Perform at Farmers Markets During Your Next Tour – HOW-TO TOUR

We’ve teamed up with the amazing alternative rock band, Oak Street Blues, to share a very unique perspective for filling dates and gaining exposure one tour by performing a unconventional type of event, Farmers Markets. You can check out tons…

Perform at Farmers Markets During Your Next Tour – HOW-TO TOUR

We’ve teamed up with the amazing alternative rock band, Oak Street Blues, to share a very unique perspective for filling dates and gaining exposure one tour by performing a unconventional type of event, Farmers Markets. You can check out tons of valuable info about this untapped performance market, after the break.

How did you come about performing/touring at farmers markets? Where did the concept come from?
I responded for a gig through an ad on craigslist for an art show performance.  Someone at the art show liked our performance, approached the person that ran the art show, and the art show director referred our information to that individual.  As it turned out, the person who inquired about our band at the art show worked for the city, and they ended up getting first farmers market gig in Canoga Park in 2009.

Farmers markets are run by companies, and the companies run a bunch of different farmers markets.  Once you get to one, you can talk to the person running the one you’re performing at, and they can talk to the company running the farmers market to get you a performance at another farmers market.

A good way to get hooked up with other markets run by other companies is to talk to the vendors at the markets.  The vendors sell at all markets and they know the different companies who run the markets.

Usually, the first performance at a new market is initiated by the band via email or call to set up the performance.  If the farmers market company likes your band, they’ll reach back out to you for future performances; farmers markets are always looking for bands to perform. But once you’re in…you’re in.

Having a band performing gives the market a sense of authority, proving they’re a real farmers market because they can say, “Look, we have a band!”

What goes into putting on a performance at a farmers market (from the band side) as far as sound check, setup, etc?
You need to contact the market to find out if they have power, because most don’t have power.  If the market doesn’t have power, we don’t perform. We can get a 2000-watt generator, but we have not gotten one yet.  As it stands, if there is no power, we don’t perform.

We’ve attempted to perform a couple of acoustic shows, but the sound doesn’t carry very well, and we decided to not perform unless there is power.

I actually like performing at farmers markets because we are in control of the whole situation, and you’re not relying on some dude to fix your sound.

We usually arrive 30 minutes prior to market open to get set up and do sound check. Typically, the market will tell you when they want you to be there, so you’re not in the way of people there to shop.

What types of clearances do you need to have/obtain before performing at a farmers market?

The farmers market takes care of all the clearances. The only thing the band has to do is show up and perform, and bring their own PA.

Are you allowed to sell merchandise at the performances?  If so, do you have to give a certain percentage away to the market or do you get to keep all of it?  What type of compensation, if any, do you receive?
We bring our merch and a tip can. People come by and buy the merch and leave tips.  You don’t have to pay the market anything, or share money made from tips or merch sold.

Some markets pay, some don’t, but they usually don’t pay very much.  It all depends on the size of the market. The good farmers markets typically compensate you in some way. They either pay you or they’ll buy you lunch.

Some of the places that pay feel like they own you because they’re allowing you to play.
We have a rule: If we play more than an hour, then we are supposed to get paid for it.

How long are you allowed to perform, what’s a typical set?
Usually around three hours, and we usually take a 30- to 45-minute break.  Sometimes we play over two hours, with a break, and we’ll get lunch.  Any farmers market you play, you’re going to be playing for a couple of hours. I don’t think I’ve played one that was less than two hours.  This is part of the agreement between the market and the band.  I mainly call my own shots wherever I’m performing, unless you’re paying me at least $300.  Anything other than that I usually consider a tip.

Is there a specific demographic that you draw in at your performance, or is it mixed?
The people that come by are a little weird, and occasionally they will ask the band to play a song if they pay them money.  On one occasion, Kurt Russell’s nephew came up and started signing autographs for all of us.

My idea about the perfect place to play would be like you get there, and there’s a bunch of people in their early 20s who are out to listen to new music and find a new band.  But, with the farmers markets, you’re definitely going to have people there, so that’s a plus.

They may not be your target demographic, but some of them will be a part of it. You get all kinds of people. It’s not a specific demographic coming up and approaching the band.

Marketing & promo:
It’s all done by us by word of mouth.  Nobody is going to the farmers markets to find bands.  The kind of people that shop at farmers markets, I think, would be more open to bands.  The fresh food, organic people, like hipsters.

What tips/advice would you give to any other artists wanting to perform at farmers markets?
1. Look at the farmers market.
2. Try out different markets.
3. Weigh the pluses and minuses.
4. Test which farmers markets are good, which ones you’d want to perform at, and which ones you wouldn’t.
5. Typically, what makes a good farmers market is the location.  If it’s in a location that’s popular, that’s a good way to know if it’s going to be a good market to perform at or not.

What are some of the pro’s and con’s in performing at farmers markets?
When you perform at a farmers market, it’s different than a venue, because if you’re performing in a line-up of other bands, people will only stick around for the band they want to see.  But, at farmers markets, people are constantly coming in and out throughout the whole day, and the people aren’t coming to see a band; they’re coming to buy fresh foods. Having a band playing is an incentive, because they may wind up liking the band and will have discovered new music they didn’t know was there before.

So far in your experience performing at farmers markets, what are some of the things you’ve learned?
Make sure you always bring an extension cord, because you never know where your power source is going to be.  You kind of have to “macguyver” the situation.  Always ask if they have power.

Some farmers markets are easier to deal with and perform at, but it all depends on the person in charge of the market and who runs everything for the market.

What makes performing at a farmers market different from performing at a local venue?
Farmers markets aren’t any different than any other venue.  You may end up working with an awesome booker or a bad booker.

Always try to get a free lunch out of them.

Who’s your direct point of contact?
There is usually one person that calls the shots at each market. The company assigns a rep as your direct point of contact.  Usually, when you reach out to a farmers market to inquire about performing, whoever responds to your inquiry will be your point of contact going forward.

Have any opportunities come out of performing at a farmers market?
We’ll have people come up and throw out a variety of things, like an art walk or a birthday party.  It doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen. You will get other gigs just from people seeing you perform at the farmers market.

Keep up with Oak Street Blues on their website, Facebook and Twitter accounts.