4 Bad Touring Scenarios To Avoid

If you’re at all serious about trying to pursue a meaningful career in music, you most likely already know how important it is to tour and build connections on the road. Unless you’re remarkably lucky, fans and the music industry alike won’t start to take you seriously until you’ve spent a considerable amount of time performing outside of your hometown. But while touring is hugely important, it doesn’t mean that you should say yes to every touring opportunity. Here are four horrible touring scenarios you should absolutely avoid:

Touring without new music

If it’s been more than a couple of years since you’ve released new music, touring is most likely going to be a bad and fruitless venture. Bands sometimes do this when the songwriting well has run dry and it can easily turn into a bad situation. Touring is incredibly hard and often thankless work that should only be done when there’s something real to gain. So rather than literally spinning your wheels out on the road touring, if you haven’t worked on music for a long time, you need to get back into the studio and get the songwriting process up and running again.

Traveling with multiple bands

Touring gets mighty complicated when more than a few bands are thrown into the mix. Everything from locking down accommodations to booking shows is infinitely harder to do when multiple bands are committed to touring together. This, of course, doesn’t apply to bands who’ve achieved a certain level of success and notoriety, but for new and smaller acts, going it alone is a much better bet than involving multiple bands on tours.

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Touring with no money

Easier said than done, right? But the truth is that the better you financially prepare for tours, the better your shows, sanity, and band relationships will be. There’s two ways you’ll need to think about money when it comes to touring, and that’s in terms of personal finances and band finances. In order to not go hungry on the road, you should make every effort to start tours with enough money to get you through your shows. But when it comes to the band-side of things, money gets more complex. You’ll need to have some sort of savings or plan of what to do with not only the money you may earn from shows but also how to pay for things when disaster strikes (the van breaks down, your equipment gets stolen, etc).

Playing at bad venues

Pretty much anything can be a venue these days, right? Bands often have better tours when they play house shows than when they perform at big venues. But in order to make sure you have meaningful tours, it’s super important that you make sure the venues you’re playing at have some sort of legitimacy. Communication during the booking process is key here. Does the venue have a soundsystem? Is there some sort of built-in crowd or is the venue in question located in a strip mall in the suburbs? Ask lots of questions, and if you’re new and trying to prove yourself, don’t just play at any venue that’ll have you. Booking a tour filled with shows at bad venues won’t be worth your time.

Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator currently residing in the great city of Philadelphia. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

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  • Jonny Boston - May 10, 2018 reply

    Interesting article. Thanks for the heads up! Blessings! 🙂

  • Friday Knight - May 10, 2018 reply

    Thanks Patrick. I hope to tour the West Coast of the US soon. Appreciate your insight.

  • Abbo - May 10, 2018 reply

    Hi Patrick. Good tips. Just a couple of considerations:
    – I think that touring with other bands is amazing, especially if they are your friends: most of all, if you are not a professional musician, touring is having fun and collect great experiences!
    – I think it’s really hard to start the tour with money, I think the best tip is to let the venues pay you for your tour and try to make it sustainable!

  • Alix Long - May 10, 2018 reply

    One other matter you might consider: Never underestimate the chance that at least one venue, you might not get paid.

    This happened to us on a show tour years ago. The money was supposed in escrow, but the promoter didn’t know he’d partnered with a crook, who’d stolen it all. So nobody got paid.

    These were concert venues, one in Dayton & the other in Toledo, Ohio. We were kids playing back up to a headliner, who paid us out of his own pocket, then let his lawyers sue the promoter, though that money was gone. The promoter got ripped off, too.

    It happens.

    Another time, we played a confirmation party for a “businessman’s “ daughter in Cicero (Chicago area). Literally a mob place. Trust me — we were simply happy to get outta there without getting shot.

    This gig was booked through a highly reputable agency. Do I have to tell you that it made no difference?

    We also had to chase down an agent once. The guy, whom we’d worked with several times & trusted, had the venue pay HIM for a gig we played, about which he didn’t warn us. After several weeks of long distance politeness, we were playing in the city where he lived, so we knocked on his door. He assumed we were a threat (we weren’t), but he did pay us.

    Fortunately, we had a protector early in our careers. We played “The Midnight Special” with this artist, & learned the ropes of touring with him. His name was Robert Thomas Veline, better known as Bobby Vee.

    Steve Gezeler - May 12, 2018 reply

    Good point to bring up! The band I played in was a popular club the management had just change after the gig we. got a paid with a check and the check. ended up being no good…

  • Vik - May 19, 2018 reply

    Nice one. Thanks.

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