely desire opportunities to grow my audience, I also genuinely enjoy the intimacy of smaller events with the audience I do have. Booking this way, so long as I am without a manager, seems like a cool opportunity to connect with the people interested in my art, and also (ideally) provides a way to have more creative control over the experiences attendees will enjoy so that the next time I come through, they'll know they're getting a quality evening.
Many people regularly ask me about how to tour. The fact is, seven years into it, I'm still learning, too, but I thought this might be a helpful thought to articulate for your consideration as I continue to shape the rest of my year. Since posting about the DONT SINK tour last week, the March dates will likely expand to include Missouri, and I've received probably two-weeks worth of offers elsewhere to utilize for future chapters of the tour.
It's actually amazing.
If you find yourself reading this as one of those potential hosts who submitted information, let me thank you. If you read this and would like to join the list of people interested in hosting a future Levi The Poet show, please check out our tour details and use the form to include yourself! I'm still looking for hosts March so that we can complete the calendar.
I'm certainly not opposed to finally handing booking responsibilities over into more capable hands, and I'd love someone who is in a position to create opportunities for Levi The Poet and the growth of the project to take over where I often hit a ceiling. However, in the meantime, I am not ashamed of these shows or crowdsourcing them, or of experimenting with different ideas, and I've come to the conclusion that if I can help teach and/or spur others on along the way by openly dialoguing about the process, I'd like to. I know I always enjoy it when the people who I am motivated or intrigued by do the same.
Alright, that's all from me for now. Now back to the process of actually booking the tours I'm working on with those of you want to host them!
If you enjoyed this article, found it helpful, or if you have other ideas or suggestions for me, please let me know on Twitter @levithepoet.
If you want to actually hop into the process and inquire about hosting a date - this March or at some future time - check out what we've got coming up and submit your information, or forward the info along to a friend if you think you've got one who might want to do the same.