The biggest expense touring bands face is lodging. Motel rooms, even shitty ones, aren't cheap. Sometime you can sleep in the van, but let's face it -- that sucks for a multitude of reasons, even though it's cheap. What is cheap and doesn't usually suck is crashing on the floor, couch or (if you're very lucky) guest bedroom of a fan. That's great if you've played a city three or four times and made some friends, but doesn't work too well if you're a new band going to a new town.
Until now, anyway.
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As the video above explains, Better than the Van is a new social networking tool for touring bands and fans of genuinely independent music. It's simple: fans with space sign up to host bands, bands on tour register, a search and a few e-mails later band meets music fan, band has place to sleep, fan has some sweet stories to tell his/her hipster friends. And obviously if you host a band at your house, you're going to go see them play -- and maybe bring all of your cool friends. Everyone wins.
There's also a feature allowing bands to "show swap," basically helping each other set up shows in each other's hometowns. It's an incredibly simple idea -- putting bands in touch with each other and with the fans in a way that simultaneously reduces their biggest expense, puts them in touch with a potential fanbase and/or group of colleagues and all but sets up the afterparty for them. That's a clever leveraging of the personal connection between bands and fans that's one of the key elements of the emerging indie paradigm.