An Unsigned Band’s Guide To Touring

Author – Adam Bennett

A popular dream for an up and coming band is touring. Whilst often perceived as something only ‘big’ bands do, It’s regularly achieved by those without a big following and can be great way of meeting new musicians and promoting your band.
Touring is all about planning, it often takes months to plan even just a week long tour as there are so any variables you have to consider. Below is an average day during a band’s tour.

(Please note; 90% of unsigned band tours DO NOT involve: Paid tour managers, roadies, booking agent or hotels)

10am – Waking up (often hung-over)on a sofa or floor in a sleeping bag (assuming you remembered to bring it!)

12pm – Getting your things together to leave for the next gig. Allowing time for vehicle breakdown and food/toilet stops.

4pm – Arriving in the town/city you’re playing – busking/handing out flyers for the nights gig.

6pm – Arrive at the venue, hopefully without too many problems. Load in gear and sound check. Find food for dinner and await stage time.

12am – finish gig, load gear back in and travel to where you’re staying.

When planning the tour, negotiate with the promoters on how much you’re getting paid and if possible somewhere to stay and some food. There’s no harm in asking, maybe the promoter will say yes! Getting a space on someone’s floor for the night is invaluable. You definitely don’t want to be spending money on hotel costs if you’ve only got £50 between 4 people. A lot of touring relies on peoples generosity, take what you can get.

Budgeting on tour is very important. Realistically with food and travel costs for 4 band members on tour you’re going to be spending a minimum of £50 a day. This includes cost for fuel, food and drink. Expect to be paying out extra for new guitar/bass strings, drum sticks and guitar leads too.

Having merchandise to sell on tour is a must. Whether it be your first full length album, or just a 4 song EP it’s something you can sell/give away to the public and promotes your band. You can also have t-shirts/badges/stickers/hats/wrist bands, the opportunities are limitless.

Don’t forget the reason why you’re touring. You’re promoting your band in the city you’re playing, you want everyone who likes your band in one city to come again the next time you play there. Always value your fans, give them free stickers/badges and extra bonus tracks on the CDs. People will appreciate it more and you can guarantee lots of bands won’t be doing it!

If you can, arrange contracts between the promoters at each gig. This will ensure they will keep to their side of the bargain and they can’t turn around at the end of the night and insist they never said they would pay you. The musicians union have basic contract templates you can download from their website. It’s simple, and another way of reducing the problems you may face on tour.
You’ll find there’s a lot of spare time in between gigs, if you’ve got spare hours to kill in a city – go busking. I can’t stress enough how useful and lucrative it can be on tour. It also gives you the opportunity to plug your upcoming gig.

Whilst it may sound like a nightmare, it’s incredibly enjoyable and once you’ve got the ‘tour’ bug. You’ll be hooked!

About the Author:
Adam Bennett used to work for Mr Bongo Records in Brighton, home of Jazz legend Terry Callier, Prince Fatty, Jorge Ben, and Hollie Cook. He worked for Mr Bongo for 2 years whilst living in Brighton and touring, not only playing his own music but also selling merchandise during a Terry Callier UK tour in 2009 and other various shows.

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