Planning Your First Tour

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© 2009 Vinny Ribasmotel_sign

For many people, the notion of being on the road as a full-time musician just sounds like heaven on earth. It may be because it is so far removed from where you’re at right now. It might be because no one is a celebrity in their own town until after they are a celebrity everywhere else. It may be because the thought of doing nothing but music for a living just makes your heart sing (pun intended!). Whatever the reason, there are a lot of factors that you need to think about as you plan your first road gigs. Here are just a few:[private_pro]

  • What is the purpose of the tour? Just to make a living? To promote a new CD release? To hit radio stations that you want to play, or continue playing your songs? To grow your fan base? Each has its own time requirements, commitment levels, and may have added costs associated with it.
  • How are you going to travel? By car? Bus Van? Plane? RV? Will you (everyone) really be comfortable enough?
  • Do you have the appropriate vehicle(s), or does buying or renting need to be written into your budget?
  • If you’re taking a vehicle, who is going to drive? Will you need to hire a driver for overnight traveling?
  • How many people will be going? Will you take the whole band? Will you hire local musicians at each stop? Do you need to have charts made of all your songs for the pick-up musicians?
  • Are you willing to live with your fellow band members 24/7 for extended periods of time? Do you all get along that well? Are there any issues that need to be dealt with before embarking on the road?
  • How long are you wanting or willing to be gone for? Do you want to test the waters by going a weekend or a week at a time? Weekends only? Can you handle being away from friends and family for a month? 3 months? 6 months? A year?
  • Will you book one nightstands, or do you want to stay in one place for 2-3 nights, a week or longer at a time?
  • Will you try to pick up house concerts or coffee house gigs on your off nights? Is everyone in the band involved in that? Can the other members pick up their own gigs?
  • Are you willing to live out of hotels and motels? At what price range and comfort level?
  • Will the gigs you play pay enough to allow you to stay where you want? Will you require that the venue provide you with lodging? Are the gigs close enough together so that you don’t have stretches of 4-5 days of no income when you need to find a motel?
  • How many sleeping rooms will you need? Who will stay with whom? Does everyone agree? Are they all compatible with each other?
  • What equipment will you carry? Will you rent some equipment as you get to each venue? Will you only play venues that provide the sound system and lights, or will you carry your own sound and lighting
  • Do you need to hire sound and lighting techs? Will you bring your own or hire them at each venue?
  • What will you do in your ‘spare time’? Sight see? Rehearse? Visit radio stations? Perform at the mall? Pass out flyers? Spend hours on social networks recruiting fans to come to the shows? Volunteer at nonprofits? Is everyone in agreement up front?
  • How will you rehearse on the road? Do you need special equipment to rehearse quietly in the hotel rooms? Will you need to rent a space to rehearse choreography?
  • What kinds of venues will you play? Nightclubs? Hotels? Performing arts centers? Fairs and festivals? Rodeos? Motorcycle rallies? Churches? Coffeehouses? Whatever you can find? Is everyone in agreement?
  • Will you be traveling out of the country? Does everyone have passports or visas? Is everyone in the group legally allowed to make money (foreigners may require special visas)?
  • Will you make enough money at your select venues? How many gigs will you have to book to cover all of your costs, pay everyone and still make a profit?  
  • Is everyone willing to perform at an occasional benefit on the road? They are great for publicity and can attract people to your shows?
  • Do you have CDs and merchandise to sell to help defray the costs? Who mans the table at the end of the show?
  • Who handles the money? Pays the band? How are tips split?
  • Have you considered and included in your budget all of the extra expenses that go with traveling on the road, such as motels, eating in restaurants, vehicle breakdowns, equipment repair or rental (if something you need has to be in the shop for a few days), publicity etc?  Should you have equipment insurance?
  • Should you get a sponsor(s) to help defray the costs of the tour? Who would be appropriate? Who will make the presentation? 

Obviously a lot of decision making goes into planning and booking a tour. Regardless of whether you play coffeehouses, nightclubs or concert venues, the more you plan ahead, know what to expect and know that income will exceed your expenses, the better your experience will be.[/private_pro]

About The Author

Vinny Ribas

Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, an artist management, consulting and training company. The company also hosts networking and educational events and has published an app that connects people to the Nashville Music Industry. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, artist manager, booking agent, songwriter, studio owner, producer and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He has also coached over 1000 artists and songwriters. He is a sought after speaker and has authored over 400 music industry articles. Vinny is also the CEO of Top 4M Entertainment, an independent film and television production company.