OK, you’ve got great songs, a great look, and maybe even some great recordings. Where are the raving fans? If you’re going to make it big in the music business, you’ve got to play live, and that means you’ve got to get gigs and tour. Touring is the single best way to get your music heard and to build a fan base in several geographic locations.
Johnny Harpo, Singer Songwriter and lead singer of the band Rigorous Proof shares with us his top 10 tips on how to best prepare for your first tour.
10 TIPS TO BEST PREPARE FOR YOUR TOUR
Where are you located? For you first tour you’re going to want to think about economy. You don’t want to be driving 12 hours to play for 3 people to make no money, and to not have a place to stay, to have to wake up at 6 am to drive 12 hours to do it all over again. Start small, and manageable.
You may not make any money touring, yet. You need to establish yourself though. Try to make sure you at least break even. There’s still a life to come home to after tour and you don’t want to be destitute because you toured the US for a month and spent you’re life savings.
If you’re going on tour and have nothing to sell, then you’re missing the point. Listen: we all carry the torch and are in it for the music but you need to make some money to keep fighting the good fight. You need at the very least you’re own recorded music to sell. T Shirts, key chains, bottle openers, hats etc. Something! That way you get your name out there too. You’re trying to build a fan base in each town.
You’re ride is you’re home. You’re going to be spending a lot of time in whatever vehicle you are driving to get around. I’ve had to sleep in vans plenty of times while on tour. I’ve broken down in vans. You want your ride to be reliable. Nothing kills a tour quicker than breaking down 2 hours away from civilization in the hot unforgiven sun because the transmission is shot and now everyone is calling home to figure out their lives. Also make sure your ride is safe from getting broken into. Park it somewhere in sight. Lock it!!!
Does your guitar have spare strings? Do you have a backup cable? Do you have your power cord? Do you have extra drums sticks? Do you have an extension cord and power strip (get the good one with power conditioning and grounding)? Don’t rely on the venue for everything, the amount of times I’ve saved the day by having an extension cord and power strip is more often than not. Not all venues are, venues. Some are bars, some are basements, some are patios, some are a parking lot. Make sure you’re equipped like a small army for whatever battle comes ahead.
It helps to know where you are playing. Not just geographically but what are you playing? Is it a bar? Is it venue? Is it some dudes house? Are they equipped for a show? Do they have a PA? Is there a stage? Are there monitors? Are there outlets in the front of the stage for your pedal board. Is there only one outlet and is from the 1930’s and will definitely kill you if you plug all your gear daisy chained with $3 extension cords.
It helps to have one, just in case. Some venues will ask you for one. What is a stage plot? It’s a piece of paper (mostly digital now) that has everything in written and picture form that you require to perform. It takes ten minutes to make one and will help you keep inventory on what you own.
You should be efficient in setting up and tearing down all your gear, while also keeping inventory on what you own. As soon as your done playing, get off the stage ASAP, there’s probably another band going on. Don’t hold up the show by taking forever to set up or tear down. Maybe you’re new to town, you want to make friends with whatever band helped you with the show you’re playing, don’t be the diva’s that spend 30 minutes setting up and then 30 minutes soundchecking.
Where to sleep? The first rule of thumb is to ask the other bands what the best bet is. They will know of a cheap motel, or a place you can park the van and sleep in. If you’re really lucky somebody will let you stay at their house! Keep pillows and sleeping bags in your van, you will use them.
Keep an eye on your surroundings and stay level headed. Have a beer or two, but make sure that your gear is safe. Make sure your driver is sober. You don’t want to get robbed, crash your van, go to jail or the hospital. Those things suck and you have another show to get to tomorrow. Keep your eye on the prize, the music!
Hope this will help you to get a first successful tour. Good luck. Johnny