So you’re a band or a solo act and you’ve been performing shows in your home town for a while. You’ve created a little or a lot of a fanbase and buzz with your music. You’re ready to hit the road and share your music with the region, the country or the world! Planning and going on tour can be an exciting venture for the independent musician or any musician in general. The music industry has changed so much over the past few years. These days you don’t have to be signed to a record label to make a go of your music. And you don’t have to wait to be signed to a label to start touring! Infact you can pretty much plan a tour all by yourself.
Though it can help to have a record company paying for and backing your tour many just start small and build a fanbase organically. For many including myself going on tour is an adventure and a chance to network with other musicians and get interest in my music. It does help if you already have a following and fanbase in the areas you a touring to, however in my opinion, don’t let that stop you.
There is no one size fits all way to book and plan a tour. Every artist and band is different and needs to find what works for them. For me, my style is learning as I go. I choose to go, I learn what does and doesn’t work, what venues are best suited for me and what works best to get people interested in my music. Last summer I embarked on my first music tour in my home country Canada. There were highs, lows, trials and error, victories and defeat and I learned what worked and what didn’t.
So here are my steps to planning a DIY Music Tour!
Decide when you’ll go and for how long. Decide how many cities you will go to. What season will you be touring in? If you are touring in Canada and not used to the cold then I suggest that you don’t plan a tour during the winter. Spring and summer are more of a desirable time for North America and a lot of Europe as there are lots of summer festivals musicians can perform at.
Who will you be going with? Will you be going as a solo act or traveling with a band? Will you be bringing a crew with you to help with gear, stage set up, sound, merch? Will each person going pay their own way?
Where will you go? Will it be more local in your home province or state, multiple provinces/states, across the country or worldwide? For your first tour my advice would be to start small. If you live in country like Canada or the USA planning a cross country tour could be daunting. Pick cities, towns and locations where you have connections. This could be with other musicians that know the music scene in the city/town. They can tell you where to play and key people to contact. It’s also helpful to share a show with a local musician in the town you are going too. Especially if that musician is established then they can bring their fans and supporters to your show. Also knowing people in that city/town means that they might come to your show and support you.
Another important aspect of the where is the venues you will play at. It’s important to know you genre and style. This will determine what venues you play at. For me I am a solo female singer songwriter with who plays acoustic guitar. I tend to play at coffee shops, famers markets, house concerts and smaller more intimate venues. If you are not well known the city you are going to then chances are you won’t fill up a whole arena. If you are a heavy metal or hard rock band then play at places like pubs or venues that support those genres. Know whether the venues are popular, well attended, on a main street or high traffic area.
Now that we’ve discussed the When, Who and Where let’s discuss the biggest and most important THE HOW. First I suggest booking your tour 3 – 6 months in advance depending on the venue. Many popular venues can fill up. You can apply for festivals online sometimes a year in advance. Make a list of all the cities and towns you want to go to then plan a route. Start emailing and calling the venues to ask if they can book you. Some places will have a specific booking manager you will email or call. Some will have a form you will fill out online. Most places if they have never heard of you will need your online portfolio – your website, Electronic Press Kit (EPK), Social Media handles etc. The best thing to do is include all these in one website that can be easy to navigate. Make sure your website and portfolio shows your best work as this will be what they will see. You want to make a good impression.
Many venues may not respond, may say they are already booked or say no. You will often need to follow up with them especially if they are busy. Some will book you. Once you make a booking discuss with them the details, how much will we be payed, will there be someone at the door or to do sound and what time you should arrive. Discuss whether they will promote the event with a poster their social media and websites or if you will be on your own for promotion. It depends on the venue.
Once you have confirmed your venues, start promoting your tour! Do this on your social media sites, your website, your email list. Be sure to invite anyone you know in the cities you’ll be touring to that you have a show. A lot of cities have a Facebook page for their music scene. These can be a way to promote you show can network with other musicians.
While on Your Tour
Going at it on your own can be daunting especially if its your first tour. There can be a lot of unknowns and being on the road can be unpredictable. On my tour I had one show where I was basically playing to the staff and another I was playing to a room full loud people who were not listening. You will have some awesome shows and some shows that were tough to play. It’s all part the touring experience. Just know that some things won’t go as planned but careful and thoughtful preparation can make your tour go smoother.
If you are a musician be sure to leave a comment on this post. Maybe you have a story from a time you were on tour or a piece of advice you want to share. I welcome your feedback! Happy performing and touring!!