If you’re a regular reader of the ReverbNation blog or are just an experienced musician, you already know how unpleasant touring can be for musicians at any level. But there’s something unique and story-worthy when a young band sets out to play a tour they booked themselves for the first time. DIY touring is brutal work but is also the type of stuff that transforms inexperienced musicians into confident performers. For the young and inexperienced, here’s five things to expect on your first DIY tour:
Little to no pay
I know, I know. It’s not about the money, right? Yes, but money is essential for stuff like buying food and filling up your gas tank on tour. You might get lucky with money on your first DIY, but odds are that you won’t. Venues are also businesses, not just buildings with cool names that want to help new bands fulfill their dreams. Most smaller venues pay bands an amount that depends on how many people they bring through the door. If you’re not bringing people to your shows on your first tour, then you won’t make much money. But rather than letting this deter you, it’s best to save money ahead of time and view the tour as an investment more than anything else.
Empty rooms and questionable venues
If this is your first time touring, then you should expect to play anywhere that will have you as well as sparse shows. This is the whole “paying your dues” part of building a music career, and boy is it not for everybody. Driving all day to play to no one can be crushing, but if you wait to tour until you’ve got guarantees of packed shows, you might be waiting forever. And then there’s the music venues. Inexperienced bands typically play venues like coffee shops, community centers, DIY venues and, well, any place not cool or popular enough to bring in heavily followed musicians. Yes, it can be rough, but it can also be incredibly fun with the right attitude. Don’t expect much in terms of sound quality at these venues.
Less-than-ideal sleeping accommodations
If you or a bandmate is flush with cash, then you can probably swing a hotel room on tour every night. But paying for accommodations gets expensive real quick, and most new bands won’t be able to swing it. This means you’ll probably have to sleep in some rough places––your car, the sound guy’s living room, etc. DIY touring is sort of a young person’s game––wow, I sound incredibly old saying that––, so make sure to expect much less sleep than you’re used to getting before setting out.
Priceless inspiration and experience
DIY touring is basically a right of passage for new bands. It gives musicians experience not just playing music but also interacting with fans and the chance to forge new relationships in music that can last a lifetime. It’s the best and worst thing in the world simultaneously and can tell you clearly and quickly if music is something you really want to do with your life. What you’ll pay for in money and time and frustration you’ll get back tenfold in memories and life experience.
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.