In our Industry Voices series this month we sat down (via Skype) with Kyle Weber, President & Co-Founder of Indie On The Move.com, a hefty online database of music venues, available show slots, press & radio contacts, and festival & conferences all over the U.S. The site’s mission (according to their website) is to forge a collaborative environment and reliable informational resource for independent musicians to book their own U.S. tours - for free.
Touring bands can create a customizable page and submit booking inquiries internally through the site’s emailing system. Artists can also rate venues to assist other bands in finding reliable, worth-while spots to tour. Bands can swap gigs, post available slots in a classifieds section and invite others to help them promote their shows. Music fans can do the same, by creating a profile and adding their favorite venues, post photos and videos from shows they’ve attended, and rate venues from a fan’s perspective.
BOAB: What was your motivation to start Indie on the Move?
IOTM: Initially when we launched it was mostly from my band’s tour notes. I was in a touring band ZelaZowa. We toured independently for about 3 years and we did it all DIY. We had all these notes from places we had played and places people had told us about. One day we were like, “we have all this information, wouldn’t it of been cool to of had this in a database when we were starting out.?” We decided to go through our notes and update all of them and publish it so the community could update it as well and add to it. It took about 10 months or so to launch the site and make it look how we wanted it to.
BOAB: When did the site officially launch?
IOTM: We launched in 2008, but it was more a beta launch, and so that was with around 950 venues and we actually launched the alpha phase in 2011 and we added a bunch of new features and did a facelift of the entire design of the site. We’ve been going with that design for about a year and a half now. Our core feature, the venue database, has grown to about 5600 and that’s constantly being updated and changed, and we’ve easily had 10,000 venues that we’ve removed because they’ve changed or closed.
BOAB: About how many bands every month use IOTM to book their shows or tours?
IOTM: I don’t exactly know how many use it on a monthly basis, but I do know there is an upward of 20,000 bands that are registered on the site. In a given month, we do have about 20,000 unique visitors. That could be bands, labels, promoters, venues, fans, etc. You also don’t need to be logged in to an account to use a lot of the features on the site, so bands or venues may be booking shows without being logged in.
BOAB: Have you found that the venues you work with really utilize the site and come back on a regular basis to book acts?
IOTM: We do have a lot of venues that write in to us and say they want to be a part of the site. It goes both ways. We get a lot of input from a lot of different places.
BOAB: Touring is one of the only ways for bands to make a profit, but touring is expensive and can be extremely difficult without an agent. Can you give us some tips on how independent bands can make a profit from touring?
IOTM: There is actually a page on our site called “Touring Tips” if any band wants to check it out. It ranges from tips for first-time bands going out on tour to ways you can save money to help with booking shows. From my experience in a nut shell, if you’re going to do it DIY, you’ve got to be ready to do a lot of work to book a successful tour. You’ve got to be willing to sacrifice the everyday comforts. First and foremost, you’ve got to get over staying in a hotel every night. You aren’t coming home with any money if you do that.
What I tell bands a lot is find the cities you have friends in. Those are your anchor points. If you have friends in a city, you already have someone to help with promotion and a place to stay. Chances are, if you are staying there you’ll also get some sort of food, drinks and comfort. That will go a long way. If you are able to go to markets that you have friends in at least half of your tour, that is a huge savings.
Some things that my band did a lot-- if you aren’t able to go somewhere with a friend or you want to go to bigger markets, talk to the bands you're playing with. You can coordinate promotional efforts, equipment, and you could ask if they have extra floor space. If they can accomodate it, they’d be more than glad to. If that doesn’t work out and you don’t have many other options, we’ve asked people in the crowd if they could put us up. Usually if we didn’t have anywhere to stay halfway through our set, our singer would usually make an announcement that we were looking for somewhere to stay. Sometimes you go home with a stranger and things get weird, haha. Just be smart about it.
BOAB: Do you think bands should take shows even if they’re not getting paid?
IOTM: I think it depends on what the opportunity is really. There is a venue in New York called the Rockford Music Hall, they pack it out 7 days a week. There is always a huge crowd there and nights are always free. They get tips and they pay out on the tips. That in and of itself would be a great opportunity to play and you aren’t guaranteed anything. Radio events are usually free and you aren’t getting paid for those either.
I’d say it’s not black and white, it’s grey. If you just say “no, we will not” you need to look at the circumstances around it. If you’re offered a show in a bigger market and you have to pay for gas and expenses to get there, but it’s going to be a good opportunity to set up your next show where you might get paid, then I’d say it’s worth it. If it’s a local promoter and you’ve worked with them in the past and you’ve drawn for them really well and they don’t want to pay you, then in those situations I’d say no.
Younger bands especially really need to be open to all opportunities, even if they’re not getting paid.
BOAB: Bands typically flock to major cities, but they can be more expensive and unless you’re playing in a venue that has a walk-in crowd, there is a lot more competition and harder to get people out. What are some smaller cities or towns that have good music scenes you could suggest for bands to hit up?
IOTM: As I’m sure you’ve seen, we have ratings and reviews on the site, so we see it all. Here is a good example -- Canton, OH has the Buzzbin Arts & Music Shop and it’s the number 1 rated venue on our site. The Ultimate Basement in Spinedale, NC has high ratings and Maxine’s in Hot Springs, AR as well. There are some really good spots and my suggestion is to not ignore the smaller markets. Don’t expect to make a ton of money in the larger cities if you’re not bringing a ton of people. Set up your tours so these smaller cities and college towns are your Friday and Saturday night shows unless you have a major market that you can do well in. Smaller towns usually don’t even do weekday shows. On the flip side, major markets have shows every night of the week.
One amazing venue we stumbled upon (which isn’t actually there anymore, but the town obviously is) was in Bistol, TN. Awesome for a couple of reasons: it’s on the border of Virginia and Tennesee, and drinking hours go until 3 a.m in Tennesse. So what do you think everyone did once the bars closed at 1 a.m. in Virginia? They came over to Bristol.
BOAB: Are there any new features you are hoping to add to the site or launching soon?
IOTM: We have some new features we’re adding to the site. We recently launched a mobile responsive site so it’s easier to use on your phone. We’ve been tweaking that to make the profiles more user-friendly. After that, yes we have a lot of really cool stuff we’re working on, but we can’t tell you yet! What I can say is that everything we do is to make the booking process more efficient.
What I like to make people aware of is that we are very hands-on with the site, so if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us and ask. I respond to every email and we try to keep things very human.
Visit Indieonthemove.com for more touring tips, show availabilites, thousands of venue contacts and more.