Ready to Tour? Read this FIRST
What’s going on everybody!
Super excited to share my experiences on the road and tips for having a more pleasant tour.
I have toured with two different acts, one of which I can’t name (NDA life) and the other being the awesome people at Hail Sagan. In the last 3-4 years I’ve toured in roughly 30 states, and played shows ranging from 10 to 10,000 people. I don’t claim to be any kind of an expert on the matter, but I do have enough knowledge and difficult experiences that you can learn from for a less stressful and more successful tour.
Please remember everything I say is not a steadfast, black and white rule. Touring, music, and any freelance creative business is full of difficult grey areas to navigate, so it is ultimately up to decide what is right for your particular situation; however, these tips will apply the VAST majority of the time.
What this Tutorial covers:
- When you should go on tour
- The “Are You Ready For Tour” checklist
- Why sleeping in your van will cost you so much more than you think
- Planning for the unexpected
- Leaving extra baggage (friends and family) at home
Only Tour If You Are READY To Tour
Touring is often jumped into quickly because it’s very sexy looking, but I often see people going on tour before they have the basics in place to support the tour (my past self included). Touring is roughly step 200 of being a musical act, and should be treated as such.
Below are a list of questions to ask yourself to make sure your tour will be worthwhile and make the maximum impact and return on your investment.
- Does the visual aesthetic of your online presence (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) stand up to the quality of an artist on a major label?
- Are your songs absolutely amazing and captivating?
- Do your photos, videos, songs, and merch look as good as that major label act?
- Do you have any reason to know that you will have a good turnout in other cities besides your own?
- Did you run $200 of Instagram ads to target people in each city that are fans of similar acts to start cultivating a following before you go there?
- Do you understand your true demographic for your music and how to properly target them with online ad campaigns in Instagram stories, Youtube pre-roll ads, and Facebook feeds?
Without letting people know you will be in their city performing a once in a lifetime show, your touring efforts will be much less successful.
Do not bring extra people. Just… No.
This isn’t something I’ve personally experienced, but I have heard PLENTY of horror stories about this.
Every. Single. Person on the road is an additional layer of complexity you have to deal with. Every body takes up more space in seats, more gear and luggage taking up room in the van or trailer, more space when sleeping, more people to split money with, more likelihood of personality conflicts and arguments, and overall just more possibilities of things going wrong.
Any person that is not going to be on the stage needs to be seriously considered before they come out. Yes, having a tour manager, roadie, or merch person is nice, but it’s not worth it to bring somebody out to help if you don’t vibe with them 100% and they are providing incredible value to the tour. Don’t forget, you will be in a box for 8-12 hours per day, and have ZERO privacy. The people you choose to spend your time with is incredibly important.
And this should go without saying, but NO significant others. I’ve only seen it work once well (shout out to Hail Sagan, Nick and Sagan are married and their band is their business) but have heard mountains of stories of it going incredibly badly every other time.
Let them stay home, it’s less stress for everyone. Especially for your tour mates who will have to sit awkwardly in the van while you and your significant other are fighting over something dumb.
Don’t Sleep In Your Van
Yes. It’s cheaper. But I want to make the case that it is actually more expensive to stay in your van than get a motel room.
On the road, assuming you don’t go for the dirtiest, total crap motels, you can get a room for $60-75 a night. This will end up being $15-20 per person, or hopefully it will come out of your money from the tour. For these situations likely a couple people will be on air beds.
This will give you so many amazing things: freedom from your van, ability to stretch out and have space, better sleep so you perform better and are mentally stronger, and showers. Daily showers. That is SO worth the price.
The difference in your mental state between van sleep and bed sleep is immense. Invest in your rest, because anybody that has been on the road will tell you how insanely stressful it can be on every aspect of your body and mind. Also, don’t forget that every performance needs to be top notch to be memorable, and you never know who may be watching and what opportunities may arise from the right person seeing a STELLAR performance on the right night. The only way to maintain this type of performance night after night is to get a quality night sleep.
Have Two Of Everything
Okay, that might be a little impractical, because two vans?? Who has that budget?? But on a serious note, it is wise to have a backup for as many things as possible. Strings, picks, mics, cables, sticks, heads, a tool bag, rolls of tape, flashlights, tables, laptop and phone chargers, a backup laptop if you can afford if (if it’s integrated into your show), stage outfits, etc. ANYTHING that you have one of, that can derail your show or your tour, is a potential problem. Every tour has at least one thing break or go missing, so that backup will save your ass when it’s 11 PM on a Thursday, you’re on in 20 minutes, and nobody else has the specific receiver unit for your wireless mic pack. Trust me, have backups.
I could honestly keep going about all of the things I would advise you to do for your travels on the road, but for now I will leave you with those! At this point I want to pass the question off to you:
If you have been on tour before, what other tips would you tell somebody who is planning to go on a run?
If you haven’t been on tour, what worries or questions do you have about the touring experience?
Cheers to creating great music, and Happy Touring!