Anyone who’s been on tour has a few touring hacks they’ve picked up along the way. From the best place to grab cheap Mexican in Nashville to how to stay awake on a long drive, there's lots to learn on tour, and there's a lot of time to think about it! Here are my top five touring hacks.
1. Earplugs: wear them
When you’re on tour, you’re bound to hear a lot of music generally in loud places. Often, you’ll end up on a three- or four-band bill, and those other bands are usually loud. And hey, you’re probably loud, too!
I cannot say enough about the importance of wearing earplugs at concerts. Generally, concerts come in at around 100 dB to 120 dB. At this level, irreversible hearing loss can occur after only 30 minutes of exposure. And if you’re a musician, you really, really, want to keep your hearing.
Proper custom musician’s earplugs are very expensive, so I understand not wanting to buy them. But the "high fidelity" musician’s plugs available at Guitar Center cost around $15, and trust me, it’s worth it.
It takes a while to get into the habit of wearing them, but I strongly urge you to do so. The listening experience is much more pleasant, and you’re saving yourself some suffering down the road.
2. Advancing shows: do it
This seems obvious, and maybe you already know this, but it’s worth repeating. Someone needs to be advancing your show two or three days before the gig. Why two or three days? Sometimes that’s how long it takes for promoters to get back to you! It’s also just worth knowing, so you’re not stressing out the night before.
Advancing a show means figuring out load-in, soundcheck, tech riders, set time, order of the bands, confirming meal comps, accommodations, etc. You should also have already discussed payment, but if you haven’t, now is the time.
Embarrassing story: we have run into problems advancing a show the day of, where they told us the soundcheck was at 4:00 p.m. and it was 1:00 p.m., and we had another five hours to drive. Awkward.
3. Sunflower seeds: chew them
Generally, it’s a good idea to avoid long drives and driving through the night. However, touring North America means you’ll have to pull a long drive every once in a while.
I've found that the best way to avoid sleeping at the wheel is chewing sunflower seeds and tossing them out the window. The repeated action keeps your mind busy and having the window open a crack cools you down a bit.
That being said, sunflower seeds left in cups for a few hours/overnight are super gross, and they smell weird. So get rid of them ASAP, or toss them out the window as you go.
4. Grocery stores: use them
My band spends a fair bit on meals, probably a little more than we should, but we really like food. To save some money, we’ve taken to buying lunches and breakfast in grocery stores every once in a while. Fruit is cheap, baking is cheap, and they often have delis and coffee shops in the grocery as well. Weirdly, grocery stores often have sushi, which is great.
If you plan it right, and buy drinks in bulk to keep in your cooler, then you can save a fair bit of money this way. Also, it feels more like home cooking. Except without my mom, which is a bummer.
5. Noise-canceling headphones: buy them
Nothing has changed my touring experience quite like my noise-canceling headphones. You never notice how irritating road noise is until you put your noise-canceling headphones on and enjoy an entire album in sweet, listening bliss.
I sometimes just put them on without music to enjoy some peace and quiet or sleep in the van. I have fairly expensive Bose headphones, but there are a number of great noise-canceling headphones that can be purchased without breaking the bank.
Other excellent uses for noise-canceling headphones:
- Blocking out snoring bandmates.
- Not listening to your bandmates discuss the merits of different fast food chains for the hundredth time.
Do you have some boss touring hacks? I’m driving for 34 hours next week, so leave them in the comments below!
Liam Duncan is a full-time musician from Winnipeg, Canada. He likes to record music with friends and tour with The Middle Coast.