Jeremy Young is a music business guru and loves giving advice to young, emerging bands on how to make their tours more effective. He also plays guitar, publishes audiobooks, runs a record label, and is an artist working in sound media. He has performed and released material throughout Europe, Asia, the US, UK and Canada, mostly with his trio Sontag Shogun.
While securing dates quickly and early when booking a tour is important, it's also important to avoid rushing things and making commitment which turn out later to be problematic. Here we look at some of the most important things to watch out for when booking your next tour.
The above video was taken from Soundfly’s free DIY tour-booking course, Touring on a Shoestring.
Whenever I set out to book the next string of shows for my band, I often feel like it’s a battle against the clock! Even if you start early, six-to-eight months before your proposed tour dates, you only have so much time before your booking window gets competitive and you lose the ability to secure the perfect venue on the perfect date.
And that’s something that scares me so much that I start rushing to confirm and finalize events before stopping to think about what the negatives might be in certain situations. What I mean to say is that, as much as I am totally guilty of this myself, booking a tour should not be treated like a sprint, because you’re going to forget key elements throughout the process that could seriously hinder your ability to execute a tight, successful run of shows.
I detailed some of these things in the video above, but I’ll reiterate them below. Booking is a holistic process that requires your full attention to connect all the dots, large and small. Here are some things to watch out for when booking your next tour.
If your band members have day jobs, it’s always tempting to go out on the road over holiday weekends and breaks in order to miss as little paid work as possible. And while this is perfectly acceptable, it could also, unfortunately, mean that audiences in certain live music markets like college towns, which can be incredibly lucrative, will thin out.
Everyone takes vacations on holiday weekends, and that certainly includes students, who, in many cities, form the foundational basis for your audience.
This also includes international audiences. It’s quite common in tons of European countries for city-dwellers to spend their entire summers out in the countryside. Double-check to make sure the timing of your tour doesn’t fall within some devastating calendar breaks.
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Communication and Compensation
In the rush to confirm events and offers, a lot of communication tends to fall through the cracks. In fact, I’ve gotten on the plane to start a tour a few times without knowing exactly where I was going to be sleeping in a couple cities. There’s also sometimes an assumption that someone else is taking care of these things. And while that might very well be the case, try to put together a spreadsheet that lists all the relevant details for every event so that everyone in the band can access it and know what’s missing.
One of the things that somehow always gets delayed until the last minute is compensation. For some reason, artists have a hard time talking about money. Go figure. Over the years, I’ve learned to be a bit more upfront about this aspect of the booking process. Clarity regarding how you’re getting paid, how much, and when is one of the most valuable pieces of knowledge you can bring into an upcoming tour with you.
Make sure you confirm the following things well in advance of every gig:
- Accommodations (Where will you be staying? And who’s paying for that?)
- Fee offer (Are you getting a guarantee, or taking part of the door? How much can you expect? Are you being paid in advance, the night of, or upon receipt of an invoice?)
- Transportation (Who’s in charge of renting a car or booking train/bus tickets? Is the promoter reimbursing your travel expenses?)
- Load-in and soundcheck times
- Set times and lengths (When are you going on, and how long is your set?)
- Available backline (Do you require any specific tech needs? What does the venue provide? Make sure to exchange this information via your tech rider well in advance.)
- Other in-kind offers (Meals provided? Access to a green room or the venue before soundcheck to rehearse?)
Lastly, if you need certain information that hasn’t been provided, always feel free to follow up. Remember that the venues or promoters you’re working with might also have hundreds of other open events they’re working on.
Like many of the things we’ve talked about, this can also start out as a communication issue — but ill-fitting support acts can escalate into a promotional nightmare. First, make sure you know who’s responsible for programming the support for each night on the road. Is it you, or is it the venue or promoter?
Secondly, whenever possible, I’d advise that you take a listen to whoever is chosen just to make sure there aren’t glaring inconsistencies with the booking. It’s okay to mix up the genres or styles represented in a given evening, but there’s also a number of reasons some artists might just not be the right fit for your live act.
+ Read more on Flypaper: “When You’re a Piano in a Forte World”
Don’t forget something important! Plan your next tour thoroughly and pay attention to the smallest details so nothing gets left behind, including your van keys….
Need help booking more thorough or frequent tours? We’ve got you covered! Touring on a Shoestring is our comprehensive free video and resource collection designed to help you book, manage, and promote better strings of shows for your band.