Christian Coffey on Going Where Your Fans Are
This expert tour director shares advice for planning to tour.
There's a lot that goes into bringing a tour to life. No one knows this better than Christian Coffey, veteran tour director for acts like Childish Gambino and Run The Jewels. For our Co.Lab series, we brought Christian back to talk to us about how your audience plays into deciding when and where to tour, and how to build a fan base that will support your artistic vision once you’re ready to bring it on the road and to the stage.
Spotify for Artists: How does an artist know when they’re ready to go on tour?
Christian Coffey: First, an artist should never go on tour just to say they’ve been on tour. That's the quickest way to lose a lot of money and gain a lot of frustration. If you can’t pull 200-300 people in your own hometown or city, you probably don’t need to be going on major tour. But maybe you’re able to look at your Spotify data and know that you could in New York. That’s when you know it may be time to get on the road. And with the internet and access to data, it’s easier than ever to figure out in what cities your sound is in demand. Use that to your advantage when making the call to tour or not.
When taking an artist on the road, in what ways do you consider the artist’s audience?
Realistically, you're only going to go where you already have an audience. So when deciding where to tour, I’m looking at metrics and past sales data to determine where there is a demand for an artist to perform. However, when touring where an artist hasn’t before, I may look at radio airplay or streams to determine the best new markets to grow into.
How does bringing an artist’s vision to life on stage vary based on their audience?
We’re not specifically creating a show based on what an audience wants to see. When touring, my role is to bring to life the artist’s vision, and hope that his fans are open and receptive to whatever they want to bring to the stage. My creative decisions are influenced by how the artist sees fit, and if their audience are true fans, they’ll usually also be fans of the show.
Working with artists from Childish Gambino to Miike Snow, you experience very different audiences. What's the one thing you've learned from working with them?
I’ve learned that there is no one audience, no one way, and no one experience. Each artist is going to have a different vision and creative direction. I still know each act is probably going to have a band and some type of LED light component, and/or video aspect, so there are core principles within each production, but it’s all about utilizing them in different ways that work for the artist.
How would you say the rise of social media has shifted the way artists and audiences engage on tour?
When on the road, it can be great that you have direct access to fans, but also be horrible that fans have direct access to you. Realistically, one of the most negative spaces in today's world is the comments section, which can really throw an artist off, especially during tour. Artists just have to learn to shake off those moments or not read anything at all and just keep moving. It’s great when direct access to your audience can fuel your fire and push you to keep going.
What is your one key piece of advice to artists about finding and/or building their audience?
Connection. You can't fake it and audiences will sniff it out if you try. Always be true to who you are, and don’t try to be something you think everyone is going to love. More than ever, consumers have more and more choices when it comes to who they listen to and where to put their money. And it’s those genuine connections that are going to sell out your first tour, first album, and stick with you on the journey.
—Spotify For Artists