I just did a swing of shows in New England with MC Observa and Coach K. While I was up there, the homie, DLabrie, out of Oakland had just finished doing a couple of shows in the area, and wanted to hop on some of our dates. Naturally, we made it happen. Crazily, our first show was randomly with another “tour” friend, Lejend, and his fiance, B-Marie out of Dallas.
After the show, we all crashed at my hotel room. I know cats are thinking, “Damn, y'all had all of those people in one hotel room?” The correct answer is yes, but there’s levels to it. The first level is that I upgraded my room to a two bedroom suite, and Observa canceled her room once I realized everyone was going to be crashing with me anyway. Second level is that when you’re touring, you have to save money anyway you can. If that means someone is sleeping on the floor, then that’s what it means.
At some point in wee hours of the morning, we started to reminisce and tell old tour stories. After all, I’ve been playing shows with Dlabrie since 2006; which means, we have a lot of fucking tales, and we love to debate about the them because we obviously have conflicting accounts.
One particular time though, we agreed on what happened, but we disagreed with the method. It was on one of the “Bring Your ‘A’ Game Tours,” a series I ran from 2005 to 2010. We played a couple of shows in Texas with a hip hop legend that will remain nameless.
After the Austin show, the legend walked up to my merch table, told me I was dope, and grabbed a CD. I said, “Hey bro, great show. That’ll be $10.” He put the CD down, said thanks, and moved on. DLabrie felt like I might’ve come off a little disrespectful in my delivery. Which in hindsight, maybe it was possible that how I said it was a little raw. In all fairness though, I was thrown the fuck off by dude just assuming that I setup and sat at this merch table just to give it away.
DLabrie also believed that I should have just given him a CD, because the cosign on social media could’ve meant much more than $10. I totally disagreed with that thinking. As a rule, I don’t give away merchandise at my shows. Why, you ask? Well, there are a lot, but here’s my top 6:
The exceptions to this rule are:
These are some of the rules that have allowed me to have a 17+ year career as a touring indie music artist. There are folks that have been in the business as long as I have that have a different approach that works for them, like DLabrie. Ultimately, you have to figure out what is best for you and your family. The only advice I would give when doing that is to think about your goals, the mind of your target fan base or buyer, and your annual bottom line.
This was a Public Service Announcement.
A couple of weeks ago I played a show to 7 people...yep, 7 people. Let me rewind a little. I have a tour series called “The Just Bust Tour." What we do is book shows all over with local, regional, and national talent. The purpose is to get independent music in front of crowds that would love it, and present it to them in the right way, as a show with great performances, DJ’s spinning, and dancers (coming soon).
On most occasions, I book 3 shows, then come home and insert myself back into husbandry, fatherhood, and mindless employment. This time, however, there was a little hiccup in the plans. One show fell through, and the other was cancelled. With three weeks to go, that left just the final show, which was 9 hours away. Driving that far for one show was possible, but tough. Very tough. So what would be the logical thing to do?
Right off the bat, one would think to try to reschedule the show; however, with not much time left, it would be pretty hard for the venue and promoter to find another act to book in time. This could have several negative consequences. The most critical of which being that we wouldn’t get a show through that promoter or venue in that city again.
Also, I’d already spent money on flyers and posters. Besides, we’ve played this particular place on more than one occasion, and averaged between 70 to 100 people a show. So there was no reason to think it would be different; however, it was. By the time of the show, which was around midnight, there were 7 paying people who'd come through the door.
Now, I could’ve pulled the “ungrateful artist” role that many indies tend to use as their default and argue with the promoters and ask them now useless questions like:
I chose not to, though. Instead, I stayed smiling and professional, conducting myself the same as if the spot was packed to capacity. Went on stage, rocked our set, and thanked everyone for coming to see us. The promoters came to apologize for the turn out. I told them, “It’s cool, you win some and lose some. We’ll both make sure that it’s a better a show next time." The owner of the spot then came up to me, and said, “I don’t know why the crowd was so thin tonight. I’m sorry. You guys were awesome as usual." Then he gave me money from the bar’s cash register to help cover our expenses, even though we were supposed to have just gotten a cut of the door. That covered our gas up to the show and back home. If I would have acted an ass, I would've walked away with a loss.
The moral of the story is that the professional artist always trumps the asinine artist in the long term.
Quanstar is an American underground hip hop artist, indie filmmaker, comic creator, and self published author from Atlanta.