Make sure you have written at least one album. Not a couple of songs, an entire album; you’ll need a lot of songs for your shows. Plan on having enough material to play a 45 minute to hour-long set, plus one or two encore numbers (think positive – you want those encores!).
Get a van, or a car with a trailer. You need the trailer to hold your instruments and equipment. A 12 or 15-Passenger van (i.e. Chevy Express 3500) is preferable because they are spacious enough to be comfortable but also get good gas mileage for what they are. With a van you also want to get some sort of roadside assistance such as AAA or Better World Club and keep your vehicle in good working order, especially for longer tours.
Get merchandise made and CD’s pressed. If you only have a demo or a three song “EP” you can still take and get them pressed and labeled packaged inexpensively. You can also do it yourself; it doesn’t really matter, just as long as you have them available to sell/give out on tour. If someone hears your band and likes it but can’t get a CD, odds are they will not remember you. Make sure to include your band name, a track listing and a website/Myspace URL so that they can find you online. If you have the money, you would be wise to come up with even just two or three simple t-shirts. Don’t start out too fancy or expensive because as a small touring band, there is no guarantee people will want to buy your shirts, but having two or three different designs available for your new fans to buy helps you make extra money and is free advertisement when they wear them.
Make sure that each member has his/her equipment ready to go. New strings and extra picks are a must for all guitars and bass. Drummers, bring extra sticks, and don’t forget your drum key! Organize your equipment in your trailer in a way that keeps everything fragile (i.e. heads, drums, etc..) as low and tightly packed as possible. Road cases are great to have for literally every piece of equipment. Make sure that all of your equipment is ready to go, no broken tubes in your Triple Rectifier, no broken drum heads and the like. Do not leave home without a tuner and functioning instrument cables, there is no better way to look unprofessional than to need to borrow a tuner every night. Take extra cables and cords and check everything every day to make sure it’s in good shape for your next show.
Each person should pack lightly. People in bands are notoriously dirty, it’s a fact of life. Bring two bags at most! A backpack with entertainment items like computers, iPods, books, and toiletries like a toothbrush, deodorant etc. which you keep in the van with you, and bring a large duffel bag or small suitcase with your clothes, which stays in the trailer or back of the van. Focus mainly on having lots of socks, underwear, and t-shirts. Shirts and pants can be worn repeatedly. If you are in a different city every day, no one is going to know you wore the same outfit the day before. Just make sure your clothes are clean – you sweat onstage because of the hot lights. Don’t kid yourself that it’s okay to wear a shirt you’ve soaked two nights in a row. Take it to a laundromat and wash it. Throw in your used underwear and socks while you’re at it.