If something can go wrong on tour, it probably will eventually. Sure, this statement sounds a little cynical, but taking it seriously can help get you in a mindset that equips for any potential disaster that might befall you while you’re out on tour. And by “disaster,” I mean things like your van breaking down or one of your shows getting canceled, not actual disasters like a meteor hitting the venue right as you take the stage—although, that would be a cool way to go out.
Preparing for the worst is a tactic that can save you tons of money and frustration when it comes to sharing music on the road, but lots of musicians have trouble looking ahead. To help you look ahead, let’s think about a couple of the more common things that can go wrong on tour:
The tragic situation of a band having their stuff get stolen out on the road probably happens a lot more than you think. In some music scenes, this has become such a major problem because thieves often target trailers parked outside venues. In the span of a couple of minutes, a band can lose thousands of dollars in instruments and equipment and be forced to end their tour early.
There’s a few things musicians can do to limit their chances of this happening. First, do your research when it comes to where you book your shows. Take some time to read reviews, message boards, and other forums when it comes to the venues you’re thinking about playing. Consider forking over some extra cash to park in a guarded lot and if you do park on the street, don’t leave your possessions visible or vulnerable.
If you hop in an old un-maintained van to hit the road for a month-long tour, you might be opening yourself up for some big problems. Tours are harsh on vehicles because there’s so much driving involved. Most people take their cars for granted from time to time, but serious musicians can’t afford to. All that basic, boring car maintenance stuff your parents probably taught you when you first learned to drive comes into play here for good vehicle tour prep: tire pressure, oil changes, etc. It’s also important to note here that backup plans are a good idea for long tours not just for vehicle problems, but also for any other potential issues that may arise.
Lots of small or new bands set out for massive tours with stars in their eyes only to find sparsely attended shows and thin wallets a couple of dates in. Touring is a big risk even for successful artists, which means that smaller acts often experience big problems out on the road. One of the biggest obstacles is the fact that meaningful touring takes lots of investment without paying much in return. Realistically planning ahead can save you from getting yourself into major money problems on tour. How many people can you actually bring out in cities that you’re new and don’t know anyone in? What amount of money do you need to make each night to break even? These are the sorts of questions you need to ask yourself long before you leave town for your first show.
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.