Once you’re on the road you’ll run into countless obstacles, from setting an effective promo schedule to keeping your sanity after endless days on the road. Annie Flook, Head of Touring Marketing and Artist Development at Elektra Music Group, has spent years helping artists understand the trials and tribulations of the open road. At a recent Co.Lab event in New York, we talked to Flook about the importance of staying healthy, not biting off more than you can chew, and why you should build your tour one step at a time.
Spotify for Artists: How have touring and artist development evolved since you started in the industry? How has your job and role changed?
Annie Flook: More than ever, artists are looking to live shows as where you build a dedicated fanbase and see a true return on investment. Streaming has tripled traditional sales and downloads as the main source of revenue from the consumption of music and it’s fantastic to see what artists can generate from those platforms. Yet it doesn’t compare to how much can be made in the touring space. This past year, Foo Fighters brought in similar revenue numbers to Drake, who was the biggest streaming artist in the world this past year, because they toured extensively. Now more than ever, the goal is to get your music heard in order to drive other revenue sources, whether that be touring or even brand partnerships and sync licensing. Artist development, at least at Atlantic, is now about helping to turn a fan who might stream your music on Spotify into a ticket buyer.
What’s the first thing you tell artists that may be new to a touring schedule when you start working with them?
Don’t exhaust yourself. Many artists have no idea how intense the promo schedule can get when they first start out. If you are actively promoting yourself on the road, it’s not just about the show each night. You might be asked to perform additional sets during the day for radio stations, fill in off days with local or national TV performances, participate in nightly meet and greets, play soundcheck parties, wake up at the crack of dawn for morning radio shows, or even perform after-show DJ sets. Depending on what level you are at, the list could go on and on. It always takes a minute to figure out what the right balance is but it’s important for artists to surround themselves with a team both on and off the road that will help take some of the pressures of touring and promo off their shoulders so they can focus solely on being creative and putting all their energy into their craft.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started working with touring artists?
I’ve always been sensitive to trying to work within the boundaries of a certain artist’s capacity to do promo, but I did have one experience working with an artist that truly drove home how important it is to make self care and mental health a priority above all else. Whether or not you have a team built around you, I have started to recommend that artists get in touch early on with MusiCares who will provide mental health resources to artists that might not otherwise be able to afford or know where to find help. Being in this industry is exhausting whether you are a touring performer or someone who works more behind the scenes, and it’s important for everyone to know their boundaries and stay healthy.
What’s one tip or piece of advice you have for artists going on tour, whether it’s their first or 10th time around the block?
If you keep touring to the same 10-15 markets, eventually you are going to have a diminishing rate of return. More than ever, artists and their teams need to be extremely mindful of market selection and timing if the goal is to stay on the road and continue to build. It’s incredibly hard to scale down once you’ve built out big production for larger rooms in major cities or jump into touring in a bus on a major market tour when you might only be worth a few hundred tickets in some of the smaller markets. The key is to build as consistently as possible across cities like Chicago and NYC and smaller markets like Kansas City or Indianapolis. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t take next steps in production and touring levels, or take calculated risks in planning for the next touring cycle. Again, it’s much harder to scale down than it is to scale up so the idea is to be strategic about when and how to take the next step. These moves are what ultimately will separate artists who have built sustainable touring careers regardless of the release of new music vs. those that can only tour off big hits or the support of radio airplay.
—Spotify for Artists