In the music industry, recording and touring are often viewed as two distinct realms, each with its unique dynamics and requirements. For artists, especially those in the early stages of their career, the question of prioritizing between these two can be pivotal. Do you need to make your mark with live performances before you can be considered a serious artist? Or is it necessary to have an album or an EP under your belt to start gigging? Let's delve into this conundrum, exploring the intricacies of both approaches and how they interplay in the journey of a musician.

The Case for Recording First

Establish Your Musical Identity

Creating a record, whether it's a full-length album or an EP, is often seen as a rite of passage for many artists. It's a tangible showcase of your musical style, capabilities, and artistic vision. In today's digital age, having recorded material available online is crucial. It serves as a portfolio for fans and industry professionals alike, offering a glimpse into your artistry.

Building a Fanbase

Recorded music can reach listeners far beyond the limits of your local gigging circuit. With the power of streaming platforms and social media, a well-produced record can attract fans globally. This fanbase can be pivotal when you eventually hit the road, ensuring there are audiences waiting to see you perform live.

Attracting Industry Attention

A polished record can also serve as a tool to attract record labels, managers, and booking agents. High-quality recordings demonstrate not just your talent, but also your commitment to your craft. Industry professionals often look for artists who have a clear artistic direction and a body of work that showcases their potential.

The Case for Touring First

Honing Your Performance Skills

Performing live is a skill, and like any skill, it requires practice. Regular gigging allows you to hone your stage presence, understand audience dynamics, and refine your live sound. These experiences are invaluable and can significantly enhance your recordings in the future.

Building a Local Following

Touring, especially in your local area or region, can help you build a loyal fanbase. These early supporters are crucial; they're likely to stream your music, attend future shows, and spread the word about your art. A strong local following can also catch the attention of larger venues and promoters.

Testing Your Material

Live performances provide an immediate feedback loop. You can gauge audience reactions to your songs, which can be incredibly insightful when you eventually decide to record them. This real-time feedback can shape your songwriting and arrangements, leading to more impactful recordings.

Now Let's Be Practical

At SongTools we believe that iterating quickly with great data leads to growth, especially for new independent artists at the beginning of their journey. In this case, we believe that in order to get started in your first gigs, you should do some level of promotion (to get bodies in that room). In order to do promotion, you need content– people need to have at least an idea of what they're signing up for when coming to see you. Therefore, we believe that the first step should be getting a basic recording of what you currently sound like. Invest a bit in making it solid, but don't worry about it being a hit. 

Here's a quick iteration formula:

  1. Use this initial track to start testing your sound with playlisters– you can run a one month experiment using Playlister Club for only $48 a month– you will get loads of data back on what curators think of your music. 
  2. Also, use that track for your ads to promote your shows and start building an audience. 
  3. During your shows see which tracks resonate the most.
  4. Do a recording of that track.
  5. Back to Step 1. 

Advice from a Music Industry Veteran

We asked, Gonzalo Mahou, long-time industry manager and our in-house music industry expert, and here’s his takeaway: 

“The best advice here is to be alert and be extremely opportunist; and by understanding the importance and interdependence of both fields, be able to grow them in tandem. 

A common issue out there has to do with timing. Some artists are able to get out there gigging, build a live base, but never have a breakaway single, or an outstanding recording career. On the other hand, some artists go viral “too quick” and don’t have time to build an audience of quantifiable, physical people which can limit their growth or invite some mis-steps.

Ultimately, it IS about crafting your own journey, but like any real journey out there, your success will depend on your access to the right tools to complete it. It’s a long journey, and there’s a lot of fine tuning and experimenting at the beginning, so large-scale investments (like big productions or tour buy-ons) are often unaffordable and could be a bad idea for new artists. Instead, the best fitting tactic is to take small steps, and figure out this tricky balance. 

Songtools was built to help you along your path, with affordable, precise actions and feedback to mark every step. Once you’re on your own two feet and in motion, there’s no telling how far you can go!”

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