In this Tour Tips segment, the hardcore punk duo, GraveSpitter, recommends advice for being a musician on the road. You can check out the tips, after the break.
1. Planning Ahead
Planning is one of the most important steps that separate a successful tour from a tour that probably won’t even happen. We normally start reaching out to venues and local bands 3-5 months ahead of time (or further out depending on the level of venues and promoters you are working with). If you’re less than two months away from the date you want chances are all the venues are booked up. The bands that draw already have their schedule locked in and can’t make arrangements to play, despite how much they may like your band’s tunes.
Make a plan for how you will promote the show. Like a flier, maybe a promo video, reach out to local radios, blogs, and promoters in the area, and do as much as you can to make your event something everyone is looking forward to!
Routing is very important, especially with today’s gas prices. My rule of thumb is never to book two cities more than 5 hours from each other on back-to-back days., shorter drives let you get into the next town early. Getting there early means you can go to a park or the mall or some crowded street corner to do some grassroots street promotion the day of your show. Meet people, hand out fliers or my favorite do a little acoustic busking. Promo for your show that night AND pulls in some gas/food money. Arriving early will also allow you to experience some must-do activities in that historical city you’ve never been to. Though tour is primarily about the shows you booked it’s important to have some fun and see the places you go. Don’t define a city by that one lame dive bar your band played at.
3. DIY/Show Day
I have too many important tips so this one is two important ones combined that go hand in hand. DIY and show day. Do as much as you can yourself. You can pay someone to book your tour or have the promoter in each city find the local bands. Or you can take full control of your tour and make it personal and rewarding. Do your homework and find the good bands and venues in the cities you want to hit. Be in direct contact with the venue in case important questions come up last minute. Our guitar cab broke does the next venue have a backline? I can email/call them and find out almost immediately (and they probably forwarded you the backline list already in a prior email). Try to book the local bands yourself. They will be more likely to bring friends to the show, watch and dance to your set and be down to play with you in the future if YOU are the one that asks them to play the show. Otherwise, to them, you might just be another touring band they haven’t heard of that their friendly neighborhood promoter asked them to play with. On show day, get there early, meet people taking time out of their day for your show, be friendly with everyone and PLEASE watch all the local bands! You want them to stay inside and watch your set. It’s a two-way street.
The most important and shortest tip. Make sure your music is tight, well-rehearsed, and the best example of you and your band. You can do all the other steps right, get the best-sounding venue, sell out the show, and have people screaming for you to come on stage but if your music sucks, nobody is going to stay or want to see your band again or buy your merchandise. You’re here at the end of the day to promote your music, make sure it sounds as good as it can.
The most forgotten and overlooked tip in my opinion. And I’m guilty of failing in this category a lot. After the show happened and the locals love you and want to play with you again. The fans bought all your merch, the sound guy was blown away by your dynamics and the promoter loved your stage energy and you had a successful night. It’s not done there. Ideally, you want to nurture all these relationships because in a month’s time almost every single one of them will forget you. In their defense, they do this every night or every weekend and now you’re just another touring band to them. So book another show in that town. Try to stay relevant, and book it 3-4 months from when you last played. Follow the local bands and support them. Maybe one local drops a new album a month after your gig with them. Buy it, share it on your socials, see what other locals play their release show, etc. Keep in touch with all your newly harnessed fans before they forget about you. Make your return to town somewhat of an expected and anticipated event.