Beginner’s Guide to Touring: Tips to Consider
by Mike Mahgerefteh of Galaxy Dynamite
After a few packed hometown shows, its finally time to show the world what you are made of by taking your act on the road. While going on tour sounds fun and easy enough, there are a few steps that you should take which could ultimately make or break your successful trip. Since starting Galaxy Dynamite at a Craigslist-found open mic night, I have booked us more than 300 shows in 8 states over the past four years and learned through much trial and error along the way. Here are some general tips I’ve compiled to ensure your bands travels are as successful as they can be:
- Look in the mirror. You need to take a good look at your band’s current position. How many people can you already bring out? If you are struggling to bring 50 people to the music spot next door, you might want to work on strengthening your home markets before foraying into parts unknown. The band is going to need popularity in at least a couple local venues so you can successfully host an out of town opening act. When exactly is your group able to travel? What is your car/driving situation? Taking your 6 piece band to travel across the east coast in 3 sedans isn’t the most ideal.
So you’ve secured a nice van/car that you can all fit into, and carved out a set time that you are free to hit the road around 3 months into the future. Whats next?
- Do your homework. You need to pinpoint exactly what areas you would like to visit on your travels. Look up active bands in that area who have a similar level of popularity and style/approach to their music. What other local acts do they play with? What music venues does that band usually play at? Following in another band’s footsteps is an excellent way of navigating the huge list of potential venues you could perform at and bands worth performing with. Find out which promoters are throwing successful shows in your genre and contact them about working with you, or at the very least invite them to come see you.
Ok, so you’ve found some killer sounding hard working bands, and compiled a list of moderately sized reputable venues who host your style of music. Lets get a show started!
- Make contact. Compose an email which states all of your bands information and lists links to your music and an easy way to contact you. Venues that you are playing at for the first time will more than likely require you to team up with a local act to bring people to come see you. This is why it is important to reach out to local bands in the area regarding your tour. Contact the local acts that you have in mind and see if they are interested in working with you on a show in their hometown. The best way to convince a band to host you in their hometown is to offer a reciprocating show at your home spots. Once you have a couple of bands who are on board to work with you, contact the local venues who will be more enthusiastic about booking your 2-3 band ticket that you put together for the show. Do not be discouraged if you do not receive an immediate reply, successful venues and promoters receive hundreds of unsolicited booking requests every day. Make sure that you space out shows in the same town at least 2 weeks apart, and don’t travel more than 200 miles a day unless you must.
After many emails and conversations with great bands and venues in town, you’ve finally confirmed the dates on your calendar and made this tour a reality! But booking the shows is only half the battle, now you need to make sure your band will actually be playing in front of a crowd every night on your tour.
- Make the effort. You need to spread the word about your upcoming shows. Create a professional looking poster design with your shows information, and mail a couple copies to each venue that is hosting you. Use your friends and social media to find your fans who live close by, and offer them something nice (like merchandise and/or free tickets to the show) in exchange for putting up posters around town and promoting the event online. Contact local media outlets like radio stations, newspapers, magazines, and blogs to list your event and potentially interview your band about the show. Ask your friends what resources they use online to find about where different bands are playing and use them to your advantage. Dont forget to list your event on aggregate websites like Reverbnation, Jambase, IndieOnTheMove, etc. Use social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter to your advantage but do not completely rely on them to get the word out.
- Prepare yourself. Being on the road will be exhausting and can be expensive. Food and gas will be the main items on your tour’s price tag. Invest in merchandise which you can sell at shows to offset these expenses. CDs, t-shirts and posters are just some of the creative things you can sell to potentially double your income at every gig you book. Consider buying healthy meals at the grocery store for a days worth of food instead of hitting the fast food drive-through every time you guys get hungry. Trail mix and fruit are a cheaper and more satisfying snack than a variety pack of potato chips. Eating junk food while sitting in a van for days can be very detrimental to your health and the bands morale. Reach out to your fans for a place to sleep after the show instead of paying for a hotel room. Ideally, you are going to want to list exactly how far you are traveling, budget your gas and food, get your merchandise totally organised, and find a place to sleep each night before you hit the road.
- HAVE FUN! This should be blatantly obvious. You are working hard to do something you love to do, so dont sweat the little things and just enjoy the time you are spending with your friends and your music! Follow these tips to ensure your bands tour will be a healthy and successful endeavor! Good luck 🙂