Touring Tips: 3 Things All Artists Should Know to Route a Tour

“The life I love is makin music with my friends I can’t wait to get back on the road again” – Willie Nelson

Good Relationships with Venue Owners, Managers, and Booking:

The biggest misconception about business is that it is about making money; when in fact business is not at all about making money. Business is about building good relationships and money is the residual side-effect of these good relationships. Therefore, if you want to do well in the music business you have to maintain good relationships with the people you work with. The best way to maintain relationships is to continually create win-win-win situations; make you playing at a venue a win for the audience, a win for the venue and event organizers, and a win for your band.

So we know how to make it a win for the band (get good pay, play a good venue, play good music, and have a good crowd) and we know how to make it a win for the fan (play good music), but how do we make it a win for the venue and organizers? The answer is to satisfy the booking person, the manager, and the owner. Particularly with smaller venues and bars the owner, manager, and booking person for an establishment may all be the same person. If that’s the case then you need to do all the things I am about to describe for that person; yet assuming they are all three different people there are things you should do for each to keep them happy. For the person who booked your band, they want good music attracting large crowds, so promo and practicing the music is the key. Also, do not forget to introduce yourself and show gratitude when you get there if they are at the venue that night. The manager wants large crowds and “drinking responsibly” (whatever that’s supposed to mean), so make sure to bring people who won’t start fights and destroy the venue. And then, the owner wants all of these things but it is best to just try to relate to the owner in a personable way. Try to find something to relate to the owner on whether its sports, movies, or music, just find something that will get them talking. When you relate to the owner in that type of way the next time your band comes up he will just remembered that you all had a great conversation about Led Zeppelin. Then, the manager and booking person can act as advocates for you who already have credibility with owner and tell him that you played great music, you brought a crowd, and the venue had a successful night. With the vote of confidence from his team the owner will not only want to rebook because you’re a nice person but also because his people have convinced him that your music is also good for business. Also, it’s particularly good to be in with the owner as he is the final decider in any increased compensation that you could get from a renegotiated deal after you have played somewhere multiple times.

Be Geographically Smart:

If you are routing a tour through the south the Midwest and the northeast do not bounce from Atlanta to New York to Nashville back to Philadelphia back to Chicago and then through Baltimore. Instead, be geographically smart. If you are doing those cities for instance go in a big circle, so that you go ATL to Nashville to Chicago to New York to Philadelphia to Baltimore and back. This will greatly reduce the amount of gas money spent and driving hours wasted for your tour. Another important aspect of being geographically smart about booking your tour is that you should route geographically dense tours where you’re never driving more than 8 hours. So, for instance, Chicago to NewYork is quite a drive but you break it up on the way by doing a show in Cleveland or Detroit, or even the trip from Nashville to Chicago you can break up with a show in Cincinnati. The beautiful part of touring in this big country of ours is that you rarely drive more than 8 hours, except in Texas, to get to the next major city you could perform in (Disclaimer: no offense was intended to Texas but yall have a big state, about 13 hours east to west driving).

SMART Goals:

All tours should have SMART goals; these goals are Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented (meaning there is a set of actions you must take to reach the goals), Results-Oriented (meaning that those actions must aid in achieving a desired result), and Timely. For most businesses a timely offering would sell winter cloths in the winter and ice cream in the summer time. Yet, in the case of music it is a little different because it’s always the right season for music. So, timely in the case of touring music is about doing it in a timely fashion. If you have 20 shows it is much better to have a 30 day touring schedule than a 100 day touring schedule; of course, you don’t want a show every night because you’ll burn out but you also don’t want the show dates too spread out because every day off day on the tour is an extra day you’re paying for hotel and transportation. So, doing a show no less than every other day reduces the cost of the tour and therefore increases the profit from the tour.

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