D.I.Y.

8 biggest challenges you’ll have on tour

As much as an adventure as touring will be, there are a few challenges to come your way. Here’s how to prepare…

by CHRIS ROBLEY of DIY Musician

Touring and playing live can be amazing.

On great nights, when everything is going right, you get to feel the buzz of performing your songs in front of an audience who returns the energy.

Yes, great shows can lead to new fans, merch sales, more gigs, and good press.

But no matter how ready you are to bring your best, there are always SOME aspects of playing live that are out of your control. What if THOSE things aren’t going right?

Here are 8 challenges most touring artists will face

1. Sound issues

Maybe the PA is broken. Maybe you show up and realize you have to run sound yourself. There aren’t enough inputs. There’s only one monitor. The mics are missing. Or maybe the sound engineer is just phoning it in.

You will encounter sound issues at some point on tour. Can you push through and still deliver a good show?

2. Trouble with the venue

Surly staff. Hostile regulars. Crap acoustics. No green room. The bar manager says “you can’t get your drink tickets until after your set is over at 1am” (true story).

Every musician knows what it’s like to walk into a new room and immediately think “Oh, this isn’t good.” Can you play a great show anyway?

3. Fatigue & grumpiness

Touring taxes the body and mind. Long days of driving. Late nights with little sleep. Close quarters with the same damn people every day for weeks at a time.

Can you figure out how to find space, get rest, and keep communication clear and healthy anyways?

4. Outdoor shows are… outdoors

Extreme heat or humidity. Freezing fingers. Computers and effects that won’t work. LEDs you can’t see. Listeners spread across a park or square. Sound escaping into the void of open air.

Outdoor shows suck. Can you push through it and NOT suck?

5. Wildcard artists on the bill

The other act could be clique-y and critical. You might be intimidated if you want to impress them. All their fans could leave after the opening set. The band might yell at each other onstage, berate the audience, and then break up in the parking lot afterwards (true story).

The other acts can have a big impact on your show’s overall mood. Can you deliver anyway?

6. Broken gear

The click isn’t audible in your in-ear monitors. A favorite synth melts down mid-show. Your guitar string snaps during a solo.

Your equipment will break. Can you get on with the show?

7. Vehicle breakdowns

It isn’t just your instruments. Your car or van may crap out on your too. Your plane or train could be delayed or cancelled. Anyone who has toured enough will know, you can’t always get from here to there on-time. You’ll be delayed even more if you break down in a small town on Sunday.

Can you stay calm and get the problem fixed ASAP?

8. The “stage” isn’t a stage

This is part of venue troubles, of course, but warrants its own section. You show up and realize the stage is an 8×8 piece of plywood. The band can’t fit. The performance area is half hidden behind a giant pillar. Or most alarming, there’s no stage at all. You’re set up in the corner of the room and bound to have some drunk bump the mic into your teeth.

Can you deal?


Those are just some of the things that are bound to go wrong once in a while on tour. You can’t always “fix” these issues, but you should prepare to work around them.

If you perform a great show, the audience will experience a great show. If you play like crap, the audience probably won’t blame it on the sound, venue, or gear. They’ll blame it on you.

Chris Robley is the Editor of CD Baby’s DIY Musician Blog. I write Beatlesque indie-pop songs that’ve been praised by No Depression, KCRW, The LA Times, & others. My poems have appeared in Poetry Magazine, Prairie Schooner, The Poetry Review, & more. I live in Maine and like peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, a little too much.

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