Your band's first tour can be your first step up the ladder to success, but if it's not done properly, it can end up wasting a lot of time and a lot of money. Always take care in planning your tour, whether it's your first one ever or just another month on the road. To make sure it's a success, check out these five essential tour planning tips.
1. Make sure your band is actually ready to tour
If this band is your baby, don't throw away money sending your little pride and joy away to camp too early. It can't be stressed enough to be patient; bands take time to find their sound and get good at their act.
A good indicator you're ready to tour is when you've fully saturated your hometown. Wait until you've won over your own area code before you assume you're cut out to go try and win over someone else's. Instead of jumping the gun and blowing it all over the tri-state area, take it nice and slow. Wait to get in the van until your band is a well-oiled groove machine.
2. Give yourself plenty of time for booking
Most spaces, especially more formal ones, book at least a couple months in advance. Don't stress yourself out putting the booking process off until the last minute. Keep an itinerary of all your spaces to contact and when you plan to contact them so you'll know when to send a follow-up.
If possible, it also helps to designate a folder in your email for only tour-related emails. If you feel like you could be better at checking your email, set an alarm on your phone to remind you. Whatever you do, try to avoid sending out emails asking high-profile venues for last-minute shows, or you could earn yourself a bad reputation.
3. Try Bandcamp Pro
Unbeknownst to many of its users, Bandcamp offers pro features to let users see where their music has been downloaded. This feature is absolutely huge as it lets you go straight to the people who not only enjoy your music, but have proven that they enjoy it enough to spend money on it.
Access to this tool requires a monthly fee, but it can be central in planning an effective route for your tour. Along with geographic information, Bandcamp Pro offers a heaping handful of other helpful features including private streaming, custom domain hosting, Google Analytics, and more. Get this myriad of useful features, and use Bandcamp Pro's fan tracker to side-step playing empty shows on tour.
4. Keep your costs down by pursuing alternative spaces
Get creative, look around online, and don't be afraid to leave the stale bar gig behind in favor of something more innovative, not to mention cheaper. Always keep an active mindset in selecting your venue. Half the battle is getting your music in front of people predisposed to liking it, so don't waste your time on the wrong space.
If you're a party rock band, play a college. If you're a lounge act, get through to the right person at a nice hotel. A great strategy is to talk to bands in the area you're looking at that play a similar style as your band. Chances are, they'll be able to point you in the right direction and hopefully connect you with the fanbase you're looking for.
5. Stay organized
This one's easy to forget. It's an excellent idea to keep a tour itinerary used to catalog income and expenses. You never want to have discrepancies regarding money. Not to mention that venues like working with artists who are more organized, so keep your act in ship-shape. Keep all your merchandise organized and neat for shows so fans aren't at the merch booth looking at T-shirts that have been on the floor of the van for half of the tour.
Between Google Drive and Facebook, it's easier then ever to keep your whole band in the loop with logistics and business matters. Use a Google Sheet to keep track of finances, and post it to a private group on Facebook with just your band members in it for seamless communication. You can also use your band's private Facebook group to schedule shows, practices, and of course, tour dates.
Bonus tip: Always (!) be courteous and grateful to people who help you out on tour. Try your best to cover all your own expenses, and do your best to show your gratitude to people who offer your helping hands. You want them to want you back!
Max Monahan is a bassist and a writer living in Los Angeles. He spends his time working for an audio licensing website and shredding sweet bass riffs.