This new set of Tour Tips was written by the Brooklyn-based band, I’m in You. You can check out their tips for being on the road, after the break.
1. Make the most of your sound check. Sound checks are a luxury, and when things fall behind schedule and the band’s motivation starts to flag mid-tour, they are the first things to be compromised. Give yourself enough time to sound check, and be assertive in getting your stage sound right. No one is going to care more about your sound, or have a better idea of what your band should sound like, than you. You might feel like you’re hassling the sound guys by insisting on more reverb for the vocals, or asking for more drums in your monitor. Do it anyway – bad sound on stage (or in the room) can totally kill your energy, and once the show starts, it’s much harder to make adjustments.
2. Simplify your gear. After you’ve spent a lot of time and creative energy recording your songs, there is a temptation to try and replicate the studio sound on stage. But a complex technical set-up can inhibit your performance – reworking your songs to simplify the sound means less gear to set up, less gear to break, and less time spent on sound check (see above). That
keyboard is used in half of one song- do you really need it on tour? Can the part be played on the guitar instead? The same goes for foot pedals. Do you absolutely need all 15? Better to play a set that’s a little more stripped-down but controlled, than try to recreate your album and risk a set that’s total chaos.
3. Work the merch table. Being on tour is expensive, and even if you have a good draw playing clubs, it’s hard to break even. The merch table is where you can actually make some money. So use it, even if you’re tired because you just played a killer set, and would rather be hobnobbing with celebrities backstage. Take turns manning the table with your band mates, and talk to people – it gives them a chance to approach you if they enjoyed the show, and if they like you, they’ll be more inclined to buy a record or t-shirt. Also, if you’re only going to make shirts in one color, make sure it’s black.
4. Don’t drink too much. On tour you’ll spend a lot of time sitting around in venues that serve alcohol and make it freely available to performing musicians. Unsurprisingly, most of the unpleasant experiences that occur on tour, from lost/stolen equipment, to fights with band mates, regrettable sexual encounters, financially dubious interactions with promoters and bookers, sloppy performances, and vehicular accidents, happen under the influence of alcohol. Based on extensive research, we proposes the following guidelines: 1-2 beers before the show to combat nerves on stage and keep the adrenaline at bay. 1-2 beers before loading out to take the edge off and enable social interaction. 1 beer at the hotel to dull your sense against the snoring band mates you may be sharing a room with, or feelings of inadequacy if you just played a badly received show. Never drink hard liquor before the show or on stage, and restrict your post-show after-parties to occasions when you really deserve it, or have a day off the next day.
5. Don’t be an asshole. Playing music in front of crowds can warp your ego out of proportion, especially when you’re new to the experience. Along with the stress of playing well, winning over a new audience every night, and keeping up with complex tour logistics, this might cause a touring musician to become irritable and self-centered. Always remember that a good show, and successful tour, depends on the efforts of a vast number of people – from the tour manager, to the sound guy, bartender, merch person, promoter, door guy, the local blogger, opening band, headliner, and the people in the audience. Be courteous and professional, and make friends. If you’re lucky enough to keep touring, they’ll make your life a little easier next time you come through town.
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