Do You Have What It Takes To Be On Tour?

Touring-3Touring isn't for everyone. I've gone on the road for few days here and there, and by the third day, I'm usually done. I like daily showers, clean spaces, and breathing room. You don't get a lot of that on the wide open road.


Guest Post by Amy Sciarretto on Sonicbids Blog

But if you're in a band, and you want to really make a go of it, you don't really have the choice to nottour. Touring is a young band's lifeblood and is how the word gets out. But it's a lifestyle, and it's one that requires some mental adjustments, lots of mental preparation, and strength in order to not only survive a tour, but to do it successfully over and over and over again.

The reality of touring is harsh, financials and larger personal sacrifices aside. There are lots of headaches. Like what? Backed up toilets. Flat tires. Filthy showers. Truck stops. Small venue guarantees. Being far away from friends and family. So you have to go into it knowing that strength of mind is critical, or you're toast, and you'll be dunzo before you know it.

Do you think you have what it takes to tour? It's generally accepted that if you have the following qualities, you do.

1. You can handle dirt, grime, and grit

You'll be in cramped quarters with people, and there isn't always the option for a daily shower. So if you aren't a clean freak and can hang with an anti-bac shower, you're good. Seriously, road life is filthy from venues to vans. One girl in a band told me about showering in a venue stall that was backed up, and since water would not go down the drain, she showered with beer cans and other trash circling her ankles. I nearly puked and hate that image, which I cannot shake from my brain. If you aren't a germaphobe, then touring is for you.

2. You can adapt without any creature comforts of home and without routine

Suitcases_wideweb__470x342,0That comfy thing you sleep on? You know, your bed? That's a distant memory. If you like being in a different place every day and can deal with places that are often dirty, with little, if any, creature comforts of home, then you'll tour like a champion. There will be no real routine or structure, since you're cruising through different cities and time zones all day, every day. So if you can shed a regimen, you'll do just fine.

3. You like to find solutions to problems on the quick

If you can deal with flat tires, broken-down vehicles, cranky band members, crappy food, and other headaches that pop up as a part of road-dog life – and if you like to find solutions to these problems quickly, like changing the tire, calling AAA, tuning out the chatter of annoying band members, and learning to enjoy whatever food goes down your gullet – then touring is for you. If you don't freak out but leap into response mode, OMG, hurry up and get yourself on tour.

4. You can adapt to long periods of separation

If you can handle being away from those you love, be it your friends, family, girlfriend, dog, BFF, or whoever for long periods of time and of life, then you'll be able to tour. This is perhaps the hardest thing to do and it takes practice. If you'll be too busy wondering what they're doing while you're far, far away instead of focusing on the task and tour at hand, then no, you don't have what it takes to tour.

5. You realize groupies offer idol worship, not love

Groupies will treat you like a god or the rock star you want to be, but it's critical to realize that it's not actual love. They'll be onto the next one as quickly as you are. If you think that having something serious with a groupie is an option, then you're not ready to tour. Sorry.

6. You're patient and forgiving

If you can accept people for who they are, as you'll only really know your bandmates when you live with them in the close quarters of a tour van, then you're a tour expert in the making. So be prepared to find out what you really dislike about someone you're bros with, like how to deal with their putrid farts, how to ignore their many annoying and bad habits (like nail biting or nose picking), or how to manage their quirks that steadily grate on your nerves (like the repeat use of the word "dude" or how they click their tongue every 5.8 seconds). One thing that should provide some small comfort? They'll be thinking the same exact thing about you and your bad habits or quirks, all while figuring out how to push your buttons.

Those are the basic things you need to be able to do to tour. They're pretty much mental strengths. If you have many or most of these qualities and intangibles, then pack your bags and get ready to perform for lots of people every night of your life. If you have just a few of these qualities, then you'll have to hone, sharpen, and develop the rest while on the road. If you have none, then dive into the deep end and either end up doing a gold-medal-worthy backstroke, or you'll sink to the bottom, never to be heard from again. Good luck!

Learn more about touring:

Amy Sciarretto has 20 years of print and online bylines, from Kerrang to Spin.com to Revolver toBustle, covering music, beauty, and fashion. After 12 years doing radio and publicity at Roadrunner Records, she now fronts Atom Splitter PR, her own boutique PR firm, which has over 30 clients. She also is active in animal charity and rescue.

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1 Comment

  1. Yes, mental sharpness, patience, and perspective(the ability to “get off it”) are the keys to successful touring. My wife (“The Space Lady”) and I – young at heart at 67 and 69 – are on tour right now, our second year of it, not in “mainstream,” but “outsider” music. This our fourth tour, covering eastern US states + Toronto. This summer we’ll spend 10 days in Scandinavia, and in the Fall, 6 weeks in the UK/Europe. Last year we did the West coast, UK, and Europe on different tours. in 2014 she performed while I managed, but this year she’s urged me to get booked as my own act; while I’m not nearly as well known as she is, the promoters are generously giving me a shot.
    90% of our accommodations are comfortable – including promoters’ bedrooms (even two sofas, once) that they’ve donated, flats up three flights of stairs (with luggage) in the UK, and gorgeous B&B’s and hotel rooms. In the UK we sometimes had to sleep in separate beds, but we managed with that – even though we love sleeping together.
    They’ll usually provide the vegan food we request. Since we’re vegans (I suppose), and don’t smoke or (hardly) drink, we don’t get noticeable body odor – so we don’t need daily showers, and can do laundry once a week. When our driver’s car started failing in Europe, he had to drive back to the UK, so we rented one in Amsterdam, and returned it there, from where we flew home. The only thing I didn’t like about that was getting two traffic tix in the mail in foreign languages, alleging we’d been speeding. How can you defend yourself from across the pond?
    I have lots of experience managing Landmark seminars – which requires great mental sharpness and intention -and I can manage things, as result. The promoters have all been good to us. We know the fans are idolizing, not loving, us – but we also know that our particular music – including my original “modern folks songs of awakening” – are making a difference in their lives.
    The hardest parts for me are being away from my vegetable garden during the growing season – That’ll be less this year – living out of a suitcase, being too on the move to devote more time to my writing, and not getting the hot baths I love.

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