During the early stages of the pandemic, independent music venues from across the country connected and formed organizations to pool resources and establish lobbying power in a way that had never been done before. Now, some of them plan to continue that collaborative mindset through a new initiative called D TOUR, which is a booking partnership between venues in nine states — ranging in size from 200 capacity rooms to 8,000-seat theaters — that aims to streamline the touring process for up-and-coming artists by matching them with the right size venues and giving them a single point of contact when they’re on the road. The idea is also to make sure that indie venues of all sizes have an avenue to booking more quality concerts.
Billy Hardison, who co-owns the local businesses, said that the goal of D TOUR is to start small and continue to build a network of indie venues and indie artists that works together to make the touring process easier, and more profitable for everyone involved. From a venue’s perspective, he said, indie operators talk all of the time about how just five more quality shows per year would make a huge difference.
“At first, we’re not trying to take over the world here, we’re just trying to give us, and those like us, some more opportunities and some quality programing, and to help these artists find the right places to play, and have their shows marketed and produced correctly, to that local market’s standards and all the things about that city,” Hardison told LEO.
Hardison said while D TOUR will continue to “build the framework” of how it operates, the collective does have its first tour scheduled. Multi-instrumentalist, drummer and singer Elise Trouw will hit the road under the collective’s umbrella, with a 35 date tour.
“For me, the opportunity to work with D TOUR and the venues they represent is a powerful solution to the many challenges artists face when planning and booking a national tour,” Trouw said in a statement. “I am very honored that D TOUR has chosen me as their first artist to tour across the U.S. and I can’t wait to get out and see my fans at the 35 shows we have on the books!”
The other independent promoters that comprise the founding D TOUR partnership include Drusky Entertainment (Pennsylvania); Hartke Presents/Wave/The Cotillion (Kansas); xBk Live (Iowa); Crowbar (Florida); Blue Water Partners (Texas); Jay Ray Productions/Taos Mesa Brewing (New Mexico), Bonafide Live, Inc./Exit/In (Tennessee) and Happy Dog (Ohio).
The collective is similar to when, in May of 2020, independent venues around the nation banded together to form the National Independent Venue Association, or NIVA, which was able to secure some money from ticketing companies early in the pandemic. The group then hired a Washington, D.C. lobbying ﬁrm to help get their concerns in front of the country’s most powerful politicians. In December of 2020, the Save Our Stages Act was passed through Congress, allocating $16 billion to small venues.
“We realized that during the pandemic, that we all were in our own little bubbles,” Hardison said. “And because of that nobody knew completely what anybody else was doing, so we weren’t fully touching each other. And it wasn’t necessarily helping artists, agents and managers.”
“We want to help develop artists through this same network,” Hardison said.
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