Touring is a huge endeavor, even for experienced veterans. A music tour requires months of planning, saving, and contacting other bands, promoters, and venues – and making sure everyone in your act has the time off to go on tour plus the funds to pay for food, sundries, and amenities on the road (*cough*beer*cough*).
But effectively planning a tour doesn’t have to be immensely difficult or near-impossible, even when it seems so. Here are ten steps you can take to make touring easier so you can focus on playing music.
Start putting away money at least a few months ahead of your tour, and don’t touch it until you’re ready to leave. If you’re part of a band, make sure your bandmates are doing the same. You’ll need to eat, pay for gas, do your laundry, and get other basic necessities of living while you’re on the road. Make sure you have enough saved collectively to reasonably pay for all that, including any equipment fixes you might have to make along the way.
Where do you want to tour? How long do you plan on being away? Pull out a map and mark up the cities you want to hit, and start doing research on venues, bands, and promoters in or around those cities. Be prepared to make changes to your intended route if the venue you want to play doesn’t have the date you want open, and maintain contact with the venue owners and promoters for your show in each city as needed. Make a calendar in Google, iCal, or a similar platform, share it with your bandmates, and keep it updated.
Figure Out Your Transportation
If it’s just you, you can probably get away with just a car. But if you’re touring with a band, you’ll want a van – a minivan or conversion van, depending on how large your act is and how much equipment you’re taking with you. Make sure whatever you have can fit all of you, your equipment, and a suitcase each of clothes and toiletries.
Make Sleeping Arrangements in Advance
Whether you’re sleeping in a hotel or at the promoter’s house, make your sleeping arrangements well in advance, and update your online tour calendar with details about where you’re staying after each venue so everyone’s in the loop on what’s happening. Make sure your hotel or motel reservations are made ahead of time, and see if there are any discounts, coupons, or rewards programs you can take advantage of if you’re paying for it yourself.
Know Where You’re Going
Don’t get lost on your way to the venue – invest in a GPS, or make sure one or more of your act has a smartphone with a GPS function. Keep your devices charged – getting lost has made many a musician late for a gig, so don’t let it happen to you.
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Check Out Nearby Amenities
Whether you’re a gym enthusiast or a spa lover, check out amenities near to the venue so you can keep up your energy and stamina on the road. If you work out, see if your gym has a program that allows you to go to other gyms of the same franchise in multiple states or provinces so you can keep fit on the road.
Prepare to Camp Out
Sometimes sleeping arrangements fall through, or you just don’t have enough cash to afford a hotel or motel. Make sure you’re prepared to camp out in your tour van or at a campground if something goes awry, just so you have something over your head. Consider taking sleeping bags and a tent that will fit the lot of you if push comes to shove – you might be glad you did.
Write Up a Rider or Contract
Once you’ve reached an agreement with the venue or promoter, write up a contract reflecting what you’ve agreed upon, and either mail it to them or give them a digital copy to place their signature on before they give it back to you. This protects you if you find they’ve booked another act in place of yours, or the venue or promoter refuses to pay you – if payment was agreed upon, include that in the rider. If they won’t sign the contract, move on – touring is an often an expensive business, and you don’t want to waste time on anyone who won’t treat you fairly.
Know Who’s Paying You
Make sure you ask, when you’re booking, who should be handing you money at the end of the night. Whether it’s the venue owner, the promoter, or the stage manager, know who they are and make it a point to introduce yourself, preferably in advance of your show. When the gig is over, don’t be pushy – but seek them out and politely ask that they settle with you so you can be on your way.
Make a Must-Take List
Making a list of what you absolutely must take with you will keep you from forgetting anything vital. Write down clothes and self-care items, like a toothbrush and deodorant, and any and all equipment you’ll need, like keyboards and stands, mics and stands, and so forth. Don’t assume that the venue will have a hundred percent of the equipment you need to play, and make sure your basics are covered.
Touring can be an immensely fun and fulfilling experience – not to mention it helps you get our name and music in front of lots of new potential fans. Follow these tips for every tour, and your touring experience will go much more smoothly – now, and for years to come.
Ger Madden - April 21, 2017
great tips. thank you!