In part one of our series on Maximizing Your First Tour, we took a look at some of the steps you can take before hitting the road that will help ensure your run is successful. Today we're looking at actual road life and discussing some of the things you can do to make the experience cost effective and productive.
Tour footage, photos, and B-roll should be captured and shared throughout the entire process. When you look at so many of the successful campaigns of big artists, a core element is their tour media. Capture sound check footage, record video from the stage, even barter free admission and some drink tickets to have a friend shoot from the crowd. Do whatever you can to grab as many videos and photos as you can, even if you don't use it until later. Also, take advantage of live high-engagement platforms like Facebook Live, Snapchat, or Periscope while you're traveling. It allows you to develop a more personal relationship with the people supporting your art, and that's always a great thing.
There's enough planning and running around to do during a tour to keep you more than busy, but it's important to get out and support other scenes if you can. During off days, see if there's a local show you can check out. Hearing what other band's are doing and gauging how the crowd responds is a great way to develop your own set. It's also a chance to network with the staff of the venue, fellow artists, and even potential fans. Usually the conversation with a stranger leads to "where are you from?" Follow that up by mentioning that you're on tour and wanted to check out the local talent. You'll be asked about your own music almost every time.
Breaking the bank on lodging is a common pitfall that can be avoided easier than ever nowadays. Airbnb can be a great resource for cheap lodging, especially in big music towns. You'll find a few renters who specifically cater to touring artists, and as such usually have some applicable perks. I met one such renter in the midwest US who only took in artists. Her husband ran a music shop, and they'd repair gear and replace cables for dirt cheap, in addition to stocking the fridge with snacks they encouraged us to take. Their basement had a rehearsal space with amps, and a recording rig. We ended up cutting a remix in between shows for cheaper than it would've cost to book a studio.
There's other ways to save on lodging too. For starters, speak with the venue manager or promoter and ask if they have a relationship with a local hotel that can yield a discount. In some towns, a personal cosign can go much further than Expedia will. Alternate lodging like hostels can also save a ton of money in a pinch. Depending on your genre and market, also consider applying for some hotel dates as entertainment in exchange for a room. While DJing as support for a tour, I secured a free stay in New Orleans for the whole team because I agreed to spin a funk/disco party in their bar during one of our off nights. Get creative and get to sleep.
Eat To Live
It gets really easy to spend half of your money on food when you're on the road. Depending on how you're traveling, you may be at the liberty of whatever's available, but try your best to eat meals that are cost effective and good for you. If you're commuting by bus or van, plan for stops at local markets instead of raiding the fast food and convenience centers on the highway. While there, stock up on things like fruit, nuts, and health bars for on the go snacks, and hit the deli for warm meals. If you do prefer sit down for a meal, use Google/Yelp and search for good cheap eats rather than shooting blind. Your body and wallet will thank you.
Things go wrong on the road. It's inevitable. While driving through the midwest for a tour last year, our engine blew out about an hour from the venue. The unexpected cost of a last minute cab to play, and blatantly overpriced repairs set us back a pretty penny. During another run, our macbook died during an off day, resulting in a computer rental and repair fee. In both cases, I'd gone on the road with a bit of extra money set aside just in case something goes wrong. You should too if you're not operating with a lot of capital to spare as so many of us artists do.