When, Why and How to Tour
WHEN are you ready to tour?
Are you an act with at least 30 mins of original well rehearsed material? Do you play live shows and have some sort of a current fan base? Do you have a single that is being promoted online or at radio, or have a hard copy of your music such as a full length album or EP that you are selling? If so… you should be on tour. When you are trying to promote any sort of music, there is no point in sitting at home playing local shows getting frustrated at your low sales and lack of growing fan base. A “tour” can refer to anywhere between a 2 week to a 2 year stint (regionally or internationally) and is crucial for any artist hoping to have a successful career.
WHY would my band need to tour?
Touring is one of the best ways to promote your music and grow your fan base. It is also one of the largest revenue streams for some bands. If you have t-shirts, CD’s, posters etc. you can start to make enough money to get from one city to the next. Not to mention having fans wear your merch for you is a walking billboard with your name on it. The advertising aspect of merch is important. Being on tour is being a productive artist. Many tours can route through major cities where you can also invite local A&R scouts to see your show and pitch yourself to be on their management or label. It will enable you to connect, meet industry reps, fans and musicians that you otherwise may not.
HOW are we supposed to tour?
If you are a band starting out, you will likely not succeed at a headlining right off the bat. If you have never been to Austin, TX who is going to come to your show? You should be on a bill with a reputable artist that shares the same demographic. (Refer to last weeks blog about “How to get on tour or a local show as a support act.”) Tours can costs a lot of money. If you already have some money to start you can make ends meet, but you need to run a tight ship. When you are on tour you need to plan a budget before hand and stick to it. In the first few years as a touring musician, don’t expect to be rolling in dough, as you will have other bills that need to get paid before you do. As long as you have enough to pay your crew, feed yourself and get to the next venue, you will be able to make it work.
Note: For Canadian artists there are grants available for touring support. You need to apply for shows beforehand, and cannot apply for a grant after the tour has happened. Visit Factor.com or Canadacouncil.com for more info, or contact me today for assistance with an application.
If anyone wants to book a week off work to tour and then come home, they probably wont have much luck. I advise to be dedicating 1 – 6 months at a time on a tour minimum. Being a musician is a full time job. All members must be prepared and fully committed before heading out on the road. Make sure you all have the same goals and values. You will become a family and have to work with one another, putting your egos aside and treating every member like you would wish to be treated. If you can’t hire a crew, get ready to split up the heavy lifting and do it on your own for EVERY show. Many of today’s most successful artists will tell you… They all toured in a cramped van, played shows for only 20 people and moved their own gear at one time too. It will take a lot of work, so get ready to do it if you want to be successful. If you are prepared to do the work and be persistent, you will see the rewards.
Stay tuned for the next blog on “Tips on planning a successful tour”