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D Tour Offers 'Less Competitive, More Compassionate' Environment for Performing Artists

Jessie Hartke and Adam Hartke
Hayley Harper
Jessie Hartke and Adam Hartke

D Tour is a brand-new network of independent venues and promoters that offers touring artists the chance to perform in locally-owned venues across the country.

D Tour is a new endeavor that brings together a network of independent music venues and promoters and promises to offer national touring artists "unique venue experiences across multiple markets."

Launched March 1, the organization was founded on the premise that independent venues and promoters across the country are critical to the survival of live music and the communities in which the venues exist.

Jessie Hartke and Adam Hartke of Wichita's Hartke Presents/Wave are two founding members of the organization. It also includes venues in Taos, New Mexico, Nashville, and Louisville, Kentucky, among other locations.

Jessie Hartke notes that the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw numerous venues permanently shuttered, challenged venue owners to go from "surviving to thriving."

The live music industry remains on somewhat uncertain ground; 2021 saw numerous tours rescheduled and/or canceled and some fans and venues alike remain uncertain about the future of COVID protocols. But, for some, 2022 appears to be a year in which venues will see concert-goers coming back in larger numbers and many venues are boasting robust schedules.

Jessie Hartke recently spoke with KMUW about D Tour and the state of live music venues in 2022.

Interview Highlights

In the early days of the pandemic, there was a lot of concern about the live music industry, just how to keep venues open, how to keep businesses afloat and so forth. I know that you worked with some of the venues involved with D Tour during that time. I think that initial time afforded us all this opportunity to kind of regroup and rethink how we were doing things. It sounds like to some degree D Tour is the product of conversations along those lines.

Once we realized that this was going to be a long-lasting situation, we realized that we wanted to stay involved in each other's lives and businesses. Prior to the pandemic, independent [venues], were as independent as you could get, not necessarily by choice. We were all so busy getting ready for the next show, we hadn't had the ability to really form a cohesive network.

There's just these really amazing things going on across the country between independent venues, details coming into fruition. There's another coalition, I believe it's based up by the Great Lakes, Black Promoters Collective, that is also doing similar stuff. We're in talks with them to make sure that we're doing what's best for the overall ecosystem. We're trying to make it a less competitive environment and a more compassionate environment.

So if I'm reading this, right, and I can kind of summarize it very quickly, the idea behind D Tour is to get the right artist in the right room in the right city.

Exactly. It's that and it's also making sure that independent venues have access to more artists as well. Usually … if an agent wants to book a tour, they have to go to each individual independent room or independent promoter and have 20 or 30 different email chains going. Regardless of your industry, [you probably know] how much a pain in the backside that is.

Our hope is with all of this is that we can not only can we get the artist in the right room, but we can also make those rooms more accessible to the artists and their representatives because it's just a less hampered form of communication.

There's this thing that happens when our favorite bands are about to go on tour where they announce the dates, they put the dates up on their social media. And immediately fans start saying, "I don't see St. Louis, I don't see Wichita, I don't see Milwaukee." I think sometimes people don't realize that it's not necessarily the artists snubbing the market. There are just so many variables at work in terms of booking a tour.

Press photo
Elise Trouw will in tour later in 2022, appearing at D Tour venues.

Yes, there are so many variables. One of our initial conversations with D Tour was about [helping] the smaller, what's known as tertiary markets, gain a larger foothold in the industry so that we can get more of those shows in our smaller markets. You know, we're working with a number of smaller markets that traditionally haven't gotten big shows … Tampa, Florida, Louisville, Kentucky, Des Moines, Iowa, Taos, New Mexico.

We're working with a number of these smaller markets but we are also very excited that as we started talking to our peers across the country, it is independents in all markets who want to participate. It's regardless of the size of your market. There are impediments for all of us, whether you're located in Los Angeles, or Chicago, or Wichita, we're all facing hardships as independents.

I suspect another outcome of detail is that this is also a way in which these independent venues really get to be part of launching an artist's career as well, right?

We want to work with artists, regardless of the size of the crowd they draw. Currently, we have venues all across the country that range as small as a 200-capacity room up to 8,000 capacity. We can work with artists at all levels of their career. But we are really excited to begin working with artists who are at the beginning of their career, really help them get them on the right path to get them in front of the right fans.

As stated on our press release, we are working with Elise Trouw, who's based out on the West Coast. She's doing amazing things. Right before the pandemic she went on tour opening for Incubus and had a great response. She was one of those artists who saw their trajectory increase throughout the pandemic. And she is very excited to go out and have her first headlining tour with independent venues.

Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.