Getting out on the road is every bands dream, playing city after city, night after night and watching fans sing your songs, buy merchandise and show up every time you play their city. Before you can be out on the road living the rock star life, you need to learn how to book a tour. I’ve booked countless tours all over the United States and Europe, some tours were a great success and some were a complete disaster. Being prepared and organized is the best thing you can do.
Get Prepared to Book A Tour
The first step in booking a tour is sitting down with your band or the band you represent and talking it out.
– Where do they want to play?
– How long do they want to be on the road?
– How many states do they want to play?
– Are they financially ready to tour?
– What are they going to sell on the road?
The reality of starting out as a touring band if you are not going to make money, most bands take a pretty big loss when it comes to touring until they have a sizable following and are playing 400-600 capacity rooms. If you play a local show and only draw 15 people, playing 250 miles away is nearly pointless unless you are ready to take a loss to gain the exposure.
Essential Reading To Book a Tour for your Band
Below you will find some great books that will provide everything you need to know to book a tour for your band. They offer everything from contacts at clubs, colleges, and festivals to contacts at radio stations, press outlets both nationally and regionally and can give you the insight needed to book your first or 100th tour.
Were Ready to Book a Tour, whats the first step?
Its time to lay out the tour routing. After you have met with your band you should have a good idea of how long you want to tour and how many city’s you want to play. It’s time to pull out a map, or use Google maps to begin laying out a route. Its always best to keep shows within a few hours of each other, but if you are in the Midwest some times your looking at a 10 hour drive between shows. You need to set up your routing based on the distance between clubs, how much gas will be used, how much you can afford, and where you have a draw. At this point you haven’t started reaching out to agents and promoters so its best to start planning based on what you can actually afford.
You have all the contacts you need to book a tour, now what?
The next step in booking your tour is laying out a time line. When can you tour, and how long do you want to tour? Generally most clubs begin booking dates 3 months out, if it is a well known club in a popular market they may begin booking 6 months out fro your show date. Email or call the club promoter or in-house booking agent and ask for a hold on the date you will be in town. By securing a hold date you now have time to find local acts to create a bill to present to the promoter. When you pick the city you want to play, send out a hold email to a few venues in case the date you want is already secured. When sending in a hold, do your homework about the venues, don’t submit holds for your punk rock band at a country bar. Keep in mind when you secure a hold you will be given first priority but other bands will have a chance to take the date. Remember that clubs have overhead and need to make money, they will go with the touring bill that has the strongest potential to be a successful night financially for all parties involved. Do your homework on local acts, ask the promoter if they have any recommendations, and start making calls or writing emails.
Once you have your bill in place contact the promoter, present the bill and begin negotiation regarding pay. If you are going to be playing a market you have never been too, be prepared for the agent to just offer a door split. Most clubs will offer a 70/30 split, meaning they take 30% and you get 70% of all ticket sales to split among the bands on the bill. If you have a strong bill in place or are playing a market you have a solid draw in, ask for a guarantee. Anything from $200 up if your band is big enough.
We booked a tour- the date’s are set, what’s next?
Now that you have your tour date set you need to start promoting the show. Obviously if you are on tour you wont be able to be flyer the city so set up a street team with fans that are actually in the city to promote your show. Offer the fans free tickets to the show, shirts, cds, whatever you want in exchange for them going around to local stores, record shows, music shops ect and post your flyer. Use resources from the Indie Bible and start contacting local press, radio stations, or whoever will talk to you to start promoting your show, setting up interviews and get your music played at local radio stations. For information visit here