Touring isn't for everyone. I've gone on the road for few days here and there, and by the third day, I'm usually done. I like daily showers, clean spaces, and breathing room. You don't get a lot of that on the wide open road.
But if you're in a band, and you want to really make a go of it, you don't really have the choice to not tour. Touring is a young band's lifeblood and is how the word gets out. But it's a lifestyle, and it's one that requires some mental adjustments, lots of mental preparation, and strength in order to not only survive a tour, but to do it successfully over and over and over again.
The reality of touring is harsh, financials and larger personal sacrifices aside. There are lots of headaches. Like what? Backed up toilets. Flat tires. Filthy showers. Truck stops. Small venue guarantees. Being far away from friends and family. So you have to go into it knowing that strength of mind is critical, or you're toast, and you'll be dunzo before you know it.
Do you think you have what it takes to tour? It's generally accepted that if you have the following qualities, you do.
1. You can handle dirt, grime, and grit
You'll be in cramped quarters with people, and there isn't always the option for a daily shower. So if you aren't a clean freak and can hang with an anti-bac shower, you're good. Seriously, road life is filthy from venues to vans. One girl in a band told me about showering in a venue stall that was backed up, and since water would not go down the drain, she showered with beer cans and other trash circling her ankles. I nearly puked and hate that image, which I cannot shake from my brain. If you aren't a germaphobe, then touring is for you.
2. You can adapt without any creature comforts of home and without routine
That comfy thing you sleep on? You know, your bed? That's a distant memory. If you like being in a different place every day and can deal with places that are often dirty, with little, if any, creature comforts of home, then you'll tour like a champion. There will be no real routine or structure, since you're cruising through different cities and time zones all day, every day. So if you can shed a regimen, you'll do just fine.
3. You like to find solutions to problems on the quick
If you can deal with flat tires, broken-down vehicles, cranky band members, crappy food, and other headaches that pop up as a part of road-dog life – and if you like to find solutions to these problems quickly, like changing the tire, calling AAA, tuning out the chatter of annoying band members, and learning to enjoy whatever food goes down your gullet – then touring is for you. If you don't freak out but leap into response mode, OMG, hurry up and get yourself on tour.
4. You can adapt to long periods of separation
If you can handle being away from those you love, be it your friends, family, girlfriend, dog, BFF, or whoever for long periods of time and of life, then you'll be able to tour. This is perhaps the hardest thing to do and it takes practice. If you'll be too busy wondering what they're doing while you're far, far away instead of focusing on the task and tour at hand, then no, you don't have what it takes to tour.
5. You realize groupies offer idol worship, not love
Groupies will treat you like a god or the rock star you want to be, but it's critical to realize that it's not actual love. They'll be onto the next one as quickly as you are. If you think that having something serious with a groupie is an option, then you're not ready to tour. Sorry.
6. You're patient and forgiving
If you can accept people for who they are, as you'll only really know your bandmates when you live with them in the close quarters of a tour van, then you're a tour expert in the making. So be prepared to find out what you really dislike about someone you're bros with, like how to deal with their putrid farts, how to ignore their many annoying and bad habits (like nail biting or nose picking), or how to manage their quirks that steadily grate on your nerves (like the repeat use of the word "dude" or how they click their tongue every 5.8 seconds). One thing that should provide some small comfort? They'll be thinking the same exact thing about you and your bad habits or quirks, all while figuring out how to push your buttons.
Those are the basic things you need to be able to do to tour. They're pretty much mental strengths. If you have many or most of these qualities and intangibles, then pack your bags and get ready to perform for lots of people every night of your life. If you have just a few of these qualities, then you'll have to hone, sharpen, and develop the rest while on the road. If you have none, then dive into the deep end and either end up doing a gold-medal-worthy backstroke, or you'll sink to the bottom, never to be heard from again. Good luck!
Learn more about touring:
- How to Book a DIY Tour Like a Pro
- 5 Signs You're Not Ready to Go On Tour
- How to Manage Your Social Media While on Tour
- The Hidden Benefits of Going Broke on Tour
- 5 Van Etiquette Tips to Ensure Your Bandmates Won't Hate You on Tour
Amy Sciarretto has 20 years of print and online bylines, from Kerrang to Spin.com to Revolver to Bustle, covering music, beauty, and fashion. After 12 years doing radio and publicity at Roadrunner Records, she now fronts Atom Splitter PR, her own boutique PR firm, which has over 30 clients. She also is active in animal charity and rescue.