So you want to perform overseas? Let’s talk about Europe. It has its own challenges and definitely has rewards.
Being the wayward troubadour that I am (also the name of my new album) brings about it’s own pains and pleasures. As 2017 came to a close, I spent 10 weeks on the road with five days at home. The last four of the weeks were in Europe. We logged eight countries and 2900 miles in a rental car. This was the fourth tour Amy and I have done in Europe so I wanted to share a thing or two of what we have learned and how we make it work.
We generally leave the band at home and do these shows as a duo, a fairly stripped down duo. This format has been a well-received approach and helps us cut costs and hurdles of traveling with a full band in Europe. This also allows us to go – if we waited to take everyone, it just wouldn’t happen.
I am often asked how touring Europe came about and how we put each trip together. The short answer is: a few lucky breaks; relationships; ability to flow; desire to experience somewhere different; and of course, hard work. Look familiar? It is pretty much the same list for stateside. Let’s go through each.
I work hard to create lucky breaks but they are lucky all the same. I find you cannot count on them but take full advantage of them when they come your way. About seven years ago I had a tune of mine, “No Fishin’ Pole,” picked up by Universal Records France for a Country compilation CD alongside a bunch of the big names. URF promoted it well, and it sold well. While this was a break in and of itself, it did not make my phone ring with performance offers. Next, that same song went to Number One on a European Country Music chart. The phone still wasn’t ringing off the hook. The lucky break was that this gave me the chance to try and open a new market with something to talk about.
Having a few in-roads open up gave me the chance to build relationships with radio DJs and press. Radio DJs in Europe are different than DJs the States in that they are interested in Indie Music and truly do choose what they play. They like to meet the artists and if you make the effort, they will remember you. My first year over there we played some shows but did a long radio tour through the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France. Yes, this was expensive but it laid the ground work for subsequent tours. One thing that helped was setting up interviews with European DJs, the press and promotions when they come to Nashville for Country music events. It is much less expensive to go to Nashville when they are there. I take any opportunity I can to meet with them in the States at events. My publicist was instrumental in setting these up.
Ability To Flow
You must be able to flow with the changes that will inevitably occur. A smile and positive attitude go a long way wherever you are. If you are operating on an Indie level you need to be able to wear all the hats: Drive the car, roadie, collect the money (in the correct currency), negotiate the dates, smile, sell the merch and figure out how to get from A to B with limited language. Don’t buy into the myth that everybody knows English. Many do but most do not, English is not their language.
Minimize your troubles with good contracts and a clear delineation of who is responsible for what. Occasionally you will make mistakes with language, misinterpret instructions and find yourself scrambling to get back on track. This is normal, allow plenty of time and learn to appreciate the detour. Bringing merchandise into countries varies considerably. Check out ahead who requires what and plan your tour accordingly. Paying duty to import your merch that may, or may not, sell will seriously hurt your bottom line.
Desire To Explore
A huge part of making an overseas tour successful is the pleasure you derive from traveling abroad. For me, this is a big pay off. I enjoy traveling and having my comfort level and language skills stretched. The opportunity to meet new friends and fans by sharing your music in a foreign country is a ball. Being part of a bigger world music community while being the foreigner is a unique opportunity. It makes me a better songwriter and hopefully a better human.
Hard work is a familiar theme in your Indie musical career. Identify what goals you have as an artist. If being able to perform overseas in places like Europe is among them, then work toward creating your breaks and fostering relationships. Think about who you already know and how they may be able to help you achieve your goals; whether it’s an address to ship merch to ahead, a friend with instruments you can rent or borrow so you don’t have to fly with them; friends or family you can crash with between gigs. You’ll get there. The experience and stories are well worth it and will last a lifetime.
In upcoming articles I will go more in depth into bringing your equipment vs. renting gear, bringing merch, hiring a band to back you vs. bringing your own. There are several ways to approach touring internationally and you need to research them and see what works best for you.
We will have a booth in the exhibit hall at Folk Alliance (#605) this February. If you are there, stop by and say hello! Until the next article or stop on the road – Happy Trails!