The Importance of Live Performances and Touring in Music

When you talk about revenue streams in the music industry, without a doubt, the biggest source of revenue for the majority of major artists these days is live performances and touring. Live performances and touring, if you think about it compared to traditional spins or record sales, for example, maybe you sell a million records. Then maybe it takes a year to sell a million records. Or maybe you get a million spins, but it takes 10 months, or 11 months, or 12 months to reach those kinds of numbers. An artist who is getting that level of sales and performance royalties most likely is able to sell out Madison Square Garden. An artist will make more in one night in Madison Square Garden than they will in the first six months of releasing a song. So every big artist realizes that the music is the business card that gets you in the door to touring and really generating that income. Because, at the end of the day, an artist will end up making more money in one month of good strong touring than they will in a year of spins and performances on the radio and likewise. That’s a good bit of music education to be aware of. The best advice I could give to any aspiring artist is to make your live show fantastic, and the way you make a live show fantastic is to simply play live. There’s no secret. That’s how you do it. The old adage in the music industry is a band who plays 100 shows live is a completely different band from the one who plays their first show. A lot of times when big artists tour, you’ll find that the first couple of weeks of the tour, they’re in playing secondary or tertiary markets. You might wonder something along the lines of why Rihanna is in West Palm Beach and San Antonio as opposed to New York, Dallas, Boston, Los Angeles, or any other major media mecca center. It’s because artists always want to gather some steam, get the machine running smoothly, get the kinks out of a show, and really make it run well. And in today’s shows, that’s no small feat. Don’t neglect the importance of this as you continue your online music education. Between the pyrotechnics, the sound, the lighting, the staging, and all the things that go on, it’s really important that all pistons are firing at the same time to make the show great. Now, I understand that you guys aren’t all going to be selling out Madison Square Garden like Drake. You need to make your live show compelling on the club level. It doesn’t matter if there are five people there, 50 people there, or 500 people there. You have to make it kill. That means you rehearse. That means you build your following. That means you slowly build your audience outside the epicenter of your home base. If you’re a New York-based band, you shouldn’t overplay in New York. You play a show in Brooklyn, maybe a show in Manhattan. Take a little break. Do you play a show in Westchester? Yes. Maybe try and hit Philly. Maybe you go into Hartford. Maybe you go into Boston. Slowly build your center out. That’s how you build a fan base. This is a great story that I love to tell. A friend of mine was a manager in Chicago for many years. He was a very big manager and managed a lot of really great acts. Artists would call him all the time in Chicago and say, “Hey, we’re looking for a manager.” And he would say, “Can you sell out the Metro?” For those of you who don’t know, the Metro is a historic club in Chicago. Every great artist has come through the Metro. It doesn’t matter if you’re the Smashing Pumpkins or Kanye. It’s about a 900-capacity room and very famous. Every great artist who’s come through Chicago has sold out the Metro. More often than not, the artists say, “Well, no, I can’t sell out the Metro. I can sell like 300 tickets.” And he would say, “Well, when you sell out the Metro, give me a call again.” All this to say you’re not going to be the biggest band in the world if you’re not the biggest band in your hometown. So build your fan base locally. Build those fans, the real fans that are going to stick with you through thick and thin before you try to take over the world. Everybody starts with 1,000 real fans and builds up from there, and you need to do the exact same thing. Get critical feedback about your show. Make sure your show is great, and when you play, make sure it’s an event. If you overplay, nobody’s going to want to see you anymore. That’s going to have a long-term effect on how you’re going to make a significant amount of money in the music industry if you’re a performer. And if you’re a manager, that’s also how you’re going to make commission.

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