Touring is essential for all bands, developing or established. It's how you make a large part of your money and how you connect with fans one on one. It gives you the opportunity to sell merch directly to those fans. Plus, if you choose the right act to tour with, you may end up converting their loyalists and making all sorts of new fans – and vice-versa for the other band! Can you say, "win-win"?
The critical part, of course, is making the right call about which band you hit the road with. Give these four key questions some thought to help you make the decision.
1. Who would your existing fans enjoy watching?
It's always smart to tour with bands in your genre that sound somewhat similar to you. That cements your place in a niche scene. Plus, it exposes you to their fans and their fans to you, making it a reciprocal relationship.
It's fine to stick with a single sonic style when booking tours, especially since it makes for a night that fans will be enticed to purchase a ticket to and ultimately enjoy. The fans have to come first, since they're your lifeline and they support you from top to bottom. Don't ever forget that. Ever.
2. Have you toured enough with similar bands already that you can experiment with a bolder choice?
It can also a good idea to tour with bands outside of your genre. Go on a tour that might make people scratch their heads or question your status on that very bill. That gets people talking and interested, and it isn't damaging. If you've toured a lot with bands of your ilk, it might be time to break out of that mold and try something new or different. It can only open you up to a wider fanbase, or it can be an experiment that doesn't work and that you only do once. But you have to try in order to know.
Killswitch Engage's tour trajectory is a perfect example. I have worked with the band since their very beginning. They toured with Kittie, Poison the Well, and Soilwork when starting out, all bands that were their peers. As they grew and expanded, they toured with My Chemical Romance and The Used to great success, and then stepped back and toured with Mastodon, In Flames, and Slayer again. They did Ozzfest and Warped Tour and kept their feet planted in all worlds at all times. It was brilliant and effective as a strategy. Why? Because it made sure their diehards were always satiated and that they continued to grow.
At the same time, be sure that it makes sense when you veer to the left or right a little when deciding who to tour with. Don't do it just 'cuz. Make sure that it's advantageous to you, like you've never played for this sort of crowd, and you're certain your live chops can win them over.
3. Are you paying close attention to your booking agent's suggestions?
If you've secured a booking agent, listen closely to the suggestions he or she makes about who you should tour with. Agents do this day in and day out. They have their ears to the ground, so they know who's hot or buzzing. If you haven't secured a booking agent, it's up to you to pay attention and know your scene.
4. Would you genuinely enjoy spending every day with the dudes in the other band?
Be sure to tour with bands that are made up of good dudes or people who are your bros. If you're going to be on the road for a few months – perhaps sharing hotels or dressing rooms or even tour vehicles, since you're likely up and coming and just getting your legs under you – you may as well engage in such a grind with people you like. Make sure you tour with people who have good reputations and people who make good music. It will enhance the experience and it will save you grief in the long run.
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.