Pop rock artist, Mike Vial, was kind enough to write a set of Tour Tips for you guys to learn from. You can check them out after the break.
1. Bring a quality sleeping bag and pillow
I have a backpacker sleeping bag that’s ready for below zero weather. You never know when you will need it.
2. Be organized with driving schedules. Try to get on the road early to beat traffic.
Driving as early as possible without compromising sleep really helped me lower my stress levels. I was able to get most of my driving done before prime traffic in areas, and had at least four hours to relax before set-up times in my venue towns/cities.
3. Find Potbelly’s or cafes to play for afternoon tips. Don’t be afraid to look for work during downtime!
Quite a bit of touring is waiting around the town before the show. Why not make some extra money while you’re killing time? Don’t be afraid to ask around at places that are known to house live music. Tell them you are a touring musician and you would like to pay for tips, free food, etc. If you are ready there, there is nothing wrong with playing two hours of covers to make some tips before the real show that night. Plus, you can pass out fliers for your evening event. Here’s one tip: Potbelly’s Sandwich Shops! I was able to play at a Potbelly’s in Louisville, which gave me enough money to pay for a hotel and gave me free food.
4. Be kind to all local musicians! They could be the best contact you’ve made for your next tour.
My Monday night gig in Terra Haute was very sparsely attended, but I got to meet lots of musicians there, including one who is heading to SXSW for a second time, but have never played in Michigan. Maybe, I’ll be lucky to trade a gig with this group on my next tour. Always make conversation! Seek out new musical friends.
5. Keep track of the little expenses ($2 or less: coffee, pop, beer, junk food, etc.) that add up over time. I advise to avoid them.
Coffee drinks, pop, bottle water, junk food, etc. Those $2 expenses can add up quickly if you are touring for days. I only allowed myself to buy small coffees on the road and one beer at a venue (which was usually comped). Next time, I might even bring a French Press and backpacker mini stove and cut out the $10 of coffee purchases completely. Don’t buy bottled water. Bring your own jug. Fill-up at stops.
BONUS TIP: Try not to drive more than three or five hours a day.
During my six-day tour, most drives took three or four hours between venues. I did have a gig in Tennessee that took nine hours of driving, but I left myself a day free to get there.
Honestly, I hope to avoid doing a nine hour drive in the future, unless there is an exciting opportunity (opening for a major act, guaranteed pay, etc.) Five hours is about the limit to keeping sanity, especially when traveling alone.