Piano Numbers Courtesy Flickr User Tisue

The Budget: Making the Numbers Work for Everybody

I previously laid out a rough plan for the tour that I intend to piece together over the coming months. The timeline presented in that post has been pushed back significantly, as I hadn’t anticipated such a lengthy period of “gearing up” before I could really get things rolling. But other than the admittedly far too optimistic timeframe, everything else still stands.

In fact, I’ve since removed scheduling from the equation by securing a flexible rental situation, which allows me to focus on making good connections without the pressure of concrete details. This way I’m able to get a crystal clear picture of who and what I’m working with, so when it comes time to solidify the structure, I can summon those contacts and hopefully lock in most of the dates in one fell swoop.

As for why said contacts should want to participate… Well, for starters, my success depends entirely on your success. The more you benefit, the better I’ve done. The primary goal of this project is to create as many win-win situations as possible for everyone involved. I have a number of ideas for how to make that happen, and I’ll be covering a few of these potential scenarios below.

The first step is figuring out the best ways to align our interests, which will likely be different for each person and place. My initial contact for each show will be the local Transition Network initiative or similar organization in the area, who will be the main “sponsor” should they choose to participate, as the principles behind Transition form the basis of the broader concept I’m seeking to spread.

The Numbers

In a nutshell, the objective is to create an event in each of 100 destinations across all 50 states. I will work primarily with the area’s Transition initiative to pin down a venue and a few local acts, with all parties involved earning compensation, and several other community “helpers” reaping free promotion.

I am charging $300 a show, which I will work out directly with the venue. That includes roughly three hours of covers and an hour of originals to open the evening, then I’ll introduce the bands throughout the night and give shout outs to sponsors and helpers.

Depending on the live music customs of the area, the other acts may want to haggle a set price with the venue, take a cut of the bar sales, charge a cover, pre-sell tickets, or all of the above. The method of compensation is completely at their discretion, and totally separate from my contract with the venue. Whatever proceeds they recover are theirs to distribute as they see fit. I get $300 and a tip jar during my set. They get everything else.

The thing is, everything else could turn out to be a substantial sum if we get creative and work together.

One idea is to have each location start their own crowdfunding campaign months before the event with all money raised divided among the local Transition initiative and musical acts. My one requirement to consider an event “successful” is that every Transition team and act involved takes home at least $300.

For example, if I build a show with a local initiative and book three bands, we may want to set up a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo with a goal of $1,200. Of course, with a whole year in advance to drum up donations, the actual ending pot could grow to be quite a bit larger than $300 a piece. Throughout the duration, I’ll be helping to drive donors there and promote our event, even though it all goes to you.

The beauty of this system is that the more we help each other, the better we all make out. And this cross-promotion can easily be extended beyond those directly involved to benefit all sorts of other organizations and businesses around your community. Other locals that sign on to help “present” the event will be offered the chance to represent themselves and hand out marketing materials at the show.

My only stipulation is that I have final say on the venue and all music acts featured in the lineup. That’s because this project is about more than just money and notoriety. It’s about recognizing venues that consistently support live music and artists with legitimate talents channeled into quality creations.

The Artists

My criteria for choosing the bands is very simple: who makes the best music? I don’t care what they look like or how many fans they have on social media. It all comes down to genuine artistic expression and natural ability. I’m looking for the hidden gems that can help to offer this money-obsessed world a little hope that the music has, in fact, not yet died. I want musicians that make me feel something.

Good curation is practically impossible these days, because everyone has wildly different tastes, and there’s far too much mediocre to sift through. You have to put some kind of game plan and boundaries in place before diving into the musical landscape, or you won’t even know where to begin.

Fortunately, this tour provides a natural limiter in location. I may have to beg every decent band I come across when booking Wyoming, whereas I might have hundreds of the best acts in the country begging me to play when I go to book L.A. It’s not an ideal method of compiling “the best”, but at least it keeps me from rummaging through a bottomless grab bag with no idea what I’m searching for.

If my goal is to gather “the best” of 100 different cities and towns in all 50 states, I imagine it’ll stir up a hearty mix of genres, and probably turn out to be a heady good listen for any well-versed music fan.

Discovering little known artists in lesser known places, and what “good music” is considered to be in those parts, is actually one of the aspects that interests me most about this project. There is no right or wrong in music, only what you were raised up listening to and how your mind has expanded since then.

The Venues

As for the shows, I’m aiming for venues in the capacity range of 50 to 500, preferably with a well established music rep. The spot all the townies point to for live shows. The true blue music venues.

On the other hand, I’m also completely open to interpretation. If my local contacts have different kinds of ideas in mind, I’m all ears and happy to hear about it. As long as it works out for all, it’s a fit for me.

In my initial business plan assessment, the venues were the ones who stood to profit most from these events by a long shot. I’m basically going to be spending months contacting local musicians, media outlets, businesses, nonprofits, family farms and food programs in their area asking if they want to get involved with the event and come promote their goods and services at the show. The whole point is to introduce the community to its hometown artists, entrepreneurs and organizations – and vice versa.

Needless to say, this could wind up drawing a good size crowd. And venues like selling booze.

The reason I’m willing to do all this for $300 is because my view of the situation is longterm: each venue is 1 out of 100, adding up to a year’s pay. And this is a different kind of entrepreneurial venture. I’m not only exploring ways to make money, but also ways to save it, create it, or not need it at all.

The Essentials

I plan to seek out accommodations on CouchSurfing.com or crash with friends in as many destinations as possible. For food, I will contact local farms and food share programs well in advance to reserve a basket of goods for when I come through, and also any farm-to-fork restaurants that source locally.

Ideally, the goal is to eat and sleep entirely on the barter system. In exchange for homegrown shares or meals, I will interview and write about the operation or establishment, promote their services across the internet, invite them to set up an info booth at the show, and even name them a co-sponsor if they want.

This can also work with any other good or service I might require, as long as they’re willing to trade for a stellar review and some free advertising. The essence of this whole project is to encourage support for local business and introduce community-based solutions, so it’s a win-win deal in all directions for me.

I use music to make money. I use writing to barter. I get everything I need, and help out a lot of great folks doing the right kinds of things in the process. Sounds good. I’m in.

If you’re interested in tossing around ideas, hit me up and I’ll be happy to talk it over.


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