With live performances being one of the main sources of
income for musicians these days, it's no secret how important
touring is. However, before you let your eagerness get the
best of you, there are several "reality check" moments
you need to be aware of before going on your first tour. As
you become more well traveled and gain experience, these lessons
will become engrained in your head. But when first starting
out, you may not know what to expect when it comes to life
on the road and performing on stages where no one knows your
After numerous conversations I've had with independent artists who will never
forget their first tour experiences, I've narrowed it down to the top five truths
you need to know before you pack your bags.
1. Life on the road is a lot more exhausting
than you'd think
It's hard to believe that you would ever
be void of energy when thinking of the excitement that comes
with going on your first tour. Adrenaline is through the roof
during the first few days of the experience, and understandably
so. But despite the temptation to be in 24/7 party mode, it's
important to remember how tiring traveling can be, especially
when you have the responsibility of entertaining a crowd on
a nightly basis.
Whether you're traveling by bus, car, or train,
your first independent tour isn't likely to be a luxurious
experience. I'm not telling you to go straight from the venue
to the tour bus every night (have some fun!), but be sure
to not overindulge to the point where your performance suffers
because of it. Your first tour is a huge moment in your professional
career, so be sure to maintain a responsible balance between
business and pleasure.
2. Most venues won't be impressive
A first tour can be a humbling experience
for those who have unrealistic expectations of venue conditions
and the treatment they'll be met with from event staff. Doing
your research beforehand is the best way of keeping a levelheaded
mentality, and realizing that the first few go-arounds on
the indie circuit consist of small venues and crowd sizes
that can be less than ideal.
Don't get discouraged on the nights that only
10 to 20 people are present, and you're performing at a club
that needed a renovation five years ago. Remember that you've
been blessed with the chance to visit new cities and expand
the reach of your music. A venue in poor condition shouldn't
be enough to stop you from taking advantage of an opportunity
that not all artists are fortunate enough to receive.
3. Making yourself accessible makes
a big impact
When you're performing in your hometown,
it feels natural to be socializing among all the familiar
faces that you've known for years. When you go on your first
tour, however, you may feel less of an inclination to mingle
with strangers before, during, and after the show. While it
might be tempting to simply complete your set and move on
to your next stop, making yourself accessible to audience
members is how you'll create relationships with people you
may never see in person again.
Don't be shy or feel like you're too important
to be a fan during the show when your peers are performing.
By engaging with the crowd at all times, people will better
relate to you not only as an artist, but as a down-to-earth
person who's worthy of being supported. Acting like a conceited
artist who puts him- or herself on an ego-driven pedestal
is only going to be detrimental to your goal of gaining fans
and becoming a nationally respected musician. From venue staff
to random strangers at the bar, make sure to interact with
people who've spent their time and money to watch you perform.
Make it easy for them to remember who you are, and leave a
positive impression, because your first tour only happens
4. The artists you tour with are a
reflection of you
If you're embarking on your first tour,
there's a strong likelihood that a few other bands will be
joining you on the trip. Be sure that you're touring with
qualified artists who you believe in just as much as yourself.
If you're touring with amateur artists who deliver lackluster
performances, it'll cause the crowd to become quickly disinterested,
which will reflect negatively on you before potential fans
even get a chance to hear your work.
Even if it seems like the power isn't in your
hands, it's up to you to be selective with your tourmates
because not only do you have to travel with them for an extended
period of time, but their talent level is a reflection of
yours. If you're able to tour with like-minded musicians who
will attract a shared audience, your first tour is much more
likely to be a success.
5. Things will go wrong (and that's
Tours of all scopes and sizes come with
a fair share of stress. So as much as you hope your first
tour will be one of the best experiences of your life, it's
pretty much a given that things will go wrong at some point
in time. From confusion with equipment (or worse, malfunctioning
equipment) at venues to payment issues, there are endless
possibilities for plans to go awry when you're traveling to
foreign places where all is unknown.
Even if it isn't your job to handle tour logistics, be involved
in all of the details as much as possible before, during,
and after the tour, because that way you decrease the chances
of any unwelcomed surprises. But most of all, don't let the
little issues get in the way of what matters most: delivering
a memorable performance every night!