For a new band, the prospect of touring is usually hugely exciting. Experienced musicians who’ve spent time out on the road trying to further their careers are well aware of how tedious and thankless touring can be, but unestablished artists and young musicians typically don’t have anything but popular culture to reference when it comes to perceptions about what touring is really like. If you’ve never toured before and are dying to bring your music to new regional, national, or even international audiences through touring, make sure you’ve done these three things:
1. Released music
It might be tempting to want to hit the road after writing a couple of songs, but you’ll just be, please forgive this next part, spinning your wheels literally and figuratively if you start touring before you’ve recorded and released music. If you’re hoping to connect with audiences on a meaningful level, you’ll need recorded music to do it. “Released music” doesn’t mean offering your stuff through CDs, tapes, or vinyl necessarily, but you should have your work available to listen to online at the very least. You might bring incredible performances on tour night after night, but that won’t mean much if audiences don’t have recorded music to remember you with.
2. Set goals for your music
Your time out on the road probably won’t be successful if you haven’t set goals for not just your music career overall, but specifically what you hope to achieve through your shows on tour. Touring is too expensive and time-consuming to do without a good reason like promoting a new album or trying to build interest in a musically connected city like London, New York City, or LA. Success through touring looks different for every artist. Define what it looks like for you, and shape your touring around your goals. For example, you might have a goal of building an audience and press coverage in a single big music market. Booking a month-long tour around the country might sound impressive, but will doing so really help you reach your goal?
3. Take stock of your resources
Your band might have the desire to tour for six months straight but with a bank account that will only allow you to be out on the road for a couple of weeks. Unless your music is already established, your first couple of tours aren’t likely to be money-making ventures. In fact, it’s safe to assume that you will personally lose money through touring if you’re new at it and music is not your livelihood. Even if your band saves money by not getting hotel rooms every night, you’ll still lose money because you’ll be away from your jobs and will have to eat out at restaurants from time to time. Before you tour, take stock of your resources and plan accordingly.
Touring can be a powerfully good experience for a new band, but you won’t get the most out of it without goals, lots of planning, and recorded music to share with audiences.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.