Touring is an excellent way to build your following and interact with your fans, but we live in the internet age. Your fanbase isn’t limited to local or even domestic fans anymore. Putting your music on the web means people from around the world can find you with the click of a mouse or the tap of a screen.
These overseas fans will be just as excited to see you live, but planning international tours can be challenging. Here are a few things you should remember before you start booking flights.
Have Your Paperwork in Order
This tip should be common sense, but it’s such a major part of international touring that we thought it needed at least a note. Make sure you have all your paperwork in order. This includes passports for everyone in your group, as well as any travel visas or visitor visas you might need for the countries you’re planning to visit.
If you’re sticking to Europe, the transitions from country to country are pretty easy. If you’re heading outside the European Union, make sure you’re ready for the rules of each country on your route. Consider keeping a digital copy of all your important paperwork so you’re covered if someone steals your passport.
Manage Your Equipment
International plane tickets are already expensive. If you start checking heavy baggage or musical equipment, you’ll end up paying through the nose to get your gear overseas. On top of that, there’s no guarantee that your belongings will arrive in one piece. If you’re a singer or songwriter, you may be able to get away with packing your instrument in a carry-on. The same goes for DJs and digital performers.
If you’ve got a full band, consider shipping your equipment ahead of you or working with local musicians to rent the pieces you need for your tour. This solution will likely end up being a lot cheaper than the checked baggage fees the airline charges.
Deal With Flying Anxiety
We get it — flying can be scary. If you’re planning on touring overseas, you’ll become intimately familiar with the inside of an airplane. If that triggers anxiety attacks, it could put a damper on your travel plans. Take the time to deal with your flying anxiety before you climb aboard to start your tour.
This process could include researching statistics about flying, plugging in some music to tune out the world around you or even talking to a professional therapist to get some advice. More people deal with flying anxiety than you might think, but in the words of Superman, “Statistically speaking, it’s still the safest way to travel.”
Network, Network, Network
International tours aren’t just a useful tool for interacting with your overseas fans. They can also be a fantastic networking opportunity. We don’t suggest playing multiple gigs every day, especially for your first tour. Instead, play 4-5 days a week and use the other two days to rest, recuperate and network with local musicians.
Reach out to local record labels and ask if you can drop off an EP. Talk to people who play regularly in the cities you’re visiting so you can figure out the best place to drop your hat. Make friends and invite them to come and play your regular venue if they visit the States.
Try Different Venues
Unless you’re really lucky or have a record label, you probably won’t be playing the big stadiums of Europe during your first tour. Don’t let that discourage you. Try out different venues. House shows are popular in Europe, where you’re playing for 30 or 40 people in someone’s living room or backyard. In some countries, “pass the hat” shows can be incredibly lucrative — you get paid via donations as the host passes the hat among the patrons.
In Europe, busking is also a fantastic way to make some extra cash if you have a few hours free in the afternoon. Make sure you’re checking with local laws before you set up, though — some places require you to pay for a busking permit, while others limit the amount of time you’re allowed to play. Try out different venues until you figure out what works best for you.
Use This Tour as a Stepping Stone
You probably won’t come home rich from your first international tour. If you break even, you’re doing pretty good, especially as an independent musician. That said, your first international tour can be a great stepping stone to help you build your career as a musician both domestically and around the globe.