Deciding to take your band on its first tour is incredibly exciting. You get to plan where you’ll perform, how you’ll interact with your fans and what you’ll do on off days. Speaking of which, make sure you schedule a few days of downtime. It’ll help you rest, recover and even network.
Map It Out
Before you schedule off days, you must plan your tour. Where will your band play? Answering this question should be one of your top priorities. Consider the logistical and economic factors of planning a certain route, and remember you may have to backtrack to play in specific cities. Plot each venue on a map and aim for a few hours of driving between each one.
Develop a Merch Range
On your first few tours, selling merchandise is how you’ll make most of your money. Consider the average age of your fan base to determine what kinds of merch to include on your table. Be sure to include a majority of lower-price items on your first tour. Many concert-goers may not have heard of you before and might not want to invest in a $50 sweatshirt. However, they may purchase a $15 vinyl or beanie.
Create a Set List
This step is one of the more enjoyable parts of planning a tour and is an art form in and of itself. Start with a high-energy hit to kick off the show. Then, depending on the genre, form a musical arc, keeping upbeat songs at the beginning and end and slower, more acoustic songs in the middle. If this method doesn’t seem to engage your fans at the first few venues, switch it up and try a new approach.
See Some Sights
Once you have a basic schedule down on paper and have a general idea of where you’ll be playing, schedule some off days. Day-long drives from one venue to the next don’t count! Instead, use this time to relax and explore the city you’re playing in.
Playing the Midwest? Check out the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, the Chicago Shedd aquarium, or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
On the East Coast, hit up a baseball game at Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park. In the South, hit up the popular local food spots for some unforgettable BBQ. And on the West Coast, take a day to visit Yosemitti or the Grand Canyon. Often these day-trips will create just as great of memories as the shows and concerts themselves.
Connect With Local Artists
Your off days are also the perfect time to connect with other local artists and casually network. Meet up with a band for lunch and talk tours and music. Finding people to share your passion with on the road can be refreshing and energizing. They may even let you sleep on their couch or invite you to play with them sometime, so don’t miss opportunities to connect.
Keep in Touch
After completing your first tour, you may want to sleep for a week straight. However, the days and weeks following your tour are the best time to reconnect with venues and bands you met along the way and thank them for their generosity. Make a contact database of agents, promoters, venues and bands that may be helpful in the future. Doing so could help you land opening gigs or ones where you’re the main act, so seize the opportunity.
Planning the Ideal Tour
Once you’ve finished writing thank-yous and listing helpful people you met along your tour, you can officially take rest. Spend more than a few days recovering. Odds are, those few off days you had on your tour weren’t enough. Take a nap, read a book, binge watch your favorite series and daydream about your next big tour.