[Editors Note: This blog post was written by Michelle Aguilar, a writer and digital artist based in Los Angeles.]
When I’m not studying, freaking out during mid-terms or in the mountains, there’s a high chance that I’m at a concert seeing/dancing to one of my favorite musicians or serendipitously coming across a fascinating artist. After getting to know several indie artists and hearing their stories, I thought it’d be a great idea to write an article specifically aimed for the traveling or touring musician…and assuming that you’re an artist since you’re reading this: Hello! I hope you find the following mini-guide for the next journey.
But First: Your Health
I never thought I’d be the one saying this– it’s what my mother would say to me each time I’d skip out on doctor appointments—but “your health comes first.” A few things you can do to keep your health on check:
- Party in moderation. Although there’s much to celebrate about, touring is not a vacation. You know yourself best so whatever that means to you, do it. Also, be sure to sleep as much as you can, your brain, body and everyone else will thank you!
- Eat right. This may be difficult, especially when you’re on the road. Great news is that you can always buy a cheap cooler (use freezy- paks not ice) and fill it in with fruits, nuts, veggies and other healthy snacks. Buy lunch meat and other food from a near-by market.
- Stay sanitized. Bring hand sanitizer and wipes and use them. Wipe door knobs, shower handles and other objects if you’re staying at a motel. The constant moving between different places, restaurants and meet-and-greets are easy ways to get sick.
Always Plan for Worst Case Scenario
They say “hope for the best and expect the worst”, you say “%$!*, we should have done that.” Don’t worry, it happens to all of us, but when it comes to traveling to play gigs, the consequences are no joke. A few things you can do to prepare:
- Try to have extras of everything: cellphones, laptop, amplifiers, guitars, mic’s, cables, xlr’s, stands, extension cords, batteries, picks, stings, straps, and snare drums.
- Know what’s around the venue, specifically hotels and their availability. Even if you already have a place to lodge, it’s always good to have alternative options at hand.
- If you’re traveling by land, make sure that your vehicle is thoroughly checked and cleared of any issues.
It can be tempting to get a little too adventurous or fill your schedule up for x needs..but if you stretch yourself too much, it may have a negative effect on your overall performance and motivation.
- Know yourself. How many hours of sleep do you need? Do you get tired easily or are you naturally on-the-go? Keep all of these in mind to give yourself space to recharge and perform your best.
- Read up online forums specifically for indie artists as yourself that may have a venue database. A great platform is Indie On the Move. This can help you sort out venues and efficiently narrow down your options to avoid over-booking.
Be Ahead of the Game With Your Promo
With so many business elements becoming more and more digitalized, it’s easy to get comfortable with social media and be satisfied with simply posting your events. However, we must not forget the fundamentals! Also, if you do use Facebook, do more than just post:
- Send a press release about your tour to the local radio stations, newspapers, and weeklies at least 6 weeks before your appearance.
- Build relationships with established bands in the city you’ll be playing at. Start by befriending them on social media and reach out. You may even land another gig with them that same weekend or in the near future. Swap offers such as opening for each other in each other’s towns.
- Use Facebook Ads effectively. Target these adds for people living in or around the zip codes for the venues you’re going to perform at. You can even limit them to people who are interested in your genre.
Stay a While
Regardless of where you are in your music career, there is always room for an after-show meet and greet with those that supported your performance. After all, being an artist is never a one-way street. You are here because of your hard work and you are also here because of your fans’ dedication and appreciation towards your music.
- Depending on the venue that you’re in, try to squeeze in at least 20 minutes of meet and greet time. This shows you appreciate you fans and it will most likely increases fan loyalty. Also, you never know what you can learn by meeting a fan; they may be in the industry and have some advice, they may be that drummer you’ve been looking to fill in—you never know!
- Hang out near your (if you have one) merchandise booth to show appreciation to those buying more than just the concert tickets.
- Be initiative and take pics/videos with your fans, upload them on your social media. Humility stands out.
I hope these tips have been helpful in preparing you for your next show. Of course there are probably a lot more other things to keep in mind when preparing to perform in a new city, so I definitely encourage you to primarily rely on your own experience as well as consult with management or fellow musicians.
Do you have any other tips or suggestions you’d like to share? What is something you’ve learned about traveling as an artist? Please, feel free to let us know in the comments.