Alright everybody, this is it! The second to last Tour De Force post. In honor of the near-ending of an era, I thought I’d do a compilation of the best tour tips from artists and industry professionals. I’ve gone back through Tour De Force posts of the past six months and hand-selected the most useful tips to make your tour the best that it can be!
1. Don’t Get Discouraged
The Winter Sounds
When we spoke with touring fiends The Winter Sounds, their one major piece of advice was this, “definitely don’t get discouraged, you know? Booking shows is really, really, really hard. It always feels like you’re up against local bands that do really well, and bands that have all the support in the world, like booking agents and things like that. If you’re booking your own shows don’t get discouraged. . . .go towards the house show route. Sometimes you’ll end up making more money at house shows because people buy merchandise.”
2. Don’t Get In Over Your Head
Touring buddies with The Winter Sounds and OurStage band galore, Parachute Musical’s advice is, “Do 4-hour drives, don’t go out for 2 months at a time, you’re just going to wear yourself thin. If you’re just starting out you’re going to have a lot of bad shows. It’s good to go out for 10 days and build up a good 10-day market, and tour regionally. Try and build up that home base. It’s really attractive to other bands that might want to play with you and it’s really attractive to booking agents because they see dollar signs. So tour regionally and tour often, but don’t do it in big blocks.”
3. Set Goals
Amber Rubarth is truly a touring veteran. Since her first release in 2005, she has toured Europe 5 times, played countless shows in the US, played 4 shows at SXSW in March and recently returned from Japan. In an interview with OurStage she mentioned that, “The biggest thing I’ve figured out so far is thinking about what you like to do, how you like to spend your time, what you want to say, and focus on that. When I first started, it was about seeing the country and playing a lot of shows so I could learn the strings, practice guitar, have a lot of new experiences to write about. Now my focus has shifted to less shows in general but making each one bigger, putting a band together, focusing on a few markets that I can do well in and then expanding to new places I want to see.”
4. Make Friends
Boston music-scene veteran, Shred of Team Shred Productions, has been bookings bands at venues across Boston for years. According to him the most important aspect of setting up a tour is making friends. “Making friends with other bands and playing shows with those bands is always a good place to start. It also helps if you have some fans/friends that enjoy what you do in relatively decent-sized numbers, but for the band with only a limited friends’ base, it’s just important to get your music out there and meet as many music loving folks as you can by going out, through friends or social-networking sites.”
Just because you’ve booked the show doesn’t mean the work is over. You need to make sure you get people to come out and see your show. Have Twitter contests to give away guest list tickets, make a funny YouTube video announcing the show, set up a street team and have friends and fans put up posters, put that mailing list to work!
6. Document Your Tour
I recently did a post about the importance of documenting your tour and some of the best ways of going about it. But there’s nothing like reiteration! Documenting your tour helps you stay connected with your fans and helps spread the word —not to mention gives you some pretty awesome videos, pictures and stories for posterity. Another important aspect of documentation that was not addressed in that post is business-related. Many touring musicians are out on the road working hard because this is, or will hopefully someday be, their living. It it important to keep track of your receipts, expenses, merch sales and income in order to accurately predict what merch you need to order, what you need to pay your bandmates and, of course, do taxes!
7. Play Cover Songs
Jukebox The Ghost
In an interview with Jukebox the Ghost, the band mentioned one of their favorites songs to cover is “Temptation” by New Order. They said, “We’ve used it a lot of times as our “hail Mary pass” if we’re not sure people are having a good time — dance songs never fail.” Looking back through Tour De Force history, you’ll see many artists share a similar train of thought. For unknown bands who aren’t quite at the point where they have audience sing-a-longs, a cover can be a great way to make a connection with the audience. Even for bands that play to an audience full of fans, it can be a great way to re-engage the crowd—keep them on their toes and make sure they’re having fun.
8. Be Green
Andy Reitz - Greenvans
Traveling in a tour van powered by veggie oil is not only a huge environmental perk, but is also a super cheap option for anyone looking for an alternative to fossil fuel-guzzling vans. Andy Reitz, one of the founders of the company Greenvans, elaborated on some of the benefits: “For people who are green-minded, it’s a really good feeling to travel around on non-petroleum-based fuel. The idea of traveling around on a veggie van is huge for a lot of bands. It really give people something to talk about and catches their attention. It’s a great way to market your band and sort of reach out to fans. When I was touring with our first rig, so many more people cared about the fact that we drove around in a van that smelled like french fries than our band because it was different and new. It’s really hard to be in a small touring band right now and anything that gives people a reason to be curious about your band is a great asset.”
9. Stay Healthy
Staying healthy by both eating well and exercising on the road is one of the most important tips to keep in mind. Eating fast food and sleeping all day may be easy, but putting on a show that night won’t be. It’s almost too easy to party all night, wake up at 2pm and eat a cheeseburger, but this will ultimately wear you down and result in illness. Check out this Tour De Force blog post with tons of easy ways to stay healthy on the road.
10. Have Fun!
This may sound cliché, but it’s true! You get to travel around the region/country/WORLD, play music and have good time. Go out, sight-see, bond with your band members, visit with your fans, meet other bands, have sing-a-longs in your van, call your mom once a week… But really though, have the time of your life! You get to do what you love and (hopefully) get paid, what’s better than that?!