How Taking Everybody On Tour Via Social Media Changed Josh Urban’s Approach To Music

Josh-urban-rail-tourRecently Josh Urban went on a musical tour by train stopping in a series of cities to play on the street. He amplified the tour via social media including use of the hashtag #JURT on social media sites, for Josh Urban Rail Tour, and live broadcasts via Google+ Hangouts. I talked to him after his tour to find out what he learned and what he plans to do differently next time.

When I initially posted about the Josh Urban Rail Tour, I mentioned that his plan to document the trip via multiple services and sites needed a unifying web presence. Urban posted a handful of updates on a tour blog that includes the below video. He also used a variety of social media sites including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Next time he'd like to have a website and possibly a mobile app that brings all the different streams together.

Josh Urban Rail Tour: Mid-tour Song Update

Urban used the #JURT hashtag as a way not just to identify social media posts about the trip but to encourage others to post photos, stories and other content to Twitter, Instagram and Google+. The overall theme was a bit vague but the idea is that by sharing their own stories and photos "everyone can go on tour" with Josh Urban. Though he got a positive response he wants to make the instructions clearer and more accessible next time around.

Urban took the train to six cities where he played on the street. He researched local busker ordinances beforehand since each city is different:

Charlottesville, VA

Charlotte, NC

Richmond, VA

Alexandria, VA


New York City

Urban found that his outsized vocal presence and upbeat energy allowed him to stick out on the street in every town but New York City where he had to up his game to compete with other street performers and marketers. He also set up his mobile phone to broadcast his performances live via Google+ Hangouts and felt that was a really successful element of the tour.

In at least one location street traffic was fairly sparse and broadcasting live gave him an audience with which to interact even when there was nobody nearby. Next time he wants to do more face to face encounters with people via Google+ Hangouts. In fact, the experience inspired him to do more in the future with live broadcasts even when he's off the road.

Urban was most surprised by the response on Instagram. For example, in New York a woman took his pic while playing. He gave her a business card with the hashtag and she posted it on Instagram almost immediately. Next time he wants to do more with Instagram since it seemed to have a wider reach than Twitter.

Overall Urban said the Josh Urban Rail Tour was a really positive experience. He found that both individuals and the media responded well to the concept and to stories about what he was doing. So he's hoping to do another one next year.

He said the experience changed the way he's looking at all his musical activities. He wants to focus more on creative and out of the box solutions to being a musician. Rather than worrying about low cd sales and piracy, he wants to emphasize creative ways of moving forward and honest conversations with the people he encounters. He found that people really enjoyed being included and so he wants to create even more conversational elements.

He also liked the train being an important theme of the tour because he really digs trains. That element has inspired him to find other ways to bring in additional themes that connect his interests with others.

Urban's working on both an EP and a book inspired by the tour. The EP will be based on songs reacting to things he saw and ideas he had while on tour rather than descriptions of what happened. The book will be more focused on stories from the tour but also include such reflections.

To keep up with news about the EP, book and Spring tour you can connect with Josh Urban via Facebook, his website or Twitter.

Note: I also wrote about Jack Kennedy's NightBus Radio tour and you can hear more about his experience en route from an interview by Brenna Ehrlich.

Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (Twitter/App.net) blogs about music crowdfunding at Crowdfunding For Musicians (@CrowdfundingM). To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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