Artists, even the most successful ones, often make the majority of their money on the road. Not only is touring necessary to build and maintain a fan base, but if done well, it can also be very lucrative. In this article, I’ll attempt to share some firsthand knowledge from my tour managing days and personal experiences.
1. Booking the Tour
If you’re fortunate enough to have a team behind you, your manager and agent work this out. If you’re on your own, pick some acts similar to your in genre and popularity, and check the routing of their tours. You can use that as a jumping off point to contact venues and route your tour. Pollstar.com can also give you venue ideas. It depends on the venue, but it’s often a good idea to contact them 4-6 months ahead of a desired date.
2. Advancing the Tour
Once you’ve contracted with the venues, spend the week before hitting the road emailing or calling them again to finalize details. When do we load-in and do a sound check? Who is the contact running sound and handling production? Who pays us (settles) at the end of the night? Are you feeding us or giving us money (called a buyout) to eat? You should definitely also call the day before the show, or the day of, to make sure nothing has changed as well. For instance, the sound guy you had been talking to may have moved on, and the new guy doesn’t have your stage plots or input requirements.
3. On the Road
Bring about 2 weeks worth of clothes. Hopefully that works out to 1 large suitcase. Do laundry any chance you get because there may not be another chance for a while. You’re probably broke and need to make food last so you can bring a small cooler if you want, but it’s a luxury, space permitting. Here’s a good tip: ask for baby spinach and fruit on your hospitality rider and take it with you. Baby spinach is a green that will last and you can put it on sandwiches for the next few days with minimal refrigeration. Also, choose a bag of pitas over a loaf of bread. The bread takes up more space and will just get squashed. Do whatever you can to stay healthy and supplement your gas station diet.
Being on the road is a fluid situation so be ready to improvise, but planning and preparation are your friends. Good communication, as always, is essential. Create and share Google Docs with band and management regarding your itinerary and accounting. I honestly don’t know how people did it before all of this technology. Being on tour without GPS and a cell phone?!
4. Your Trusty Steed
Try to cram it all in a 15-passenger van if possible. Having a trailer can be difficult to park/back up. Not to mention the savings on gas. Be aware that if you take a toll on your battery by charging multiple devices off of it at a time, you may end up needing to replace it. Make time for oil changes every 3-4k miles. If you’re in a van, back into parking spaces so that your back doors are against a wall or post and so nobody can break in.
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