Ballroom Dancing

SXSW panels

Ballroom Dancing
Photo By Gary Miller

Get on the Road. Stay There.

Austin Convention Center, Wednesday, March 15

As the economics of recorded music are rewritten by file-sharing, touring is becoming an increasingly critical revenue stream for artists at all levels. Wednesday's panel provided both aphorisms and real-life tips for the road-hungry. Step one is accepting the enduring reality that you're only worth what you draw. "We're forced to take almost no risk," noted Joe Rinaldi, talent buyer for L.A.'s Viper Room. But if the whims of the marketplace remain uncontrollable, you can still rock smarter with advance preparation. "It's not fun," said Roughneck Music's Marie Arsenault, "but if you're going to put all that money into getting out on the road, put the time into getting people to your shows." The Internet makes finding appropriate venues, booking shows, long-distance promotion, and networking much easier than it used to be. "We went on tour without cell phones," quipped Susanne Dawursk of Chicago's Flower Booking. "It's amazing I'm still alive!" By contrast, door takes haven't exactly kept up with rising fuel prices. Budding singer-songwriters can tour solo, an option endorsed by ComboPlate Booking's Laura Thomas. Meanwhile, a band might consider renting out their van when they're not touring. Having contingency plans for adversity doesn't hurt, either. Theft, accidents, and breakdowns don't happen to everyone, but as Rinaldi put it, "If you're doing 300 dates, you're playing a law of averages game."

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