Touring: A Musician’s Guide For Going On Tour (Part 1)
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As a musician myself, I will tell you going on a tour is one hell of an adventure. It is an amazing experience where you get to travel, see different places, play in front of different people and grow as an artist. But, its not as simple. Especially not if this is your first time doing it. Touring is a process that takes careful planning. So, if this is your first time touring, here’s a few things to keep in mind:
When should I think about touring?
One piece of advice to follow is that you are ready to go on a tour when:
- your work is presentable enough
- it is worth the financial, creative, emotional, mental and time effort
to be taking a step like such.
Touring isn’t as simple as it sounds. You don’t just hit the road and live the life of a rock star drinking and partying in your van all night. You should start thinking about touring when you/your band are not only ready with a material to present, but also when you feel responsible enough for such a move.
How to get it started?
To make touring work, you have to make a lot of things work. I’m gonna try and cover as much as possible.
I know it really sucks to have to think about this, but touring is a financial investment, especially in the beginning. You will need the money for gas, eating, maybe a hotel, maybe some new piece of gear and such. So, make sure you have this figured out at least to a point where it can get you started. Yes, you are about to go on tour and sell tickets, but believe me, you need to have this covered. Whether through sponsorships, personal investments, donations, or whatever works in your situation.
Choose a date for going on tour (choose a when)
So, first, you need to think about when do you want to go on tour. This depends on a lot of factors, like when are you/your band free, how is your daily life going, your responsibilities, your daily job(s), etc. For example, you can plan going on a tour when you know the places you are going to visit and perform at have more tourists or people out there more than they usually do (ex. the summer), or you now not much in those places is happening, but people would be happy if something finally did. Which leads me to the next thing..
Choose demographics for going on tour (choose a where)
Where are you going on a tour? Considering this is your first time doing so, taking small steps is definitely going to bring less damage. Start with two things:
- closer/more familiar areas
- closer/more familiar people/audience
Start with cities closer/more familiar to you, and then slowly start moving further away. Start from smaller regions closer to where you are in your country, and then go further from home. Today, with social media it is really easy to see where most of your fans are based at, and you can use this to help you plan your movement.
Once you have an idea of these two things…
You start contacting venues
You can do this in two ways, which is by contacting the venues yourself, or hiring a booking agent to do so. We will get a little bit into both ways:
If you hire a booking agent, you will give this person the responsibility to find venues where you are going to play once you start the tour. You explain them your plan, and they find the right venue(s) for you.
Contacting venues yourself
You yourself can do this as well. You can sit down and get as much info as you can on all the venues in all the places you wanna go to.
However, apparently you should consider that there will be a lot of contacting and waiting for a response to come, so that is why you should consider starting to plan a tour 4-6 months, or even a year ahead before you actually leave.
Keep in mind a few things when contacting these people. Whether contacting a booking agent or contacting the venue yourself, you should know first impression matters, and, well, another thing matters to them too..
Can you fill up the capacity of the venue?
As cruel as it sounds, these guys will not care how good and unique you are unless you are able to fill up the space with people and sell the tickets you promised to sell. If they hire someone to come and play in a venue for 150 people and only 30 show up, this will put them out of business and give you the reputation of the performer(s) that suck. Of course, you can increase your chances of things being better for you if you promote the event, but when you contact them for the first time, you have to make them like you. How do you do that?
Write an e-mail
Not just an e-mail saying: “Hey, I wanna go on tour, can you find me a venue? I am really cool” or “Hey, can I play at your venue?”
Be professional. Have your social media up to date, and make sure to include those links in the description. Another important thing is to send them a video performing. My recommendation is since you are going to play live, to send them a video of a live performance. Trust me, this is relevant to them. There are musicians out there who sound like two totally different dimensions live and in the studio. Not in a good way though.
The people in the venue or the booking agent will appreciate a nicely put together e-mail with all the information needed. Leaving them to search for themselves isn’t very professional. Another thing you should consider is, if possible, to give them a phone call and say: “Hey, I am interested in touring, I would be happy to work with you on this, I sent you an e-mail with all of the information provided, and it would really mean a lot to me if you checked it out.”
Human connection this direct is a more organic approach to the situation. It will definitely help increase your chances. Keep this in mind with any kind of promotion you ever do for your art.
A good contact is something that is especially important for booking agents, since they do have events and meetings in which they talk and recommend artists, and simply network.
The right venues for your work
How do you know which venue is the right venue for you? Why is this important? Well, different events attract different crowds. Different venues hold different events. To attract the right crowd, you need to be at the right place and doing the right thing. You need to sit down and look at the venues. What do they offer? Does it match both – yours and their fit? This depends on the kind of music you play, whether if you are a cover artist/ band, or an original author. What genre of music is it that you play, and so on and so forth. Some venues, for example, do only cover bands. Others attract crowds that like country, or electronic. And sometimes, there are venues that will guest just about everything.
You need to sit down and do your thorough research, especially if you are going to book your gigs yourself.
Once you have all these figured out (venues booked, dates and demographics set), it is time to take it to more specific stuff related to your touring adventure.
I separated this topic in two different posts to make it easier for you to read, so we will talk about it in the next one.