Touring can be a huge deal for a band. From playing in front of new fans to forming important relationships with other musicians in other cities, bands can benefit in huge ways when they take their music out on the road. But there’s some pretty big risks you should think about if you’re a band deciding whether to tour or not. Touring isn’t right for every band, but if you think it might be time to hit the road, try asking yourself these questions:
What are you trying to accomplish?
Don’t even think about touring unless you’ve got goals you want to accomplish. Things like promoting a new album or reaching new fans by opening for a bigger band on the road are a few examples of good reasons to tour. Lots of new bands want to tour as soon as possible, but jumping the gun usually leads to sparsely attended shows, losing money, and other problems. If you’re new and eager to play outside of your hometown, try starting small with a weekend show in a nearby city.
What can touring give you that you can’t get at home?
This is a good question to ask because it helps you take stock of your priorities and momentum as a band. If you feel like you’re tapped out as far as resources, fans, and music opportunities at home, then it might be a good idea to think about touring. But unless you’re living in a small town, becoming the big fish in your city’s music scene probably won’t happen for a long time. If touring can give you things like new fans and music connections you can’t find at home, then go for it. But the kicker is that you probably won’t be able to make an impact touring until you’ve built up a fan base at home.
Can you afford it?
You might not think about money a lot as a musician, but it could end up costing you if you tour without planning around it. From gas money and potential car repairs to hotels and weeks of not earning a consistent income, touring is expensive. If your band doesn’t have money to cover expenses, you shouldn’t be touring. Some bands manage to make money on tour, but that usually doesn’t happen until after years of hard work. In the beginning, a realistic goal for small bands is to break even, but touring at that level won’t pay your rent or even the food you eat out on the road in some cases. Not being prepared financially could put you in a bad position. Don’t tour if you can’t afford to.
Is it worth it?
With all the risks and expenses of touring, it should only be done if there’s something to be gained. Touring to promote a new album makes sense, but playing the same set across country for three or four years won’t give your band any benefits. Asking yourself what’s to be gained through touring will help you decide if it’s right for you.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.