Once you have established yourself in your home town, you might decide that the next step is to take to the road and spread the word of your music on pastures new.
Booking a tour is not something that comes cheap, so it is advisable to only look into setting one up if you have generated some revenue from your music, or you will find yourself significantly out of pocket. If you haven’t got a good catalogue of songs that you can play, wait until you have, because you need to entertain the people who come to your gigs for at least an hour and the more mediocre songs shouldn’t be played – people will come to see you to hear your most popular songs.
Target the areas that you know you have some form of following, as trying to fill a venue in an area where nobody has heard of you will be impossible and downright embarrassing; don’t run before you can walk.
Get out a pen and piece of paper and write down how many gigs you want to do and for how long. Research other bands in the area that you could ask to appear on the bill with you in order to bring an even larger audience and make a clear list of the venues that you want to play at.
Once you have the basics all written down, move onto making it happen and contact all the people that you have listed.
If you are planning to live on the road as opposed to commute to and from gigs, sussing out the best route to get to the next venue is one of the most important things that you will do on your tour.
Use common sense and don’t loop back on yourself, this will only cost you money and time and become boring; the prospect of a tour is exciting but when you are on your 10th day of driving, you will want to get to the next venue as quickly as possible.
Decide if you want to break up your tour by having days off, or if you’d prefer to work straight through on a solid stretch and factor this into your route. If you decide to have a day off, schedule it in between the gigs that are furthest away from each other so that you can have a break from driving.
Public transport such as trains and buses on a tour is just not something that is practical; if you are touring you need to have a mode of transport that can transport you and anybody else who performs with you, as well as the equipment that is required in order to put on a performance.
Save enough money to power the mode of travel that you opt to use and pay for food; these are two essentials that you absolutely have to be able to afford.
Think about what you are going to do after your gigs – are you going to stay over in the town that you have played, or are you going to drive back? You will need money to pay for hotel rooms if you decide to stay over, too.
Making an itinerary of exactly you will be spending out on over the period of time that you are touring will allow you to accurately gauge just how much money you are going to need. Don’t be scared to budget; tours aren’t glamorous and blowing a whole wad of money on your first date will only hinder you further down the tour when you have run out of petrol money.
If you are already established in your home town, ask the bookers that you work with if they know any bookers in the towns that you are planning to travel to and see if they will contact them on your behalf to tell them exactly what you are capable of.
Actively seek out the bookers in the areas that you are travelling to and introduce yourself. Tell them what you are looking to do and explain to them how you think you can achieve it; don’t be scared to be ambitious and confident, but remember that these bookers may not know who you are, so don’t come across cocky or arrogant.
When you contact bookers that aren’t in your area, try and entice them into setting up a phone meeting as opposed to just conversing via email. Once you have them on the phone, you will be able to deliver your message much more succinctly, as well as strike up common areas of interest that could help you to curry favour.
If they reply that they are booked up and can’t accommodate your gig, try asking if they can recommend other bars and clubs that may be able to; they are the experts on the area they are from and if you are polite enough, there is no reason why they wouldn’t help you out.
As an artist that is confident enough to tour, you should expect some form of payment, especially as you are bringing in customers to a venue that you have never played at before.
Most clubs won’t offer you a flat fee but will negotiate a cut of the profits from the night, which usually comes from the price that people pay for their tickets on the door. Some clubs will offer you the full 100% of the ticket sales as they are satisfied to make money from the bar takings.
Once you have your tour booked, you need to tell people about it or they won’t come! Send posters out the venues that you are set to perform at and feed information to your fans via your social networking sites about where you are going and when; you need to start leaking information to your fans a few months before you hit the venue in order to drum up momentum and get people buying tickets.
The venue you are playing at will not actively seek out to promote you, that is your job and you need to ensure that you do it well.
Draw up press releases for each city that you are due to play at and distribute them to the local media and bloggers, asking them if they will preview your show. Invite them along and ask them to review your performances; this can hold you in good stead for future bookings as the venue also benefits from the promotion.
Get in touch with local radio stations and ask them if you can come on and have a chat about what you are doing in their town or city; it’s a great way of explaining to people why you think the place is great, as well as promote yourself, which in turn can generate ticket sales. For every single place you visit, you need to create hype and a buzz around your upcoming show.