[Editor’s Note: The following is an installment in our series of a partnership between TuneCore and students at Curb College of Entertainment & Music Business at Belmont University. In an attempt to offer new insight and educational content for independent artists, we’re excited to give these music industry professionals of the future a journalistic platform.

In this article, the students at Curb College highlight some key things to consider when planning your first tour. A topic we’ve covered at length, this article contains tons of deeper links that’ll help you dive in even further!]

One of the most exciting aspects of being an artist is having the opportunity to tour and meet the fans who have been supporting your music since the release. When planning a tour, there is a lot to consider and it can be easy to overlook some of the key details that will help make everything run smoothly. This article is designed to provide new artists with advice on how to plan their first tour, as well as address some of the major elements they should take into account prior to heading out on the road.  

Budgeting Your Tour

When it comes to budgeting a tour, there are several expenses you and your tour manager will want to consider prior to making any executive decisions. One of the major costs to keep in mind is transportation. Transportation is going to be a constant expense due to the fact that you will have to pay for either a van, a bus, or a plane ticket in order to get from one venue to the next (we’ll go into transportation further momentarily).  It is recommended that prior to leaving for your first show you estimate how much transportation is going to cost for the entirety of the tour so that you can set that money aside. 

Another significant cost included in a tour budget is gas. You and your tour manager are able to utilize websites that contain gas budget calculators which allow you to map out your route and estimate the total gas cost based on the car, van, or bus you are traveling in. However, you should keep in mind that these websites only estimate total gas costs based on the average gas price, so it is best to aim high. Additionally, if you are traveling with a trailer, you can potentially lose about 5-10 miles per gallon off of what your vehicle typically averages.

The last major expense to consider is food. If you are a newer artist there are alternatives to cut back on your food bills while out on the road. One option is to go to drive-through restaurants. It may not be the healthier choice, but it will save you some money in the long-run. If you choose to take this route, try to avoid eating greasy burgers for every meal and switch it up with some healthier options such as sandwiches and salads. Finally, to save money, each band and crew member can bring their own snacks to eat while traveling from venue to venue. This can help cut down on the stops you will have to make and it will save money overall

(Editor’s Note: We have a whole aticle dedicated to expenses to consider when budgeting for your next tour!)

Transportation

When managing your own tour, one of the biggest components to consider is your mode of transportation. It is important to look at the tour dates and locations and then plan your route accordingly. In addition to your route, knowing what type of vehicle you will be using is a key component of transportation. Typically, as far as renting goes, the cheapest option would be a van. When choosing your van, look at factors such as storage space for your equipment, passenger capabilities, gas mileage, and make sure everything is in proper working condition. If it is only one or two people on tour then an SUV may provide enough space.

Deciding which mode of transportation is the cheapest and most efficient form of travel is not always an easy decision. For an up-and-coming act a van is usually the wisest and more affordable option. The average cost of renting a van is dependent on several different factors. Two of the biggest price influencers are the size of the van and length of the van rental. Family-sized vans and minivans will be cheaper when compared to Sprinter vans or larger 12 passenger rentals. New artists who are going on tour for the first time should avoid looking into renting a more luxurious tour bus.

Contacting Venues

When planning a tour, it is important to contact venues well in advance of your desired dates. Many venues plan three to six months ahead, so you want to know the route of your tour in order to contract with the venue’s booking manager. If possible, give the booking manager a range of dates you are available to play in their area.  This will increase your chances of securing an open spot. Additionally, it is beneficial to know whether the venue prefers to be contacted by email or phone. This information can usually be found on their websites. Also, you should know how to pitch your band both by phone and by email. In your pitch, always include links of your material since this will give the venue a general idea of who you are and where you might have played in the past. It is a good idea to also include links to your socials, streaming services, and website. Remember to keep the pitch short and concise. 

It is also important to remember that venues are in the business of making money. A good question to ask when booking with a venue is if they have a ‘production fee’. The production fee generally consists of a set amount of money that will come out of the profits generated from ticket sales. This fee ensures that everyone at the venue who works during your show is able to get paid.  The venue is also guaranteed a certain amount of money in exchange for allowing you to perform on that date instead of another artist who may have been able to sell more tickets. You should examine your finances and your fanbase in each area to determine if you are able to cover the production fee, because if ticket sales do not cover the fee, the additional payment will come out of your pocket. 

Band Rehearsals

When managing your own tour, it is important to make sure your band knows what they are doing and the order of the setlist before they go on stage in order for the show to run smoothly. Band rehearsal and soundcheck are crucial parts of making sure you and your band are ready to take your act across the country. Artists typically rent out a rehearsal space during the weeks leading up to the first show of the tour. This provides the artist and their band members with the opportunity to run through their setlist in its entirety and then determine what works and what does not before they are onstage in front of a crowd of potential fans. Also, it is important to take breaks during your rehearsals so that you do not overdo yourself and you help conserve your voice and energy for the show. 

Before each show you and your band are going to want to have a soundcheck. This allows both your band and the audio crew to make sure everyone has the correct mixes and that the front of house and stage monitor systems are functioning properly and creating a clear sound.

Day Of Show 

A tour manager can have many different jobs, all of which depend upon the size and popularity of the artist. As a tour manager, there are many moving pieces and lots of boxes to check throughout the day, every day. The first box to check off is to make sure everyone knows the daily schedule.  Everyone should be aware of where they need to be and at what time. First thing on the agenda, other than getting to the city or venue, is load-in.  Make sure the crew or the band gets everything loaded-in and starts soundcheck on time. While soundcheck is going on, the tour manager should get the artist comp tickets and all access passes to the box office for guests to pick up.

Depending upon the size of the crew, the tour manager might have to set up the merch table to run throughout the night. Once the show is over, the tour manager is in charge of settling with the owner of the venue. This means collecting the money the band is owed and making sure it is what the venue or promoter agreed to when the show was booked. After that, all the equipment, band members, and crew should load out of the venue.

The duties of a tour manager vary from show to show, but most of the tasks will repeat at the next tour stop.  

Self-Care

From Britney Spears to Demi Lovato to countless other big-name recording acts, we have seen time and time again how greatly the music industry wears on the minds and emotions of musical icons. Touring can become intense for an artist as the late nights and early mornings quickly take a toll on their bodies.  In addition to this, being away from the comfort of their home and family for an extended length of time becomes draining, especially for a new or young artist who is not used to this experience.  From pushing forward to keep on schedule, living up to a certain expectation of perfectionism for each show, and seeing the same walls of the tour bus, touring can really start to chip away at the artist’s mental health and their perception of reality.

Representatives for the East Coast Music Association administered a survey that resulted in a shocking disparity between what the national data provided and the experiences of artists. Roughly 26 percent of respondents reported suicidal thoughts in their lifetime, compared to the national average of 11.9 percent, according to a 2012 survey by Statistics Canada.

Matthew Leone, a musician for Madina Lake, recalls his coping strategies for the road, and suggests that artists or musicians find their own unique way to replenish the mind and to take care of themselves. That could include reading a book, practicing yoga, getting a massage, as well as keeping in touch with loved ones.  In addition, it is important to reach out to someone for help if you feel it is getting too hard to try to cope with your issues alone.  Leone adds that understanding your body and how it handles stress and exhaustion is a big part of knowing how to take care of yourself.  Learn how to find inner peace during the chaos that happens as a touring artist. 

As people nationwide continue to advocate for mental health awareness, young music business professionals can encourage their cohorts and colleagues to engage in such self-care practices to ensure the longevity and well-being of touring artists.

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