Artist’s Guide to Gigs and Tours: How to be a Touring MusicianJul 26, 2021
Things have finally started to take a step towards the normal now that gigs and tours have steadily been rising again. Big names like John Mayer, Maroon 5, Metallica and Foo Fighters have already announced their own music tours and fans have been happier than ever. But it’s not just the fans who are happy.
Any band or indie artist that books tours will definitely tell you that gigs and tours are one of the favorite parts of the job when it comes to being a musician. You get to connect with your fans from different places, and maybe even gain new ones. If you’ve been consistently gigging for a while and you know that you do have some sort of a fanbase, then it might be a good decision to go on a tour!
Here’s everything you need to know to plan a tour for yourself.
What are Tours?
Whenever an artist or a band books tours, they set out to play a series of live shows across a pre-planned route. While the bigger acts tour across the globe, most musicians start by touring across multiple cities, or sometimes neighbouring countries as well.
Benefits of Touring
By showing up for various gigs and tours, you are bound to meet a plethora of new artists, and also a few influential people. When you’re out on a gig, be nice to everybody!
While the band tour might be fun, but the actual travel might take a toll on you and your band members after the first few shows. Touring is a great test of your and your group’s resilience, to see whether you’re cut out for the road or not!
A music tour is a great way to test those new songs live (in front of real people!) and it’s also a good opportunity to experiment with different styles. Think about trying something out on tour that you wouldn’t normally do back home in the studio!
4. It’s just so much fun!
Out on the road with your friends and doing what you love is an incredible feeling.
Organizing a Tour
As soon as you're ready to hit the road with your music, it's time for a little tour planning. As fun and exciting as touring can be there are some things that need to be done in advance to ensure success! Here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Making a Team
You need to think this one through well. If you’re a solo artist, do you need to put together a band to be able to play your songs live? Do you have all the equipment you need?
Depending on the size of the act, a larger tour team can consist of sound technicians, videographers, production managers, tour manager, a booking agent, and a lot more!
However, for most indie artists and bands right now, your crew requirements won’t be nearly as much.
You’ll probably want to just start off with a tour manager or booking agent.
2. Tour Managers and Booking Agents
A tour manager will take care of everything with regards to the finances and logistics for your gigs and tours. Tour managers take a large burden off your shoulders by liaising with the promoters and venues and any other parties to make sure everything runs smoothly.
Things such as hiring vans and drivers or even session musicians should you need them, sending off your rider, hiring equipment and any crew needed to run the show, are all taken care of by the tour manager. Here’s a list of music industry terms you must know about.
Your tour manager can also help you keep track of the finances and take care of budgeting. Costs can add up very quickly on the road, so keeping track of this is crucial. Tour manager fees are usually calculated either per day or per tour.
On the other hand, a booking agent compiles a list of venues and decides which dates you go to which venues. They’re the ones that book a tour, mapping out the journey and liaising with promoters and venues to get you each gig. A good booking agent will know how to squeeze every penny of value for you.
They’ll book you appropriate shows, leverage support slots for you with bigger acts and plan out what the most cost/time efficient routes are for the whole music tour. On average, your booking agent will take approximately 15% on any booking made with the promoter.
A Few Key Things To Consider
1. The Dates
This not only includes making sure every member of your band is free around the dates that you book, but it also includes making sure that your tour dates don’t overlap with other bands that might share your fanbase. Alternatively, if there is an overlap, contact them about securing a support slot if they’re a bigger act than you.
2. The Logistics
This is the support system of every tour. You don’t want to risk any expensive equipment, running over your budget or arriving too late to your own shows. If you’ve just started out, try to have your tour locations not too far from each other. This will save a lot of time and travel fatigue.
3. The Accommodation
Finding suitable places to stay near all the venues is crucial, especially since touring and performing shows night after night can be tiring, and you need your proper rest. However, splashing out all your hard-earned cash on hotel rooms isn’t very sustainable. It might be a good idea to ask the venue or the music promoter if they might have a flat for you to stay in. Speak with other bands you’re touring with or local acts too, and check some local Airbnbs that might do the job.
4. The Food
The costs of living on the road can add up, therefore food budgeting is incredibly essential. You really don’t want to splurge on restaurants 3 times a day, so make sure you make the most out of the hospitality of each venue.
If you have hired a tour manager, they’ll most likely pre-organise this with the venue or promoter. If you’re indie, you’ll need to write up riders well in advance to your shows, as nothing is guaranteed! Be reasonable with your demands, but venues are generally more than happy to provide refreshments.
Choose Locations Wisely
Choosing the right places to play can make or break a tour. Your capital city and your hometown are the two primary choices. Apart from that, you can use analytics from your social media and streaming accounts to get a sense of where your fans are. Ask people in the local area which venues they like or see where acts similar to yours are touring -- then it’s a case of reaching out and asking them what their deal is.
While choosing locations, working with a promoter can be a boon. They can market your band, you may have the opportunity to play to new audiences if they hook you up as a bigger act’s supporting band, and, most importantly, you’ll be able to build new relationships with a venue, other musicians and the promoters themselves.
Making Money on Tour
If having fun performing your music is your first priority with your band tour, then this should be the next in line. Tours are a great way for artists to make a little cash and you should make the best use of the opportunity. Here are a few ways to monetize your tour:
1. Venue Set Fee
You will charge a certain fee per show, but don’t just choose an arbitrary number. This fee should be decided keeping all the expenses in mind to make sure that you end up churning a profit. Your booking agent might be able to help you with this.
2. Online Tickets
Not only does selling tickets online give you an idea of how many people will show up to the gig, but it also will generate a buzz that will work in your favour. Plus, if someone has paid for their reserved ticket, they will feel more psychologically compelled to go, due to the time and money they’ve invested in making the booking.
Merch is a huge part of making money from doing shows and is often treated as an after-thought. The audience should ideally be able to purchase merch at the venue of your show before you start performing, as well as during and after the show. Other than t-shirts, make sure to stock up on CDs, posters, anything that new fans might be interested in purchasing after the show.
Now that you know how gigs and tours are booked and maybe want a taste of that music tour life for yourself, you need to make sure you promote your music and touring dates everywhere on your social media handles. Here’s 10 easy ways you can do that.
Don't miss my newsletter!
Join me on a music entrepreneurship journey with new tips and tricks delivered straight to your inbox.
We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.