Releasing a debut album or EP is an incredibly exciting thing for a new band. If you love the music you’re making, you might feel like you can take on the world. But while putting out music inspires some new bands to book long, national tours, it’s not always the right move. Here are a few reasons why you should consider starting small and building from there:
Good tours take experience to book and play
You might not know it yet, but touring can be mind-numbingly difficult work. Even bands with years of experience often struggle with long tours. Unless you’re getting help booking shows and have lots of money to invest, it’ll probably take months of hard, thankless work to put your first tour together. Realistically, and I don’t say this to be discouraging, the shows you manage to book on your first tour will be bad. Empty rooms, venues with bad sound systems, and debt.
Unless your band is experiencing a sizable amount of success out of the gate, first tours are usually rough because no one knows who you are yet. Sure, your music might be great, but good national venues and music fans alike probably won’t take a chance on you because they’ve never heard of you. Touring as a new, unknown band can definitely be a positive thing, but most artists short on experience are better off starting small and making a name for themselves in their own region before they go anywhere else.
Starting small allows you to build momentum in your region
A much more sustainable touring situation for new bands is to consistently play in other cities in their region on the weekends. No, it’s not as cool to tell your friends you’re playing in a nearby city than it would be to say you’re embarking on a month-long tour, but you’ll get more bang for your buck if you start small. Short weekend touring will help you learn how to book shows in other cities in music scenes you’ll have a decent chance of playing once every few months. Another reason long tours don’t go well for new bands is that musicians are often forced to take shows in small cities they have no plans of ever returning to. Sure, if you’re a new band from Omaha, you can probably get booked in Bangor, Maine, but other than some performance experience, what will that give you? Not much, most likely. Sticking to weekend shows in your region will give your band the best chance at building a fan base because the cities closest to you are easy to get to.
Staying close to home allows you to focus on your music
Yes, big tours are exciting, but they can also be distracting for new bands who are still developing their sound. Playing short weekend shows in your region gives you the experience of touring without taking your away from writing music and playing in your local scene. Also, unless you live in a city with no music venues, you shouldn’t try booking long tours until you’ve made a name for yourself in your own city.
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.