Bands touring in Asia, my first experience and how I faced a predicted disaster.
For the last 25 years, I’m attending concerts and festivals, Just love it, could not live without.
Few years back, almost 12 years in fact, I had in mind to set up a small tour for a European band in South East of Asia. Why bringing a band for touring in South East of Asia?
As far as I remember, at that time, concerts were not legion in the region. Well established booking agencies didn’t dare to tour in that region. I could see a certain demand growing for new acts from local promoters and local audiences. Of course I didn’t have any clue about how to set up a tour. I took some info here and there and I thought I was ready. Big mistake. Throughout my numerous travels in the region, I got in touch with some regional organizers (one in Manila, one in Singapore, one in Malaysia and one in Bangkok). I expressed my interest to bring a western band for a couple of gigs. Some of them liked the idea, other were not so keen and prefer to wait for a better opportunity, less risky.
Back home, I start researching some artists or bands that will have an interest for touring in South East of Asia, and finally picked one. The band in question had some success in their own country and in Germany but that was it, their music was extremely niche.
Note: at that time, the underground/indie scene in the South East of Asia was very fragmented, niche and with little exposure when it comes to western artists/bands touring in that region.
I was really confident (or call it stupid) that the tour will be a blast. I studied carefully the route and any logistic aspects but didn’t take into account some major and basic aspects such as:
- Marketing: who will do the promotion, how the promotion will be done ..
- Is there a demand for this type of music or is it very niche?
- Local promoters
- Type of venue?
- How to cover the cost (plane, hotel, ground transportation, food ..)
- Legal aspect (contracts with the artists, contracts with local promoters)
- Visa matters and other government rules
- Set the expectation of the artists
So, let’s dive in and let’s try to understand why this tour was a total catastrophe but also an eye opener.
Understand your market:
I was bringing an unknown band. The demand for such band /music was very niche in the region.
Lesson 1 learned: I should have checked first how was the music market in the SE region, what were the music trends, who are the main actors. Understand your market is a CRUCIAL KEY !
I had no idea of how local promoters will set up their promotion efforts. Well for one of them, his marketing strategy consisted on sending SMS to a big load of contacts and see if some of them will turn in. Another one was just hoping for the best…
The result was chaotic: we got on average 50 people who attend the shows. Well if I’m optimistic here, I would say, it’s not bad for a first time and for an unknown band but once you are going through all the cost, it was clearly a fiasco.
Lesson 2 learned: check how the promotion will be set (who are the media participating if there are any), check the history of the promoters (past shows, success stories, failure).
Relationship with local promoters:
It’s crucial you know with who you are dealing with. You need to cultivate the relationship. Check what were their last few shows they organised. Eventually contact one or two artists who played for them. So at least you can get a rough idea about the level of organisation or challenges that the artists faced. Visit the promoters, meet them on several occasions. In my first experience, while I was ready to depart with the band, I received the news that 2 shows were cancelled (one in KL and one in Bangkok). This is the result of having misjudge local promoters abilities.
Lesson 3 learned: in order to have a successful event, you need to have a good and reliable relationship with the local promoter and a good understanding how they are working. Also the local promoter is always the best person to advise you in terms of best period to tour in the region (you don’t want to have a tour when it’s holidays for instance).
Set the expectation of the artist/bands touring in Asia:
While talking with the artists, be always clear of the type of show you proposed, the type of audience expected, the type of environment they will be playing, also the cost associated with it. Never tell them they will be treated as a superstar and a big audience will be waiting for them. Be as transparent as possible and set their expectation from the start.
Four additional points that you should not forget:
Type of venues: Be familiar with the field. it’s crucial you visit the venue beforehand. Have a clear idea where the band will perform, check the size of the venue, the backstage area, security exit, loading area. Take pictures you can show to the band/artist.
Cost: Painful point but it need to be manage properly. You need to have a good idea of what will be your cost. Some basic math need to be done. Get a clear idea beforehand, discuss with the artists/band/label. Always think of a pessimistic scenario as well. One factor which stay uncertain is: you have no idea how big/small the audience will be.
The ideal scenario is to receive a fix fee from the promoter (I will come back on a later post about that specific aspect) but it’s not always possible.
If the band is unknown, you need to check with them what are the cost they will cover and what are their minimum fee/requirement.
Legal aspect: get a contract between you and the local promoter but also get a clear agreement between you and the artist you represent. Secure yourself first !
Visa matters specially for bands touring in Asia:
Always double check the visa process and also what are the current laws in place for artists touring in South East of Asia. Question to ask: do they need tourist visa or do they need working visa?
Perhaps the most important point:
Be on top of your project ! You own the project, you want to make sure that every aspects is covered and the tour in South East of Asia will take place in a smooth way. Consider having a plan B if ever unpredictable situation occurred. Keep a constant look at the politics situation in that region as it can be very volatile during some period. Be in constant contact with local promoters, evaluate the situation before going on tour, during the tour and debrief once the tour is over.
Touring is never an easy thing, it’s a several months projects that request lot of efforts and time. Perhaps my last recommendation will be before to attempt to tour in Asia, gain some success in your home country and neighbouring countries. But also ask yourself why is it important for you to tour in Asia, what do you want to achieve by doing so.
Finally, keep in mind that it takes a few tours in Asia to be “potentially” noticed. Patience is key !
If you have questions about touring in Asia, don’t hesitate to contact us !