Every musician dreams of the day that they’ll get to go out on tour. Blazing the open roads as a touring band and taking in what the world has to offer you. Not to mention the awesome venues and the euphoria of being up on stage. However, there’s plenty of things that must be considered before jumping head first into an ambitious tour. Let’s run through some of the big dos and don’ts for any touring band.
Things you must do as a Touring Band
Prepare for the worst!
It’s inevitable that you’re going to run into some hard times on the road. Whether it’s as simple as a bad sound system in the next venue or more serious like having your tour bus broken into, you must make considerations for every possible eventuality. The best advice I can offer you here is to do some research and learn from other peoples mistakes. Even the most experienced touring bands will make mistakes so soaking up as much info before the tour as possible could save you some real hassle.
Label up your gear
Unfortunately, theft is all too common in the music industry. Even at bigger venues where you expect things to be civil, your gear can still go missing. Before hitting the road, take the time to label up every single piece of kit that you’re taking with you. From guitar amps to cables, make sure that if someone pinches your kit, there’s a chance of them getting caught out. The best thing you can do here is to use some form of an ultraviolet pen to make a mark that only the band knows about. This won’t devalue your kit and it’ll make it distinct when you want to check suspicious people who claim “Nah, this is my guitar”.
Stick to your budget
Budget is everything to a successful tour. Fail to plan and you could end up in a serious financial hole. Fail to stick with your budget and you may not finish your tour. Your budget needs to include the basics such as food, petrol, and accommodation. It also needs to include things like van hire, insurance for your van, and insurance for your equipment. Don’t assume that your tours are in a nice neighbourhood and that nobody would try to rob you. Remember, plan for the worst!
Set yourself up to take credit cards
With technology moving forward so quickly, fewer people are carrying cash. In fact, fewer and fewer people are even carrying cards now that we have contactless mobile banking. My advice to you is to get set up with something like a Square card reader. This way, when people rock up the merch table and tell you they haven’t brought any cash, you won’t have to turn them away.
Keep a check on your health
Possibly the most important thing to do on the list is to keep an eye on your health. On days between gigs, try and take some time to hit up a local gym or even just go for a short walk. Being cooped up in a van for weeks on end and living off of McDonald’s is a recipe for disaster. Eat healthily and live healthily. Equally, keep a very close eye on your and your bandmates mental health. It’s very easy to miss mental health issues, especially with touring bands who on the face of things, can seem very happy and upbeat. Mental health is a serious issue and one in four are likely to experience problems.
Don’ts for any Touring Band
Leave the gig early
This is possibly one of the most disrespectful things that any touring band can do. As a band, you know how hard it is to make a name for yourself and you rely on the people who turn up for the shows. Always return the favour and stick around for the other acts on the bill. Especially when the gig is a bit of a dud and the bands are the only people at the venue! Equally, talk to the fans and the other bands. Who knows, it could be the making of an ultimate collaboration that really gets your name out there.
Get ripped off
Don’t let promoters and venues devalue what you do. Plenty of people out there think your band is nothing more than a hobby and so you don’t deserve to be paid properly. These people should be ignored at all costs so that they stop running shows. You’ve put countless hours into writing your music and so you should be valued for it. Set yourself a ‘per show rate’ that you’d be happy to be paid and stick to it. Equally, pay to play is a scam, no matter how you look at it. Unless there is some serious non-fiscal return on your investment (paid shows, music distribution or a record deal perhaps) then steer clear.
Neglect your social media
Being a touring band, you’re probably having a whole lot of fun. You’re meeting new people, seeing new places and partying to your heart’s content. Amidst all this joy, don’t forget the fundamentals of a successful tour. You need people to show up to gigs and hear your music and regardless of if it’s one month before the tour or day six, you still need to be promoting your band. Keep up with your fans, share your experiences and continue to grow your name.
Forget to bring spares
As a touring engineer, I was always taught one simple rule. If you need six XLR cables for a gig, bring twelve. If you need a drum kit, bring two. Things can break or get stolen unexpectedly and you don’t want such an annoyance to become the end of your tour. Bring at least two of everything (space permitting of course) and if anything does break, order a replacement immediately.
Act like the world owes you anything
One of the biggest disappoints that I encounter with touring bands are the ones that think they’re rock stars. Everyone has to start somewhere. When you drive a hundred miles, set up for a show and only three people turn up, don’t act like you’re the best band alive. Be humble and show respect to those three people that actually showed up. Executive Editor Kevin Kelly once described the concept that you only need one thousand true fans to make a living as a touring band. Move slowly and pick up a few fans at every show. You’ll get there one day!
There are many dos and don’ts for any touring band. The key things to consider here are being prepared, being healthy, and being humble. By planning ahead properly and accounting for any eventuality, you should be set for a fantastic, stress-free tour. Enjoy and make as much of it as you can!