History has proven that one of the most effective platforms for launching and expanding your music career is touring. We’ve all heard the stories of artists taking on mammoth touring schedules to launch their latest release. So how do these artists survive? What is touring life actually like? And is it even possible to hit the road for months on end without any major form of financial backing? This is what we look at today. Below are 6 tips for carrying out a better tour.
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Realize, Touring Isn't Easy
Just like everything in the music industry these days, touring is becoming more accessible to all artists. It is possible to book and partake in touring for months on end completely independently. That said, I doesn't mean it's easy.
You have to have genuine passion and patience with what you do. In my experience, touring is more emotionally draining and holds much more commitment than any full time job. The day will come where you’re sitting restlessly on the highway waiting for your roadside assistance company to come pick you up and you’ll totally question everything. That is the day that you’ll need to firmly reassure yourself of why you’re even there. This leads me nicely onto my second point.
Be Organized And Carry Your Workload
You must be an organized person to tour. If you're not generally an organized person, you need to learn to be!
Every aspect of booking and playing shows can be a potentially stressful situation. There needs to be at least one member of the group who has consistently got their stuff together. But of course leaving all of the work to one member can cause stress in itself. Remember, you are a team on the road and certainly in every other aspect of your musical career. You are all there for the same reasons and potential outcome. Work together and learn to delegate responsibility.
Don’t slack on your work load, fluke your way through sound check and then go talk to the cute girl at the bar. Sooner or later you’ll become “that” guy. And although the other band members may joke about your apparent lack of effort, there is some sincerity behind their remarks. This will eventually build up and probably lead to conflict. The last thing you want is your guitarist and drummer arguing for the entire 14 hour ride.
I’ve seen far too many bands break up due to lack of internal organization and communication. Recognize that your 40 date tour does not start the minute you get in the van and hit the road. It begins six months before hand when you’re emailing booking agents, venues, promoters, merchandise companies and fans. If everyone gets involved and takes on the responsibility of being organized, the entire process becomes much simpler.
Find Your Target Audience And Promote Your Tour To Them
In order to successfully make money touring, you must generate interest in your act. This is done by running your music career as a business and marketing your music in an effective manner. Now, I know many want to stick it to the man and not handle the business end of things, but it’s important to at least acknowledge this point.
Let me give you a hypothetical example.
Bob starts a business selling clothing to people aged between the ages of 12 and 18. There are two aspects here that Bob must consider.
- Firstly where does his target market exist? And
- How does he reach them?
Look at your brand (your band). You’ve invested heavily in creating your product (your music) whether it was the countless hours you spent in your rehearsal space or the money you spent recording elsewhere. Just like you, Bob has invested time and money into his products. He can’t sell his product if nobody knows about it.
This is where market research kicks in. In order to survive in business you must identify and capitalize on your market. Bob’s target market is young people. And if you haven’t spent the last decade in a cave, you would be aware that a large portion of young people pretty much live online. Bob can now identify his markets location and capitalize on it. Good one Bob!
When relating to music, put the research in and find out where similar artists are making headway with their products. It’s evident that their audience have an interest in your genre so introduce them to your brand.
This does not mean spending a fortune on Facebook advertising. Actively engage, interact and network within this audience prior to even booking a tour.
There are two points to consider here. Don’t become the band that just makes noise online. Follow this through with an actual tour. Secondly, don’t be naive enough to think that people will simply turn up to your show without any prior marketing or knowledge of your brand and products. If you do that you’ll run your band into debt quicker than you could ever imagine. A tour is a follow up and reward for brand loyalty.
Stay Clean Bro!
Another important aspect of touring is hygiene. The best advice I and many others will ever give someone in regards to touring is to never turn down any opportunity to shower. One of the worst things about touring is the smell of “dude” in the van. Its simple guys; just shower and stay clean.
Being an independent band often means you won’t have the luxury of a hotel room every night. This increases the importance of keeping your hygiene in check. Go out of your way to be overly hygienic. It might be a bit of a pain at times but it’ll be worth it in the long term. Nobody wants to get sick on the road.
Stay On Top Of Your Expenses
Obviously as an independent band, there is usually less cash flow and more financial responsibility. This makes it important to spend wisely. Touring really teaches you the price of milk. Do not attempt to hit the road if it will put you in serious debt.
As with everything in life, it’s better to spend money on experiences than possessions. That said, it’s also important to enjoy these experiences. But it's hard to enjoy something when you’ve got the constant concern that it’s financially killing you. So be sure you budget well before hand as well as along the way.
Finally, and probably the most important part of touring independently, enjoy it! You never know when you’re going to get to travel across the country with your best friends again. At times, touring can be like a really boring holiday. Except on this holiday, you spent 95% of your time traveling and lugging around your stuff leaving the other 5% for actual recreational time. It’s very easy to over think and react negatively to the experience while living it, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s, in my opinion anyway, the most amazing thing you will ever do.