Touring is the most important thing you can do as a band.
However, it also is the most costly in terms of wear on the band and money.
Nevertheless, there are a few crucial tips that can help you make it out of a tour healthy, happy, and alive! I’m gonna go over a few things here, but check out our previous posts for more touring advice…
Necessary tour expenses can usually be broken down into three main categories…
The biggest cost you will find on tour is gas!
If you think about even a small tour of 3000 miles, you’ll be in a van that is roughly getting 20 miles to the gallon with all the gear or a trailer attached. In the U.S., gas is about $3.60/gal, which will make your trip cost about $525.00 for gas alone. And, of course, that is for a small tour! Think about a bigger one of say 8000 miles — that is about $1,440 in gas alone! Don’t even get me started on Buses and Drivers, a much bigger cost!
The best thing to do is to put all your guarantees and merch sales into the tank to offset this cost.
Where to Stay?
The other big cost you will have is where you sleep. Sure, you can always sleep in the van — but if you don’t know the area you’re in, you could end up sleeping in the highest crime area in the city! Still, Walmart and other 24-hour parking lots can been used to park and get a good night’s sleep in the van, but you do have other options…
When you think about getting a hotel, $50/night split between 4-5 members could be worth getting a (shared) bed. Almost as worth it as getting a shower! Also worth noting, Hotels.com gives you the 10th room free — so that’s like a 90% discount on rooms if you use them to book nights for a 10 or 20-date tour!
One other thing I always like to do is to drive 2-3 hours after the show and find a place to crash outside of the immediate city. It makes it easier to drive for the next leg of the tour, can avoid city traffic, and is a lot more forgiving in the morning (especially for those who are hungover).
The last big cost you will find is food.
Try not to eat out (giggity!) too frequently because it’s can be pricey, (unless you don’t mind nothing but 99¢ burritos from Taco Bell) and usually you will be eating crappy fast food, which isn’t really good for you (see the “Health” section below). So, if you do go fast food, pick healthy choices.
Also, go to Walmart or the like and buy up supplies. Load up on peanut-butter and jelly, bread, mayo, mustard, cold cuts, beef jerky, trail mix, fruit, or whatever you like — and then load up again on the road halfway through. Buy in bulk for foods and snacks (even alcohol) because, over the long term, it will keep the costs down and keep you from starving!
You are going to be on the road, residing mostly in a van in close quarters, drive 6-8 hours a day, pour out your energy onstage, load and unload equipment, have a few drinks (or more) with your fans, and finally get back in the van and do it all over again for the next 30+ days…
These are reasons enough why you hear about Dez Fafara talking about his tea and herb regiment. Others talk about their vitamin intake, singers drinking honey on tour or not speaking, keeping the drinking to a minimum, or eating healthy on the road. The reason? They all have gotten sick on the road, but the show must go on! It is difficult enough to go on the road and be in these conditions — but being sick makes it worse. Not to mention you can get everyone else in the van sick!
You are already punishing your body each day for your art, so do your best to minimize it. Drink lots of water, have a vitamin regimen that works for you, eat well (your body is a temple, treat it that way!), sleep at every opportunity you can, and keep the brutal drinking down. I know the last one is rough, but it does hurt you over time. Plus, no one (including your fans) wants to see their idols all fucked up onstage, slurring their words and missing notes! Save that for the days off or specific times you have planned (i.e. not every night).
Keeping a healthy attitude is another way of staying healthy (mentally). Remember that your bandmates and other bands you tour with are like family. Let go of the little shit, and just let it roll off your back. With all the stress and lack of sleep you will be dealing with, don’t let it get to you! Have a healthy sense of humor, and just enjoy it all!
One thing that is overlooked by a lot of bands is the importance of having a tour manager.
As an artist, you are already going to have your hands full with everything you are doing. The last thing you want to worry about is knowing how long it takes to drive from Point A to Point B, figuring out routes, knowing when you should leave from here, when you are crashing there, and then dealing with the promoter or venue owner.
Also, if one of the band members is trying to handle this role, it can really put a strain on that member in a number of ways. That member has to do more, resentments build — it’s just not a good idea.
So, let a tour manager handle that shit, and be the bad guy in certain instances. The tour manager can allow you to focus on the other areas needed each night to perform and reach fans. They will handle all the mind-numbing clerical shit so you don’t have to.
Finally, touring is the greatest way to network.
Not only will you build long term fans, but you will build long-term relationships with the bands you play with. Don’t be the band that sits back and doesn’t get to know the other bands.
Of course, you will build relationships with the bands you are touring with, but actually have at least a couple members go out and watch the local bands play. Introduce yourself to the local bands because you never know what connections you will make, and how they might help you in the future.
Between the local bands and the bands on tour, you can seriously increase your fanbase from the relationships you build with the other artists. When you are talking with other band members on Twitter, your fans will see those interactions and will want to know about the other band.
All in all, touring creates long-term relationships with fans, other bands, venues, and the press. It also allows your fans to see that you are out there doing things, and going somewhere! (both literally and figuratively)
Got Any Other Tips?
Of course, if I missed something above, please do chime in the comments section below.
We’re all in this together to help each other as artists, so give us your own secrets to a successful tour!