Going on tour is a big step in your career as a musician. It’s a great way to monetize your existing fans and reach new fans.
But, it’s also possible that your first tour may not go exactly as planned, so you need to prepare accordingly. Going on tour can be a lot of fun, but worrying about money, lodging, and sales can make things stressful.
Here is a tour checklist of thing to have in order before you head out on tour so you can have more peace of mind and focus on putting on a great performance.
(If you haven’t booked any gigs yet, make sure you read this article first to learn how to book bigger and better gigs)
Bring Enough Money to Make None
When planning any trip, you need to make sure you can afford it. In a lot of ways, touring is the same as a vacation – you need to be prepared for the worst.
While it’s definitely unlikely that you’ll make absolutely no money on your tour, having enough to cover your planned expenses with no income is a great way to be prepared for the unexpected, such as an accident, theft, and canceled gigs.
Getting guaranteed payouts for your gigs is something you’re going to have to work on over time, but there are some things you can do to get more people to buy tickets and show up.
Get strategies and ideas to make your tours more profitable. Download the free ebook: Hack the Music Business.
If you’re in a 5-person band, it’s probably going to be impossible to fit all of your band members and all of your equipment into a small car or minivan (without everyone hating each other by the end of the tour). With that in mind, your best bet will probably be to rent a touring van.
Unless you’re rolling in cash, it’s probably best to rent for the first few tours. Make sure you can make the tours profitable before you invest too much money. Once you reach the level where you’re touring regularly, then you can justify purchasing one.
While it’s mandatory by law to have car insurance, before you hit the road, make sure you have tour insurance. The last thing you want is to find yourself in a lawsuit because someone fell on the ground and got hurt while crowd surfing, or because they failed to catch you properly during a stage dive.
It’s also important to make sure you have insurance that covers theft of your gear. Many artists have their gear stolen and can’t finish their tours – which not only means they aren’t making the money they otherwise could have, they also have to replace their gear.
Insurance is the best way to keep your assets protected against any unfortunate accidents.
Work Out Payments and Lodging
Even with really thorough planning, a lot of artists will lose money on their first few tours, and you’re probably not going to get the venues to pay you any guarantees.
Even if you’re a less known artist, it doesn’t hurt to ask about money and a place to sleep when you’re booking gigs. The venue owners may be able to help with this – it doesn’t hurt to ask.
While you can sleep in your van, booking a place on AirBnb will let you meet local people, and possibly gain some new fans in the process.
Another option is to book house concerts in between your tour dates. Some house concert hosts will actually offer a couch or spare room to crash in for the night. While this isn’t for everyone, if you’re comfortable, it’s a good way to cut down on lodging costs (and make some extra income from the house concert). Adding just a few house concerts (or college gigs) in the mix can be enough to push a tour into being profitable.
Make Sure You Have Enough Merch
For a lot of musicians, merch sales are what make what would otherwise be an unprofitable tour profitable, and the more merch you have on your table, the more you’ll sell.
If people like your performance, they’re going to want to support you. Make sure you have enough albums available for sale, as well as T-shirts, wristbands, stickers, and any other items you have in your inventory.
When planning what merch to bring, try to have some low price and high price options. So a low price might be a $3 sticker and a high price could be a $40-$50 hoodie.
Additionally, talk about your merchandise on stage. Offer bundles, such as a T-shirt/album deal, to increase the average sale amount. This can help you generate more cash to help you make it to your next gig.
Gigging and playing live can be extremely profitable, but it’s important to remember that traditional gigs aren’t the only options. You can explore house concerts, college gigs, collaborative gigs, events, and any combination of those. If you want to learn more creative gigging strategies, check out the New Artist Model online music business program. There are two whole modules dedicated to booking gigs, selling merch, and making gigging more enjoyable and profitable as an indie artist.