Monday, 2 May 2011

How to Plan and Organise a Successful UK Jazz Tour - Lessons Learnt

Thought I'd share some of the lessons I learned from my recent UK tour.  Hopefully you'll get some tips from the things I did in the right way and avoid my mistakes!

CD Sales - Sales were definitely down compared to previous tours.  I did notice an increase in digital sales which was probably also due to the tour publicity but sadly with Spotify and Rhapsody sales which can sometimes amount to less that 1p per track this wasn't exactly a money spinner!  There was also the fact that the CD I was selling was my previous Licorice Kiss album - I did a couple of songs from this album on the tour but the majority was new material not yet recorded.  In hindsight, maybe it's better to tour with a relevant album because with the lack of music stores, sales of albums at gigs are an important revenue stream.

Radio - I was extremely pleased with the level of response I had from radio stations, especially BBC Local radio.  I did 5 interviews in total which is more than I've had from any of my previous tours.  Yay!  All of these I got by sending emails with my press release 3 months before my tour.  Probably also worth following up again just before the tour starts.

Press - Also got some great press which included Jazzwise, Jazz UK and some local newspapers too.  One of the interviews I did (Crawley Observer) wasn't printed which was a disappointment and interestingly that gig was the worst attended.  I wonder if there's a correlation..?  I was also disappointed that there were no reviews but it's so difficult to get journalists to come out to a gig if you're not one of the hot "flavour of the month" musicians/bands or a very established name.  I am neither! 

Finances - In retrospect I don't think I should have had so many door deals because this put a real pressure on my finances and caused me a lot of stress.  Added to this, even with sold out gigs, the door deals were so bad that despite maximum attendance, I still came away with less than £300 for the band.  In future, if there is a door deal, I will make sure that the percentages work out so that the potential revenue makes doing the gig worthwhile.   You need to take account of hidden costs too like money the venue charges for publicity, PRS and VAT!  I didn't make any money on the tour in the end but at least I didn't make a loss which I know many bandleaders have experienced recently as it is only fair to pay the band properly whether you make any money on the gig or not.  It has to be said though, if I hadn't had a bit of help from Jazz Services, I would definitely have made a loss.

Musicians - I'm very lucky to work with some excellent musicians.  It's important to be flexible though because sometimes musicians get offered lucrative tours and are unavailable or there may be unexpected events that means you need to find a dep with very short notice.  Both of these things happened to me but fortunately there were some great replacements and it all went very smoothly.  Definitely important to have a "B list" of musicians on each instrument so that you have someone (who knows your music) to call if your band member is unavailable.

Summary - On the whole, I was very pleased with the tour and extremely grateful for the financial support I received from Jazz Services.  Several sold out gigs and full houses and quite a bit of publicity which all helps with raising the profile.  Now I'm looking forward to taking some time out to write some new songs and also to work on some new projects.  Will keep you posted!

Please feel free to comment or ask questions below and I will help if I can.


  1. ESTHER BENNETT11 May 2011 at 11:52

    thanks Juliet
    this was a really useful read
    Esther Bennett

  2. Nice post, Juliet! I did a giant travel tips on my blog a couple of years ago. You might find useful. Health tips, what to pack, CDs, even bag type (4 wheels, darling!). CD sales in this age of being able to download individual songs, don't beat yourself up about. I have noticed that with everyone. I was trying to sell someone else's CDs on her gig one night at the 55. She was a wonderful singer and crowd totally into her but I only sold one of her CDs (to me!). When I asked the people about this strange phenomenon they all said iTunes was how they bought music nowadays. But I have to say I really MISS physical stores for browsing -- and buying. Judging by how packed Princeton Record Exchange is (several hours driving from NYC and worth it!), so do a lot of people.

  3. Thanks Tessa. Look forward to checking out your travel tips. No, I'm not really beating myself up about the lack of physical album sales but though it might be worth pointing out to others anyway. It's nice to know we're not alone! (At least I hope I'm not the only one with boxes of CDs cluttering my flat...) Yes, I think you're right about people still loving physical CDs and even (shock! horror!) vinyl is most definitely still loved by many.


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