Where do we begin when we want to book a tour?


    By the time you get to this part, you will have your songs written, rehearsed and recorded, your online presence and branding in order, you’ll have booked and played your first shows and you’ll have begun to spread the word about your band… So it’s first tour time!

    Start by getting clear about what you want to do and agreeing on this together as a band.

    When do you want to tour? (And are all of you free at this time?)
    How long do you want to tour? (Are all of you free to leave for this long?)
    Where do you want to tour?
    What different ways are there that you can do this?
    Are there people who can help you out in any way?
    What ways do you have to fund this or to generate funding?
    Where would you go to get sponsorship?


    It’s a big, beautiful brainstorm, basically!


    You can brainstorm on your own or you can gather a brainstorming, masterminding few friends. Come up with all sorts of possibilities and then you can work out which are your best options and then get ready to put in the work to make them a reality. If you need to adapt, you can do that as you go along.

    Also, stay open! Help can come from the most unexpected and unlikely people and situations!



    * FYI. I wrote a blog called Why You Should Play Cities Other Than Your Own. that is definitely worth checking out. The link is at the end of the page.

    I love this pic! Me the day of our show in Sokol Auditorium, Omaha.


    How do we decide on the tour length and tour route?


    Since it’s your first tour, let’s talk about a short run – even a few days or a week. A mini-tour.


    Work out when and for how long all your band members are able to make themselves free (from work or college or other commitments) at the same time. What are the cities or areas near to you within a reasonable driving distance from where you are based (I would be thinking of 1-2 hours min and up to 7 – 8 hours max)?


    Are there venues in these cities or other places you can perform? Can you anticipate drawing a crowd? How many stops do you want to make/shows do you want to play?

    Cost will probably be a factor in all of this, but let’s leave that aside for the moment. I like the idea of deciding what you really want and then figuring out the cost then.

    For now, let’s say you’re going to book a mini-tour of about a week (or less) of travel taking in a minimum of 4 shows.




    What are the most important things we need to consider in advance?


    One major one is transport.

    So, again, start with the questions to find out some options that are at hand for transporting yourselves and your equipment.

    Start by asking:

    How many of you will be traveling?
    What equipment will you be needing to bring?
    Do any of you have access to a vehicle that is reliable?
    Do any of you have access to someone else who has a vehicle that is reliable?
    Can you pack yourselves and your equipment in the vehicle or will you need a trailer?
    How many of you are licensed to drive and will be willing to drive on this tour – or can you bring someone to operate as a dedicated driver?
    Do you know anyone who would be willing to rent a trailer to you (other bands, rental companies etc.)?

    Our packed van.

    This is the van we toured across the States in (and slept in!)

    That's Damon (drummer) on top of the van!

    What are the most important things to consider about funding our tour?


    Budgeting for a tour involves firstly having those decisions made about when/where/how long you are wanting to tour for.

    Next work out


    1) what your expenses are going to be – and allow some room for unforeseen costs
    2) what income you can expect to receive
    3) how you can be creative in relation to both of these.


    So… 1) what are your expenses going to be?


    pre-tour rehearsals
    pre-tour set up (new strings, servicing vehicles etc.)
    pre-tour promotion (printing flyers and posters, posting them to venues etc.)
    pre-tour set up (calls to venues, boxes for merch etc.)
    fuel costs for driving your route
    food costs for everyone coming on tour (or can you cover your own costs with personal money?)
    water costs (bottles of water)
    Tolls and parking
    Miscellaneous (batteries, hotels/motels/showers at truck stops etc.)


    2) what income can you expect to receive?


    Payment from venues
    Sales from t-shirts, CDs, other merch
    Donations from fans


    3) Can you be creative in relation to both of these?


    can you use the minimum amount of vehicles to cut down on fuel costs?
    do you know people in the places you are playing? can you stay at their houses?
    can you sleep in the van if you are travelling in one?
    if you have friends along your route, would they allow you to cook at their houses to cut down on food costs?


    can you do a benefit show or online show before your tour to raise money for going on the road?
    can you be sure to talk to venues in advance, secure the best door deal and get confirmation of this?
    can you play house parties (which can often pay much, much better than venues)?
    who might be willing to sponsor you with money towards your tour? – for example, if you are touring within a certain state, do you know of any business that might be willing to pay you to have their logo wrap your trailer?
    are there other ways you might be able to generate some income? maybe by arranging acoustic performances somewhere on in-between days?

    can you do paid workshops on days off?

    Yep this is how we slept!!!

    Breakfast... How exhausted do we all look?

    Always first awake!!

    Another pic of our sleeping arrangements!

    How do we research venues and get contacts?


    Online. You can do a straight search of the areas you want to hit, but make sure to factor in capacity. It’s one thing to find great venues but you want to find venues that will actually want you to play in them.


    Make contact with bands who are playing regularly in the areas you are intending to play and find out from them what the best venues are and get the names of direct contacts.


    You can also find out info about promotion from these bands or you could arrange to do a gig swap or show trade – where they arrange a show in their town and you play as part of their bill, then you in return book a show in your town, where they can come to play and you can help them with their promotion.


    Search out sites that provide all relevant info for you to minimise your time in research. Indie On The Move is one.


    Check out the blog: Show Trading And Why Your Band Should Try It! The link is at the end of the page.




    What is next?


    So when you have done all of this, you will have an outline of the route you want to take and the cities and venues you will want to play in on which dates. It’s often best to contact venues around 3 months in advance because they are likely to be booked up closer to actual dates, but this isn’t set in stone.


    You’ll need to be strategic about booking because when you’re booking a number of shows it’s so easy to get mixed up, especially if more than one of you is working on this. Google docs is one resource we used, but you can decide what’s best for you.


    Before you pick up the phone or send an email, get clear about how to put the best impression about your band across. Remember that a promoter probably won’t know your band if you’re not from his/her area and haven’t played there before. Their main objective is going to be choosing the right bands for their venue with a big focus on bringing in people. Make it clear that you have your act together, that you have confidence and that you’re a band this promoter will want to work with, likely on an ongoing basis. Showing enthusiasm, dedication and a work ethic will go a long way.


    List the venues you are targeting and after you make contact with each one be sure to make notes of date and the time you contacted the venue, who you spoke to, what they said, what dates you are wanting to play there, what their requirements are, their contact details (which may be different than those advertised on the website) etc.


    As I said, when you are dealing with a multitude of venues, it is so easy to get mixed up (I did sometimes), so be clear in your records and set reminders for yourself to get back in contact at the dates and times the bookers say.


    Make sure you follow up with an email to confirm any agreements and arrangements you have made. These guys have a load of bands contacting them, so make it your responsibility to be sure that your show is confirmed and that all is in order.

    Moth Complex in Omaha, Nebraska

    Moth Complex in Los Cruces, New Mexico.

    What are best practices for booking?


    You can review the page about How To Book Your First Show to make sure you are following best practices for booking, but generally, here is what you will want to make sure to include in any initial correspondence::


    * your band name
    * your style of music
    * that you will be on tour and the dates you will be in the area
    * that you want to play in the venue and ask if there is availability to play on a specific night(s) you want


    Keep it short and sweet and to the point. Remember these guys get countless bands contacting them. Make this easy for them (and also for you to get what you want!)


    When you get a response and are in conversation about doing a show, at that stage you can talk about money/payment and any specific details you will need to know about playing at their venue. They'll definitely want a band that draws an audience, so tell them that you are putting promotional plans in place (and make sure to follow through on that)


    Then following up: get confirmation by email of all you agreed - including backline! Say thank you! People always respond well to good manners.




    What about using a booking agent?


    If you want to use a booking agent instead of doing this, here are some guidelines:


    Firstly, you’ll obviously want to get a really good booking agent. Choose wisely who you work with. You can check with local bands and venues for some names and make sure you are using someone who comes recommended (by multiple bands who have the touring record to prove it) and who is trustworthy.


    Research the bands the agent already works with, and reach out to them with any questions you have. Make sure you are getting unbiased opinions. Booking agents will book tours for a fee and/or a percentage of the door deal as secured. You will need to provide them with all the route information and with promo material in relation to your band. They’ll get to work for you booking your tour.


    If you build up a working relationship with a booking agent, you can work together for repeat tours. If you have a booking agent who is reliable and has a work history, it can make the whole booking process so much easier, because they will likely have an existing relationship with the venues you want to target. This does also mean you will be paying (possibly very well) for their service, though.

    My view from the back of the van

    Upfront that day!

    What can we expect to be paid by a venue?


    Venues generally have a set amount they are willing to pay a new band and I won’t lie, it's small. It will not make you rich and it may not even cover your costs. Some venues are more generous and will give a guarantee – could be $50 could be $150. It’s more likely to be on the low end if you are an unknown band.


    They may do door deals, which means that if you bring in 30 people you get a percentage of the money taken at the door and the more people you bring in, the bigger your percentage will be. Something like that. Remember that if you’re in a city/town you’re not known in it may be difficult to bring 30 people to a venue.

    There are no hard and fast rules. Sometimes venues can be so generous – also giving free food and drinks. You can be so well looked after on the road by venues and people who come to the shows, but there are also times when it doesn’t go like that…


    The best thing is to ask and make sure you get the very best deal.


    And here's where you get to be creative and figure things out - what are ways you can get people to come to your show? How can you generate interest and play shows that will pay you more? Possibly doing a house tour or college tour? Or how might you do all of these to create the best and most profitable tour possible for yourself?




    What are the most important things we need to do when we are on tour and on our way to a venue?


    Hopefully, you will have made sure to get email confirmation of everything before you arrive. Venue bookers are generally busy people dealing with a lot of different dates and a lot of different bands, as I said before now. Be professional. Be polite. And get written confirmation (email is fine) if possible in advance of your show date.

    When you have this, you can tell the promoter that you are going to make some posters and ask for their best postal address to send them to so that they can put them up in the venue in advance of your show. Next, create a simple but really good poster (you want it to be eye-catching) and print some out and send them to the promoter/venue. It’s best to NOT just email a digital pdf of the posters. Actually printing them out and mailing them makes it much easier for a busy promoter to just stick them up. (Doesn’t mean they will all do this, but it can’t hurt to try!)


    Before you go on tour, you could send a quick email confirming again that you are heading out, looking forward to your show and will be in touch the day before for final confirmations. Do this for every venue and keep all your confirmations in a safe place on your computer or printed out.


    Engage each venue on social media, following them and engaging with them. Tag them in your posts about playing in their venue and see if you can encourage them to do the same, Basically, cross-promoting.


    Make sure you have the venue name & address, show date, contact details of the promoter (especially phone number), load-in/sound-check times if available, details about backline, load in location, parking for your vehicle and any details you can gather about who you will be playing with - ideally you can connect with these bands in advance too.


    It can be good also to know what time the promoter starts work so you can arrange to call him the day before or the day of the show.


    * Check out my blog: The Critical Importance of Advancing Your Shows for more info. The link is at the end of the page.




    What are the most important things we need to consider in advance about promoting shows?


    A lot of things influence audience turn out at shows. The day of the week you are playing (obviously earlier in the week will generally be quieter than later in the week), what bands you are playing with at the show and what kind of following they have, what other events are on at the same time on the night, the venue you are playing at, the time you are playing and miscellaneous other things all play a part in your crowd turnout.


    So if you are going on a short week run, it’s best to do the obvious and play most of your shows later in the week or at the weekend nights and play in popular venues.

    Posting some posters and stuff...!

    How do we increase our chance of our shows being well attended?


    Here are some things you can do to increase your chances of a crowd:


    * play support to a popular local band or get a local band support

    * be sure to work to promote your shows – find out what are the radio stations in the area that support your kind of music. Find out the DJs names and contact them to get them to agree to spin your songs.

    * Research online sites, local entertainment papers, other media that you could do an interview with and get featured.

    * Rally your troops online. Contact any fans you have in the local area to let them know about the show - enlist their support in spreading the word for you.

    * Rally the troops of the bands you are playing with. You can cross-promote with the bands you are playing with – referencing them on your social media sites and vice versa. Get them to promote you on their social media sites to send their fans your way and do the same for them.

    * Tag the venue online and get them to share your post about playing in their venue.

    * Send out copies of flyers and posters to all who will agree to distribute them in their colleges, with their friends, in the local “Hot Topic”, anywhere… you can reward those who do this promo work for you with free entry to your show or a free CD or something.

    * Run a contest - in the process encouraging people to share about your show.

    * Make sure to interact with everyone who contacts you online. This is your audience and your support system. Appreciate them!




    What ways can we increase the money we make on the road?

    Probably the best way to increase your income on the road is to sell merch – t-shirts, CDs, hats, hoodys. Some bands will sell their posters for a couple of dollars/euro/other currency. You can do bundle deals with merch as well, which you may have seen at shows - giving discounts the more people buy.


    Another way is to leave out a tip jar. Sometimes people don’t necessarily want to buy merch but they are willing to give a little cash as a way of saying thank you or offering support. This can amount to a lot of gas money.


    Be sure to read my blog: Yes, It's Absolutely Possible To Make Money Touring. The link is at the end of the page.

    Moth Complex mini merch stand.



    Can we get sponsorship?


    There are definitely opportunities for sponsorship out there.


    If you are going to seek out sponsorship, know what you have to offer a company you are approaching. Try to think from their point of view… what are the ways in which sponsoring your tour may be of benefit to that company?


    You have got to think from their perspective… For example, if your band and your songs are awesome and you have a growing audience that is mostly in their teens and young 20s, what kind of company might want to partner with you as a great role model for their brand and as a means to reach their target audience? How can you show them that you do indeed have a growing fanbase?


    Or could you approach companies from your local area that may want to support young local musicians? Or a transport company that could support you or give you free/reduced rental in exchange for publicity and promotion as you tour?


    Get thinking, get creative and get to work. Opportunities are out there and you can work to create a partnership that is in the best interest of everyone involved.

    When I toured the States with Moth Complex we had sponsorship from many companies, who provided strings or equipment or energy drinks. One company paid us a few hundred dollars for shows in a number of college towns. That really made all the difference to the tour financially.


    Read this blog for more info: The Art of Landing Endorsements.The link is at the end of the page.

    Sponsorship stuff


    What things should we definitely do when we are on tour?


    To make sure that everything runs smoothly, you’ll need someone to be responsible for tour management. This can be shared. It might be a good idea to create a checklist of tasks to be done and making sure someone is responsible for doing each one of them so that your tour runs smoothly.


    The day before each show, get in touch with your contact at the venue for the following day. You will want to confirm that everything is going ahead as planned, the time you will arrive and load in, soundcheck time (if there will be one) and any other relevant information. Now is also a good time to re-confirm payment agreements, rider (if there is one), equipment arrangements and so on.


    Remember that the venue contact will be dealing with a multitude of bands of which yours is just one, so it’s really important that you make sure the show is on, you are expected and all the details around that.


    When you are arriving at a venue, it can be a good for one of you to act as point of contact for the venue promoter. This is to make things easier for the promoter – so that he/she has one person to deal with and that person can relay any information to the rest of the band rather than being confused or having to answer the same question multiple times.


    When you arrive, your appointed person can go in to the venue, find the venue contact and introduce him/herself as the representative for your band. He/she can find out all the relevant information about load in area, times etc. and can pass the information on to the rest of you. Venue contacts can get mad when they are being approached by multiple members of your band asking the same questions, so we found on tour that this approach worked best for everyone.

    Also, check out my blog: 5 Ways To Make The Most Of Your "OFF" Days on Tour..The link is at the end of the page.




    Should we film shows?


    Yes! Great live videos are obviously awesome for promotion on websites and social media, for live screenshots, which can look really exciting. Also, video can show you really quickly where your performance is strong where you can improve. Most venues are cool about filming shows, some aren’t – so just check in advance.




    Should we film our on-the-road experiences?


    I'm going to say a definite yes, but do so selectively. On-the-road video can be so interesting for people who will never get to do these things or who want to do these things. These videos also show the personality of the band and give others a peek in to your world – and what better time than when you are doing something as fun as touring.


    You could make a mini documentary or use the footage in videos or your social media. Be selective about what you post! Some things might be best kept private!! It's up to you to decide.

    Fixing stuff - I think in Hollywood.

    Hanging out in Los Cruces before the show

    Doing important pre-show work!

    How can we make the most of promoting our tour on social media?


    A lot of this is obvious – post your shows, post that you are on your way to a show, post photos of the show, get lots of photos with your audience, get people to tag themselves in your photos and to share all of the things you post.

    Post the behind-the-scenes - in the van, where you are sleeping or hanging out. Post pictures of the other bands you are meeting and playing with.

    Get your fans and followers to take pictures of themselves buying your merch, in your t-shirts and with your CDs – and to take pictures of your shows too.


    Like I said, all pretty obvious and stuff that you can learn by just going to the social media sites of your favourite (and currently touring) bands, but again if you think creatively I'm sure you can come up with some more awesome ones.

    The idea is to weave an interesting, fun and engaging web and to welcome your audience deeper into your world!




    What is the most important thing we want to get out of our first tour?


    There are lots of great things about doing a tour. The biggest and best is that it is so much FUN! Getting to travel and play shows and meet people. Amazing.


    Other than that, you will definitely get tighter and better as a band, you learn to become more pro and efficient, because you have to be. You get to spread the word about your music and if you are doing your job well and talking to lots of people in the places you are touring, you can get your music on new radio stations, in clubs and playing in lots of dorms and homes.


    Take the opportunity to really get the most out of every show – connecting with your fans online, generating video and photo content, you can run competitions and get people engaged and interacting on your sites. You can make money too if you set everything up smartly and well. And you can create the best memories and relationships so you can do it all again – bigger and better every time. All through music. So cool!

    Snow in Colorado

    See the Hollywood sign on the hills?

    Somewhere in Northern California

    Somewhere in the States and heading for the coast (I think!)

    Snow in Colorado

    Beautiful San Francisco

    Somewhere in the States

    Somewhere in the States

    Are there any things we should be particularly careful about on tour?


    Watch your gear. Make sure that you don’t leave your equipment unattended and be VERY careful where you park your vehicle. Always back the back of your trailer or van up close to a wall, so it's not easy for any thieves to get at it and open it.

    Take good care of the money you make (especially because on tours money is generally cash money not transfers) and be prepared for ups and downs – you may make a lot one night and not make a lot on another, so be careful how you spend the money you make on the road, because you may need it further along the line.


    If you have long drives, pair up! One person drives while the other is the driving buddy. This is especially important when you are driving through the night and it's quiet and dark. Each driver must make sure to be safe to drive, rested and alert enough to drive, but when you're in a pair, you can chat and stay safe.




    Should we bring crew with us?


    I would say that if you are bringing a crew, make sure to only bring people who have a job that is essential and clearly defined. It costs money having people on the road with you so only bring those who are going to be useful – like a merch guy or a tech guy or a driver or someone who can do multiple jobs for you and ideally, make it so that things run better and easier - and in the process this person can help you all some money rather than cost you money.




    How much should we pay them?


    Sometimes when people are starting out they will be happy to go along for the experience or with their expenses covered. Just make sure that if this is the case, you are bringing someone who is able for the job. A lot of the time, if you want pro quality, you will need to pay pro prices or at least have such an awesome band that pro people will be willing to get on board for a reduced rate in the hope that they can stay on board.




    How do we get to be the support act on a tour with a bigger band?


    There are many ways that this can happen. The norm would be that you have built your own band up to the point of it being established in some substantial way. Really it’s about having an audience of your own so that you will be a “draw” on the bill overall (that you will draw an audience to any show you play).


    With many tours, bands are chosen from the roster of the label the headline band is on - or maybe an emerging band of the same manager or agent. I swear it's true - everything in life comes through relationships!

    There is frequently an option to “buy on” to a tour – depending on the level of the band, a "buy on" fee (where you pay the headline band to allow you be their opening act) can range from several thousand to tens of thousands of currency. Maybe more...


    Just keep focusing on your own band – get everything as strong as it can be. Make it so that your band is a really good prospect for all the opportunities going and, in time, support tours will pan out for your band too.