Something I’ve learned while on the road is that the best time to plan for the future is right now.
Traveling around the country gives you the unique opportunity to meet people you wouldn’t normally meet and make personal connections you wouldn’t otherwise make.
While I’m on tour, I find it’s a good time to reflect and plan for the future with the rest of the guys in my band. We’re all together 24/7, so there’s lots of time to talk and and then talk some more. Often, whether it’s in the van or between shows, there’s even time do some work – email, call, etc.
Here’s how I take advantage of the unique opportunities provided by touring.
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Plan Ahead For Your Next Tour – Way Ahead!
You might as well have a tour planned/scheduled a year in advance. Use an app like Sunrise Calendar to start blocking off times. You never know when you’re going to have the opportunity to book a show in person, and if you already have a future date planned, then you’re ahead of the game. You also don’t have to stick to it if something comes up.
Use the time in the van to talk with band mates and plan for the future.
Inviting Promoters To Your Shows
I’ll be honest, my first tour was pretty much garbage. We had no idea where to play, who to contact, etc.
However, it wasn’t all bad! For one thing, we weren’t even good enough to play those top-tier venues yet. We also searched out and found firsthand which venues we should be playing.
Then, on our next tour (which was also not great), we made a point of inviting as many promoters, talent buyers, etc. out to each show. We were already working very hard just to book a gig at an okay venue, so while we were at it, we would call the top venues, the top promoters, let them know when we were playing, and do our best to get them out.
Believe it or not, we’ve had success with this. Even if you don’t get a show with them, if they hear your name enough times, they’ll at least listen to you.
If you have a truly polished show, anyone who hears you will appreciate your music. If the genre fits, they will likely book you for a gig.
Making Connections With Other Bands Whilst On Tour
Making connections with other bands and even just random musicians is a great way to make your next tour better. Musicians are often music lovers, and if they love your music, they’ll be a few extra bodies in the room.
As I’ve mentioned before, your goal should always be to play in front of a bunch of people. So if you can go out and meet a band that has a good draw in their hometown, it’s a perfect opportunity to open up for them next time. You could even do a show exchange!
If you’re looking to make connections with bands the best way to do so is to: a) invite them to your show, or b) go to their show.
We’ve often gone to another band’s show before or after doing our own. It’s always a good idea to do a social media shout-out and tag them. That way, if you don’t get to meet them for whatever reason, they’ll know that you were there.
It’s often good to just be upfront with what you’re asking. If you want to tour with a band or open up a show for them, just straight up ask them. Beating around the bush feels flaky, but a polite, professional inquiry is always appreciated.
If you can’t get through to the band for whatever reason (you should always try to become Facebook friends or get their cell number), don’t be afraid to contact their manager or promoter.
Here's a quick anecdote about making connections with other musicians: a professional drummer that we made a connection with eventually led us to a booking agent who has made touring Australia possible. All from a drummer!
Keeping A List Of Contacts
This is not my idea actually. The lead singer and guitar player in my band keeps an Excel spreadsheet of nearly every single person he meets on tour. It’s organized by city, then split into industry and fans, and then organized by name. He keeps tracks of where he met them, when, and details about their life.
Every time we go to a new city, this proves incredibly useful. Can’t remember the sound tech's name at a venue? It’s in the spreadsheet. People love it when you remember their name. It’s literally one of the easiest things you can do to make people like you.
Set Up Meetings With Local Industry People
This may seem intimidating, but it’s always worth a shot. Ask to meet up for breakfast, coffee or lunch with festival talent buyers, local promoters, even local bands, musicians, producers, etc. It’s cheesy, but you never know when these connections will come in handy.
One thing we’ve enjoyed doing is inviting people to do fun things with us. For example, we invited a pretty accomplished sound tech to come to a water park with us (weird I know). As it turns out, he books a really cool, hipster festival, and guess what – we’re playing!
These kind of personal connections are always worth making.
Book Shows In Person
We’ve all been there: trying to book a show but getting radio silence from a promoter or event planner. It may be a little awkward, but it’s totally possible to literally walk up to the person and ask to book a date right on the spot.
The other thing we’ve noticed is that if someone is really hard to get hold of, but you manage to play their venue, set up another date right after you’ve played. You might as well take advantage of the fact that you have the promoter's full attention.
Don’t Waste Time
Above all, don’t let touring get too fun. I always have a great time (going to water parks and whatnot), but I also do at least an hour or two of work every day, and talk a lot with the rest of the band while on tour.
It’s your job, and you don’t have very many distractions on the road. Make good use of your time and blow the crowds away!