Indie Musician Josh Urban: How I’m Using A Train To Level Up

II’m Josh. I’m an independent musician near Washington, DC, USA. I’d like to offer you four observations and a new idea today.

  1. Never before has it been so easy to connect with fans.
  2. Never before have there been so many people trying to do so.
  3. Never before have so many people been annoyed with the deluge of relentless self-promotion.
  4. Never before has there been such a need to up our game. Yes, it might be hard to sell CD’s. This doesn’t mean the world doesn’t appreciate music. Maybe it means that we should give people more for their money – and time. Maybe it means we’ve got to do something so outlandishly cool, that the world can’t help but stop and take notice.

I’m a solo artist, and a little fish in a big pond. I recently decided to go on tour. Fortunately, in today’s industry, that’s possible. Unfortunately, in the current cacophony of self-promotion among the little fish, nobody cares. So, what to do?

For me, it was time to up my game. Now, before proceeding further, I’d be an arrogant fool to say that I’ve succeded. It’s an idea, and time will tell about it’s effectiveness. However, I’m very excited about the concept, and it’s my hope that it will give you a few ideas that you can apply to your own career.

I was watering the flowers one day, pondering this tour. Pacing around like a crazed garden gnome, I was puzzling over how to create an event that would be the best that I could invent at the time. I had decided that I wanted to tour entirely by train, traveling with just an acoustic guitar and my voice. I found the idea rather poetic, hearkening back to the days of the old American bluesmen who traveled by train, and hung out around crossroads. But the idea still lacked something. Frustrated about how uninspiring and self-promoting my wish to tour was, I threw down the garden hose, muttering angrily “Yeah, but everyone goes on tour.”

Then, the proverbial light bulb went off.

The JURT 2012

Everyone goes on tour.

Everyone has a story. Even something as mundane as a bus rolling down the street is an entire library of tragedy, triumph, and the quiet struggle of humanity. Talk to the guy in line, and if he could show you a picture from his day, you’d probably be fascinated. (I personally can’t wait for the local power plant open house.)

In the past, only the actors, musicians, and poets could interpret the world, sharing their stories, views, and opinions with the world. Social media has obviously changed this, and fueled a culture obsessed with sharing. However, it’s still limited to a network of someone’s friends. But – I could change that.

I’m taking the world on tour. Using the hashtag #JURT (Josh Urban Rail Tour), and inviting people to share on my media pages, I aim to create a stage than anyone and everyone can share on. My audience will be their audience, and vice versa. California girls can broadcast the sunset on Instagram, while electricians on the east coast can show off the wires that power the world. Australian photographers might post art while London musicians who are playing a show at a local pub. At the conclusion of the tour, I’ll take all the media generated, and make a video compilation of it. We’ll have taken a snapshot of the world as we see it! The Big Four sites that I’ll be using to create this worldwide stage are Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Google +. I’ll also be posting on YouTube, SoundCloud, Flickr, and Pinterest.

Taking it to the streets

My part of the event will take place on the street corners and byways of cities along the American east coast. Instead of just playing for a local audience and tweeting about it later, I’ll be using the Google + app on my smartphone, and streaming the shows worldwide. I’ll be inviting any local friends and fans to stop by and jam with me, too. Again, the theme of this tour is interactive.

Songs from the Road

During the trip, I’ll also be writing a few songs, collecting exclusive video, and even scribbling some artistic text, lyrics, etc. At the conclusion of the tour, I’ll offer a compilation for sale.

Pre-tour response

The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive. The sense of community is great, people from all walks of life are getting involved, and the story seems interesting to the media. Most of all – I think the tour is going to be unbelievably fun. So what about the stuff people who read an industry blog might ask about? What are the projected benefits? How about the money?

I’m excited about the following prospects:

  • New friends and connections in eight media markets
  • A new platform to meet new friends and fans
  • Elevating my status from a local to a regional artist
  • An exciting event for existing friends and fans to get behind
  • A unique way to add value to people’s lives
  • Fun

Regarding money – I’m expecting to take a loss. However, I feel that the benefits to my brand, image, and new connections will more than offset any monetary losses. After all, at my current level of exposure, if I embarked on a traditional indie touring model, I would incur the same losses without gaining any of the benefits of the interactive model. I’m looking at it as an investment for a year or two down the line, and I feel it will pay off handsomely. Aside from the monetary calculations, again, this has the potential to add real value to people’s lives by providing both a platform for sharing, and an event to entertain and make people say “Wow!” – something that us entertainers are supposed to do! Moreover, this is going to be so much fun! It is a gamble, but I feel that it’s worth it. This is how I’m upping my game.

Join me!

I hope you’ll join me on this tour! Remember, it’s your tour, too. Just tag any media that uses hashtags back to #JURT (Josh Urban Rail Tour) Tweet at me @dontjoshme, post on my Facebook page @, and share, share, share. Let’s make this a global event.

See you on tour!

All Aboard,