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BRB, on tour

Luke Harriman, Creative Broker arTour, is the go-to-guy for getting your production tour-ready, finding funding and knowing your audience. We sat down with Luke to pick his brain about all things touring… 


Getting the show on the road

In your experience, what has been the best way to pitch your tour idea to a presenter?

There’s a few great ways to approach presenters about your touring idea. The first is through industry mechanisms like Queensland Touring Showcase where you can submit your work to pitch in front of a room full of potential partners. These events provide a focussed time and space for touring conversations to take place. Our showcase submissions will open in October for next year’s event in March.

Another option is to list your work on websites like or Both sites are platforms to promote your work to presenters.

Outside of these options, the best thing to do is speak with the presenter directly. It’s very easy for unsolicited emails to fall through the cracks so pick up the phone and have a conversation. Most importantly, make sure you use the call to get to know them and their audience. No one likes to hear people talk about themselves the whole time and they certainly don’t like desperation – if it’s not a good fit or they’re not interested don’t get pushy or start stalking them.

" need to establish some trust and shared purpose."

What advice do you have for a team of emerging performers who have not staged a show before? How could they convince a presenter to take them on?

I’m guessing that even though you haven’t created a show together before, you will each be bringing some experience to the party. Think about what might be relevant to a conversation with a presenter and as a group be clear about what you’re collectively trying to achieve by putting on the show.

Like any other relationship, you need to establish some trust and shared purpose. Presenters need to feel confident you can deliver on your promises, the outcome will be quality and their audiences will be interested. This is all equally true whether you have put on a show before or not.

Also remember, presenters are often responsible for more than just programming and putting on shows. As leaders within their local arts community, they are also trying to engage and develop audiences and support local cultural activity. Do your homework about their programs and go into the conversation with an open mind and willingness to be responsive to their needs.

What ingredients make up a long-running tour?

The most successful and long-running tours generally have the following attributes:

  • Audiences demand. They have a clear understanding of their audience and how to work with Presenters to engage them. People want to put their hand in their pocket to see the work.

  • They’re logical and viable. This includes being affordable and made for touring. They also avoid zigzagging all over the place and move efficiently from town to town.

  • Engagement. The most successful tours engage communities well. They think outside the square (beyond just workshops) and help local people feel vested in the opportunity.

  • Quality. The whole experience is about quality. For the presenter, the venue and the audience - everything from great marketing materials to outstanding performances.

  • Time and planning. The most successful tours can take years to pull together. For example,  2017 is basically wrapped up so if you’re not thinking 2018 or even 2019 you’re running behind.

Is there a way to strategically decide where to start and end your tour? Does it matter?

It doesn’t really matter, except it has to make sense in terms of the tour logistics. For example, if you’re hiring vehicles you might have to return the vehicle to the place the tour started. You might want to start or finish close to home or off the back of a season in a metropolitan centre to keep touring costs to a minimum.


The nuts and bolts

What should I look out for when researching venues?

A couple of quick tips:

  • Before you approach the venue find out what spaces they have available to use and think about where your show might fit.

  • Try to find someone who’s been there before and get the low down on their experience

  • Go through their program and see the sort of shows they present

  • If possible, find out the correct person to speak with before you call. Some organisations list their staff on their website so it makes it easier.

"Be sure not to shy away from money talk..."

How can a producer ensure they get paid?

Contracts. If you make a deal, get it in writing and make sure both parties sign. Without clear evidence you hold very few cards in your hand should something go wrong.

Equally important, don’t sign something you don’t understand! Get it checked by a professional if you’re uncertain. Don’t leave anything to chance.

Be sure not to shy away from money-talk either. These are generally business transactions so all elements of the negotiation need to be clear. If you need to be paid for the proposed work be upfront about your expectations and be prepared to negotiate or walk away.

Is it feasible for a one-person tour to be self-managed? Or would you always recommend working with a tour manager?

There’s absolutely no obligation to have a tour manager or engage a company like arTour. There are plenty of self-managed tours happening all the time. One of the great advantages is keeping your costs down and being very nimble.

Tour development and management can take a considerable amount of time though so be realistic about your capacity.



How do you get critics to pay attention to your work?

It’s tricky. There are fewer and fewer professional reviewers, critics and traditional media outlets around and they are already under lots of pressure to see so much. An interesting development has been producers using social media and audience feedback more and more to support their pitches to presenters.  You could consider ‘tweet seats’ or approach influential bloggers who potentially have the same audience you are looking to attract.

At arTour we really encourage good quality, structured evaluation and feedback collection. Platforms like Culture Counts have been incredibly powerful ways for producers to demonstrate audience response and touring outcomes.

Also consider asking a respected peer to write a commendation about your work. It can hold a lot of weight to have someone vouch for you.

"Consider 'tweet seats' or approach influential bloggers who potentially have the same audience you are looking to attract."

In terms of recognition, what are some awards or critics that presenters seem to respond well to?

There’s no hard and fast rules – in fact I think there is sometimes indifference about how many stars a production is given or what awards they have won. It can be a little like those gold medal stickers on wine bottles.

Like any thing else, word of mouth is always the most powerful. As mentioned above, having someone vouch for you and your work is very compelling so think carefully and strategically about who you invite to see your show. This means thinking about touring BEFORE you premier rather than afterwards so you can maximise the opportunity.

If you’re serious about touring make sure you video your whole show to the highest possible standard. Make sure you have enough interesting footage to cut a trailer or promo and get lots of great photos too. The second best thing to seeing a show live is to see a good recording of it.  

View Luke's top tips for touring

 Luke HarrimanLuke Harriman is a Creative Broker at arTour where he connects great art, great venues and great audiences.

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