How To Get Your Show Rural Touring: The Importance of Doing Your Homework

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The most frequently asked question we get here at the NRTF from artists is ‘How do I get my show programmed for rural touring?’ and our biggest piece of advice is always the same: do your homework.

This piece of advice works on all levels – whether you’re brand new to rural touring or have years of experience under your belt – just like the rest of the arts world, the sector is ever evolving, so there will always be something new to learn that will help you get your show on the road.

But let’s start, as they say, at the very beginning.

If you’re brand new to rural touring, make sure you really really understand what is required of a rural touring show. The best way to do this? Go out and see shows that are already doing what you want to do. Look at how they fit in the spaces, look at the audiences they are attracting, speak to the companies doing the work. You will need to be self-sufficient. Your tech requirements will need to be fulfilled by you, and even then, it’s best to keep it as simple as possible. 

Speak to the promoter at the event, ask them what they like booking, what they don’t (remember each promoter and venue is different, so don’t just speak to one!). Ask them what things they consider when taking a show, and what makes their life easier. Incorporate this into your thinking as early on in your process as possible and we promise it will pay off.

Introduce yourself to your local scheme (if you go and see something relatively close to you, there is likely to be someone from the scheme in the audience). Not sure where your nearest scheme is? Take a look at our map.

All schemes are invested in developing new work and introducing new companies to the sector – they’re full of advice and will often give you as much time as they can to help. It’s always good for them to know you’ve already started exploring the sector for yourself. Take on board what they say i.e. just because a cast of 12 might be small scale to you, it doesn’t mean it’s small for the scheme. Work out these definitions early on and your life will be much smoother down the line! 

Don’t forget you can download ‘Eyes Wide Open’ an introduction to rural touring for artists for free when you become a member of the NRTF- it’s a great way to begin arming yourself with the knowledge you need.

Once you’ve done all this, and feel your show is the right fit, remember not all schemes’ programme in the same way. Look beyond your local scheme. Take the time to look at the type of work individual schemes are programming, when they programme and how they want you to submit your work for their menu. Some schemes have very specific forms they want you to fill in while others are happy to take tour packs. One of the most important things you can do? Find out the name of the person programming, and personalise emails. Blanket emails while efficient, can set off alarm bells, whereas a more personalised email highlights that you’ve done your homework and probably really understand rural touring. Think of it like you would contact different individual venues – you wouldn’t email a music venue if you were a theatre company, or a dance house if you were a storyteller. Putting in the work upfront pays off in the long run.

A note on tour packs – even if you find schemes want you to fill in a specific form, it’s a good idea to put a tour pack together anyway. For a start, it means you then have all the information you need for the form in one place, and also it’s likely that the scheme and promoters will want to see it further down the line. Not sure what to put in your tour pack? We have a free infographic for that.

A top tip for artists who have rural toured in the past, but don’t seem to be getting as many bookings now, maybe it’s time to refresh what you’re providing schemes with and how you approach them. Go back into your tour pack and ask ‘What is missing?’ Has something changed in how the schemes you’ve worked with in the past are operating now? Is there a new programmer or are they currently focusing on a particular type of work?  If you’ve already toured extensively in one region maybe try somewhere new and go back to those other schemes when you have new work to offer them. Schemes want to support high-quality artists, and a good show can easily tour for more than one season, it’s not unusual for a scheme to reprogramme work that has gone down particularly well, but at the same time schemes and venues also want to offer their audiences a variety of work. 

If your work is quite niche or specialist, it’s a good idea to look at what is already happening in the sector. Many schemes will have separate projects which help develop work in specific areas. For example ‘The Inn Crowd’ which looks specifically at spoken word artists, or our very own Rural Touring Dance Initiative. These projects support not only you as an artist, but the schemes in programming you, and the promoters in developing an audience for your work – they can be a great way into rural touring.

The rural touring sector is wide and varied, and there is a lot going on behind the scenes, to develop new work, to support artists and to continue to programme high-quality shows for audiences across the UK. Arming yourself with as much knowledge as possible and then staying in touch with what schemes are working on is the best way to get your show programmed for rural touring. Well, that, and making sure the show is as good as it can be in the first place 😉

Remember the NRTF is here to support everyone involved in Rural Touring. We have some top tip videos on our website to help you do your homework in bite-sized chunks, and by becoming a member you can access our resources, and discussion boards which are a great way to introduce yourselves, ask questions and keep up to date with what is happening in the world of rural touring.

We’re also running introductions to rural touring at both Brighton (3rd May) and Edinburgh Fringe (date to be confirmed) this year. These are a great way to hear from scheme managers and promoters working in rural touring about what they are looking for. 

Do you have a burning rural touring question you’d like answered on our blog? A golden piece of advice to give, or a story to share? Drop Stephie an email admin@nrtf.org.uk and we’ll get to work!