When artists set out to plan a tour, there are challenging decisions that must be made, when it comes to where fans and venues are located, what cities are worth visiting, and how a tour can best be promoted. Here we examine how to gather and harness collected fan data to construct a better tour.
Guest post by Efrain Ochoa and Rossanna Wright of Cayo5
When setting out to plan a tour, artists must find the answers to some tough questions. Where are the fans located? What are the right venues to book? Which cities are worth visiting or re-visiting? What’s the best way to reach real fans and promote upcoming tour dates?
Most professional musicians are already collecting fan data to help with marketing, and that same data can also help plan better tours. Online data can help determine which cities to play, how to reach fans, and ultimately how to sell more tickets.
Great information for tour planning is already out there - social media and music streaming platforms have dashboards that can help artists better understand their fan bases. However, pulling all the numbers together from different platforms can be painfully time-consuming, and the data itself isn’t always squeaky clean and good to use.
At Cayo5, a data-driven touring consultancy, we work with artists to set up successful tour dates in new or forgotten markets, and we’d like to share our some of our findings. Here are 10 tips to make sure the time spent digging through spreadsheets and diagrams is worthwhile.
To plan future tour dates, make music available on streaming services with good data dashboards - and figure out where fans are located.
1) Get access to Pandora AMP, and distribute your music to Pandora. Pandora AMP is a great tool for seeing where listeners are located, in particular the charts in the “Listeners On Your Station” section. This section shows the numbers of fans that selected an artist’s music specifically, as opposed to people who chose another station and that artist’s music happened to play. Unfortunately Pandora is only available in the US, so data from other platforms will be needed to get the whole picture.
2) Get SoundCloud Pro, and make sure all of your music is available on SoundCloud. SoundCloud Pro has a wonderful feature that lets artists see where listeners are located by city. This granularity helps artists see hotspots that might be worth visiting on tour.
3) Get access to Spotify for Artists. Spotify now has some great dashboards showing locations of fans, including international locations. As Spotify adoption grows worldwide, this is an increasingly important platform to watch. Artists can check the top 5 cities from similar artists so they can get an idea if there is a new market for their genre.
Finetune Social Media Data so that marketing efforts are efficient.
4) Look at your social media followers on Twitter and Facebook and weed out the fakes. Data coming from these sites is not always meaningful, since marketers have devised ways to artificially boost follower numbers. One easy way to spot a potentially fake account is to look at the number of followers it has. If the account has zero or very few followers, it’s likely that account is driven by a bot. On the other hand, if it’s a high-visibility account (such as a celebrity or a major brand) with almost as many followers as it is following, one can assume that following an artist may be a number-boosting strategy, and it’s not actually a true fan (unfortunately). Before heading out for tour and investing in ads on these sites, artists should make sure they’re not spending money reaching bots. Any artist can be vulnerable to this kind of marketing tactic, including high-profile artists such as Taylor Swift, and Justin Bieber.
5) Use social media analytics to find out locations of fans, to determine cities to visit on tour. City-level information is more valuable than country-level information in most cases. Unless a country has just one major music market, artists will need to know which specific cities to target. Facebook’s analytics dashboard provides city-level location. Twitter does not, however there are services that can provide this information from Twitter, such as TweepsMap.
Keep track of interactions with fans on the web and while on tour.
6) Keep a record of previous tour dates, ticket sales, prices of tickets, and percentage of capacity sold per venue. This will help forecast future sales in existing and new markets and find new venues to play. Sold-out dates, in particular, can help determine where a bigger venue may have been booked and should be booked next time.
Case Study: Garbage on Tour in Mexico City
Sold out shows lead to larger venues on subsequent visits:
7) Work with your fan club, and ask members what city they’re from. This information could help unearth new markets, or corroborate location data from other platforms, such as Facebook and SoundCloud. Finding top city data on social media only tells a part of the story. However, members of a fan club have taken an extra step to actually join a fan club (in some cases, they even pay for a membership). Cross-referencing top city charts across different platforms gives a richer understanding of where fans are actually based, and where there is likely high demand for a live show. For example, if Dallas is found as a top city in SoundCloud and Facebook, and it’s also the top city in the fan club, then that’s pretty strong evidence that there is a solid fanbase there.
8) Look into online merch sales to find out where buyers are located, where orders are going. Use this information to find out which cities have clusters of die-hard fans that are paying money for the artist’s merch outside of shows, and might be in a new city where the artist hasn’t played yet.
Use Social Media as a branding tool to build loyalty amongst fans, so that when there is something to announce (like tour dates) there will be a direct channel.
9) To build an online following, carefully curate content to reflect your artistic image. Be careful not to clutter timelines with too many irrelevant personal posts or promotional offers. Instead, share stories from the road, or images that resonate with the music. Follow the Social Media Rule of Thirds: one third of the posts should be dedicated to promoting music, merch, and tour dates, one third should give fans some insights into your artist life and creative process, and the remaining third should be reserved for interacting with fans. Which brings us to point 10, below!
10) Interact with fans. As much as possible, interact with fans and give them a reason to come back and visit social media sites often. In case this is too labor-intensive consider hiring outside help in the form of a community manager. Here’s a great example of the band Garbage engaging their fans by sharing fan art:
Building the online fanbase is critical to collecting great data. Following these tips can build a stronger fan community online, which in turn can help determine which cities to visit on an upcoming tour. The larger the fanbase, the stronger the data set.