Road Hazards: 5 Challenges Of Touring and How To Avoid Them

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Patrick McGuire. Patrick is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.]

 

For young, ambitious bands, there’s nothing more exciting than hitting the road for a national tour. There’s something timelessly exciting and relatable about a band traveling from city to city in hopes of getting the world to care about its music. But while tour is capable of bringing huge benefits for artists as far as opportunities and industry credibility goes, touring can be tedious, thankless and even downright dangerous for some bands. In this article, we’ll highlight some of the road’s more serious challenges and show you how to cope with them.

1. Physical Inactivity

If you’re someone used to exercising regularly, touring for long periods of time can be especially brutal. Unless your band is raking in the dough and traveling in a big tour bus, you’ll most likely spend the majority of your days on tour crammed in a car or van. Long-term physical inactivity is hell on your body, and the longer you stay sedentary, the more your risk for things like depression and heart disease increases. One two-week tour isn’t a big deal, but if you’re a serious musician intent on touring over the course of your career, inactivity can lead to massive problems.

The only solution here is movement. Make every effort you can to move as much as possible throughout the day. Encourage your bandmates to get a gym membership at a national club and to reserve an hour or two each day for exercise. Easier said than done, of course, but if you don’t take care of yourself on the road you simply won’t be able to do it for very long.

2. Excessive Drinking and Drug Abuse

Partying is simply the funnest part of tour for some musicians, and while it’s not our place to judge here at the TuneCore Blog, booze and drugs have caused musicians more than their fair share of problems over the years, so we think it’s worth mentioning. Whether it’s a tedious eight-hour drive through the midwest or the lengthy period between loading in and performing, there’s a ton of time to kill on the road, so it’s no wonder musicians drink and use drugs to pass the time. But while casual drinking or drug use is completely harmless for some people, it can be hugely damaging for others.

Moderation is the key here for some musicians, but if you find yourself getting out of control when you drink or use drugs, it’s time to stop and even consider getting off the road altogether. Assuming that you tour because you’re a serious musician, the main goal of touring is playing well on stage and making connections on the road, and this is going to be much harder if you’re drunk and high constantly. If drinking and drugs are keeping you from being your best on the road, consider cutting down, taking a break or stopping completely.

3. Strained Relationships

Maintaining relationships out on the road can be a huge challenge whether you’re touring for the first time as a young band or are a seasoned touring veteran. Relationships are essential to the happiness of most people, and this is one of the main reasons why so many serious musicians become depressed and eventually burn out. If you plan on being a serious musician for the rest of your life, you’ll have to learn how to make relationships work on the road.

Nothing can replace the time spent away from a loved one, but there are things you can do maintain relationships while you tour. Scheduling and sticking to daily calls, FaceTime and Skype chats is one obvious option. Bringing your loved ones with you on the road for certain legs of your tours is another, though that’s not always an option for some musicians. No matter what you decide to do, just remember how vital your relationships back at home are and proceed accordingly.

4. Financial Hardship

Touring is a huge financial investment that never quite pays off for some bands. This means weeks or months at a time away from jobs and a steady source of income. There’s no way to tell for sure, but money problems have probably caused the untimely demise of many bands, and it’s not difficult to see why. Musicians are accustomed to making all sorts of sacrifices for their craft, but there’s a point where lack of money makes it impossible to keep going.

To avoid burnout over money issues, conversations need to happen long before you hit the road about your resources and limitations. Lots of bands set out with lofty goals for tour without having this conversation break up when they realize they can’t be on the road for months and pay their bills at the same time. Communication, realistic expectations and planning will help you be able to tour and keep your personal bottom line intact.

5. Lack of Sleep

Everything from the bad food to excessive drinking on tour can be hell on your body, but the lack of sleep can be especially pernicious. Not getting eight hours of sleep a night while you’re on tour might not seem like a huge deal for some bands, but sleep loss can cause everything from obesity to depression. Again, on a short tour this isn’t a problem, but it’s something that serious career musicians should address.

A major factor in sleeping issues on tour has to do with the fact that most bands can’t afford hotel rooms every night on the road. What can you do if the house you’re sleeping at has a party raging till four or five AM? Doing your best to find accommodations before you embark on a tour is essential if you hope to get good sleep on the road. Stay with friends and family when you can, and communicate your needs, even if it’s awkward to do so.

What To Expect When You’re Expecting…To Book a Tour

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the Director of Public Relations and Creative at NGAGE.]

 

So you’re band is killing it. The crowds at your hometown shows are getting bigger and bigger and you’ve dipped your toes into playing ‘out-of-town’. You just put out a new record and you really want to bring it, along with your increasingly dynamic live show, to as many people as possible.

Seems like it’s time to hit the road! It’s a long, arduous process to put a tour together independently, but it’ll be worth it. You’ll get to see new places, find new ears for your music and begin laying the foundation for actual booking agents to start paying attention.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning your journey.

The Internet is Your Friend!  

Yes, playing live is about forging connections with fans away from the internet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it to help plan and book your tours. The best way to get contacts for venues outside of your range of familiarity is to do a bit of internet research. Find out where bands that are equivalent to your size are playing and grab the venue contacts either from those band’s or the venue’s website.

You can also use the internet to find bands to tour with. Linking up with a band from another area you’re planning to hit up ensures that you’ll have at least two ‘homebases’ on the tour. This will be incredibly important considering if it’s your first tour you might be playing to some small crowds (or even empty rooms).

Make sure all your dates are up on the internet using BandsinTown or Songkick, as well, and reach out to people via social media that you think might be into your band letting them know you’ll be in their city.

Think Regionally!

The idea of booking a month long national tour seems like a dream come true. The truth of the matter is that it’s not feasible. The longer you’re on the road the more expensive it’s going to be (don’t count on making a ton of money this time around) and the further away from home you get the less people will probably have heard anything about you. The best course of action is to start out small and regional.

Book a 5-10 day run hitting neighboring cities. If You’re a New York band book dates in Jersey, Philly, Baltimore, DC, Connecticut and Boston. It also helps to order your dates geographically so that you’re cutting down the amount of extra-long drives you have to do.

Treat It Like a Local Show

Last month I wrote an article about making the most of each gig you book. I spoke more to local shows for it, but a successful DIY tour will treat each gig like it’s a local show. Stay in touch with the promoter, make sure they’re pushing the show through their marketing channels. Be professional in your interactions and do everything online and in real life you can to make sure you’re drawing as much attention to your upcoming performance as possible.

Don’t Forget The Merch Table

Make sure you have something to sell on the road. Chances are you won’t be making much money from the shows themselves. However, if you can sell a couple of CDs, Download cards or T-Shirts that might make the difference between breaking evening for the night or losing money.

Can You Stay With Friends?

Another important aspect of tour is figuring out where you’ll sleep each night. If you don’t have to book a hotel room you’re way more likely to be able to afford to take the band to Taco Bell for a treat after the show. See if you or any of your bandmates have friends in the cities you’re performing in that would be willing to let you crash on their floors. I can’t stress this enough as lodging will likely be the most expensive part of the tour.

Look for Press!

Chances are you’re not going to get a big write-up in local papers when you’re just starting out. Still, show listings can be a good way to help spread the word and start a relationship with the outlet. Invite writers out to the show and make friends with them. Even if you don’t get a write-up this time around, if your music is special and you forge a good friendship with the journalist you have a much better chance of getting some coverage the next time you’re in their city.


Being able to take part in DIY tours when I was younger is one of my fondest memories. No matter what comes out of your musical career, you’ll always cherish the times you spent on the road with you band and the experiences you’ll have along the way. So take the risk and book a tour. If you’re serious about being in a band for a living it will be one your biggest assets in terms of creating a bigger buzz and getting the sort of booking agents, managers and labels that can help you reach the next level to start paying attention.

5 Reasons Venues Aren’t Writing You Back

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Patrick McGuire. Patrick is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.]

 

It can be a hugely frustrating experience to reach out to a venue in hopes of booking a show only to hear nothing back. When you’ve spent months or even years creating music, it can be annoying or even downright disheartening when a venue won’t communicate with you and give you a chance to play. But like with everything, there’s two sides to every story, and there might be some perfectly good reasons why music venues aren’t giving you the time of day. Here’s a list of five possible reasons that venues aren’t replying to your emails:

1. You don’t have enough experience

If you’re new at making music, you might have a misinformed notion that the music industry is different than other industries in the fact that it’s not centered around money, but you’d be very wrong. Venues might not be getting back to you because you don’t have enough experience playing music. And if you’re new and inexperienced, the chances of you bringing people to your show, or more importantly, money through the door, are slim, and venues usually aren’t willing to take that risk. Like all of us, venues have bills to pay, and they can’t afford to bring bands in with no following and experience.

So, how do you get venues to give you a shot if you have no prior show experience? Build up your experience performing any way you can. Hit up local open mics, house shows and try to get your foot in the door with the smaller venues you want to play. And when you’ve built up some relevant experience, highlight that the next time you write venues.

2. Your communication skills are bad

You might not think that being able to write emails that are clear and grammatically correct is that important of a skill to have as a musician, but it’s absolutely something that could mean the difference between a venue booking you or not. Venues and show promoters get dozens of emails every day that are riddled with spelling errors and nonsensical sentences, and trust me, they hate it.

It’s even common for venues to get emails from bands who forget to add links to their music or even their band name. How can a venue book you if they don’t know your band’s name? If you put yourself in the shoes of a booking agent, you’ll see the need for emails to be written thoroughly and with things like your band’s name, the show dates you’re interested in, a link to stream your music and some relevant information about your band included.

3. Your music sounds bad

You songs might be awesome, but venues probably won’t give you a chance if they’re recorded poorly. Remember, venues get inundated with hundreds of requests from bands every week who want to play their stage. If your band’s music can’t compete with all the other music the venue’s booking agent listens to, why would they let you play?

If the recorded music you have posted online consists of demos you recorded on Garage Band, it’s time to invest some money and professionally record just one of your songs and share that with venues instead. You’ll be shocked at the difference this will make when it comes to booking shows.

4. The venues you’re trying to play are too big

If your band routinely draws 50 or less people to shows, landing a spot on a bill at a 2,300-capacity venue is going to be to difficult or even downright impossible. Again, from the venue’s perspective, why would they take the time to respond to your email if it’s clear you’re too small of a band to work with?

Instead of taking it personally, keep building your performance experience and work toward packing the shows at the smaller venues you work with. It never hurts to ask, but big venues can’t afford to lose money on a small band, even if they like their music. When you’ve built up your following, larger venues would probably love to have you. But until then, work towards selling out those smaller clubs.

5. Your band is unprofessional

If your band has earned a bad reputation in your scene, venues will be hesitant to work with you. Things like repeatedly showing up late to shows, talking through other band’s sets or not promoting your shows will earn your band some detractors, and their poor opinion about you will spread through your scene and venues will act accordingly.

If you’re new to music, the people working at venues might seem unrelatable, but they’re just like you and me in the way that they want to work with people who are kind, respectful and reliable. If your band has conducted yourselves in an unprofessional way, it could be the reason venues aren’t getting back to you.

How To Book A Gig Yourself…and Be Invited Back

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the Director of Public Relations and Creative at NGAGE.]

No matter what anyone tells you, we have yet to figure out a digital musical experience that can equal the fan connections a band can conjure through their live show. There is something in our DNA that is profoundly impacted by live music. Maybe it’s the shared experience with those in attendance or the nostalgia a concert can create for a certain time in our lives.

Or maybe it’s something more primal; the process of syncing our natural rhythm to live drum and bass as it pulse through our bones. Either way, performing is still undoubtedly the best way to create loyal fans and combat the current “musical-flavor-of-the-week” culture we live in.

Still, developing a live following is no walk in the park. You’re going to need to dedicate hours-upon-hours of time to tightening your set and tirelessly promoting your shows. It’ll get tedious, and success won’t happen overnight, but if you work hard you’ll eventually graduate from dingy bars and VFWs to better rooms. On top of that, I can honestly say nothing can match the indescribable feeling you’ll get from performing in front of a room full of people and, if you’re lucky, the dedicated following you’ll gain from gigging out.

Here are some tips on how to book that first gig, and how to get invited back!

1. Be Professional In Your Pitch

Yes, the promoter knows that you’re self-booking. They still want the comfort of knowing you will take the night seriously. Keep in mind that they’ve probably gotten a few hundred other “booking inquiries” that week. Ask yourself what’s going to make them offer you a slot on one of their nights over those other bands? Some ways to be professional include:

  • A succinct, clear subject line (i.e: Booking Inquiry – The Beatles October Date @ MSG?).
  • Be informative in the body of the email. You should include a description of your music, where you’re from and any performance history. It is also necessary to include a link to where the talent buyer can listen to your music and check out your socials.
  • Don’t have typos!
  • Follow up approximately 3-5 days after reaching out if you don’t hear back. Also don’t hesitate to pick up the phone. Sometimes that’s the best way to cut through the clutter of acts hitting up a promoter.

2. Stay In Touch with The Promoter Ahead Of Your Show

Nothing makes promoters more nervous than booking a band and not hearing from them again until they show up at the venue night of. Give the promoter updates on what you’re doing to get people to come see your band. Also share any promotional assets such as Facebook events or flyers with the promoter as well. This way they can take comfort in the fact you’re promoting and maybe even help get the word out as well.

3. Promote On Socials and Ask Your Friends

Actually promote, don’t just show up! Be active on both yours and the band’s social media accounts. Also don’t discount the value of hanging flyers (particularly in the venue) and calling/texting your friends. Sometimes those IRL invites are more memorable than a Facebook invite.

4. Help Book The Bill

This isn’t as important as a lot of the other points on this list but it’s definitely a plus. Promoters are usually booking a bunch of dates at once. If you can book the rest of the band’s on your bill it takes the work off of the promoter’s plate and gives a better chance of the bill being cohesive.

5. Bring Your A-Game

Put in the work before the show to have a great performance. At the end of the day that’s what’s going to ensure people want to see you again and get your band invited back to play on better bills.

6. Communicate With The Promoter Night Of

Introduce yourself to the promoter when you get there and thank him/her for having you. Thank him/her again at the end of the night and let them know you’ll reach out about subsequent dates.

7. Follow Up After You Performance

Give it a couple of days after the show and then email the promoter. Thank him/her again for having you and then see what upcoming dates he/she has available. If you can get in this routine with a few different promoters, you can put a nice little circuit together for yourself.

8. Don’t Overbook

Space out your dates in any given market! If you play too much in the same area, you’re going to most likely divide your draw. Obviously when you first start playing, do as many low profile gigs as possible to find yourself as a performer, but once you’ve achieved a level of confidence in yourself that you care about draw, try not to play your own market more than once per month.

Promoters will not be happy if they find out you’re playing next door in a week. Neither will your friends and fans be as inclined to come out and support if you’re ALWAYS playing out.


Keep these eight things in mind and you’ll be well on your way to building your live career!

Tips to Draw the Crowd: How Local Artists Can Beat the Struggle

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Adam Young, CEO and founder of Events Ticket Center.  Adam is passionate about live music and hopes to inspire others to get out, see a show and make new memories.]

 

It’s supposed to be all about the music, right? Well, it turns out building a successful band takes a lot more than a decent melody. You’ve been writing, practicing, networking, booking and selling merchandise, and it’s starting to pay off. You’re building up a fanbase and maybe even getting some good press.

This is the middle of the journey, and it has its own unique challenges. We’ve put together a list of some of the most common (and annoying) problems musicians face, and our advice for how to turn them into opportunities to reach new fans and build a name for yourselves.

Struggle #1: The local music scene seems cliquey.

Depending on the size of your city and your genre, it may feel hard to break into the local musician community. Maybe your band just relocated to a new city and you don’t know where to start. Everyone seems to know everyone already and there’s no room for another name on the bill.

Fortunately, you can take steps to make your band known in the new scene. Look for local hangouts where other musicians congregate and introduce yourself. Spend some time getting to know them—after all, you already have a lot in common, and it’s more than likely that they’ll be willing to help you out. Alternatively, you can also connect with nearby bands through social media, which also helps you find potential new fans.

Don’t forget that most bands have been exactly where you are now, working to make a name for themselves and gain exposure. You’ll have to put in some time, but local musicians (generally) love to help each other out. Go see some shows, hang around afterward and introduce yourself. Let the bassist know you really loved his performance. Even better? Plug other bands during your own shows. They’ll be grateful, and they’ll remember it if they’re looking for someone to share the bill with. Community is the key here.

Also, think bigger than just your city. When you meet bands visiting from out of town, offer to host them. There’s a pretty good chance that they’ll reciprocate, and the next time you’re on the road, you’ll have a free place to stay.

Struggle #2: You’re getting low show attendance.

It’s a huge bummer to play to an empty room, especially if you’ve been steadily drawing crowds and record sales are strong. Low-attendance shows can come out of nowhere and really kill your confidence. Of course, there’s so much to say about how to draw audiences, how to market your music and get the word out about shows. Social media is one huge asset for letting people know about upcoming shows, and with the right strategy, it can help you fill a room on short notice. One tip that might be less obvious: Make sure the venue is the right fit before you commit.

Here’s an example: Maybe the booking person at the biggest, most popular venue around heard you play, and they want to book you last minute for a weeknight show. It’s a huge opportunity, and a much larger venue than anything you’re used to. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Your band won’t have the time or resources to draw in a crowd that will fill that venue, and an empty room is not going to get you invited back anytime soon.

Better to fill a small room with fans and energy and gradually build from there. Sometimes the better move is to say thanks and put that contact in your back pocket for when you know you can fill that space.

Struggle #3: People don’t buy records like they used to.

The good news is this is an industry-wide problem, so you’re in good company. The bad news is that there’s no easy answer. Bands make less money from album sales these days, whether it’s digital files or CDs and vinyl. It’s essential to put out new material and have it available for sale, review and airtime. But studio space is expensive, and many bands lose money on records they’ve already poured lots of cash—not to mention hard work—into.

While there’s still a lot of pressure to release solid albums, many bands can’t rely on them to make a living. Your best bet is to diversify. That means any band that wants to be successful needs to:

  • Have hard copies of albums to sell at shows and to distribute to press
  • Sell digital versions and hard copies of albums online
  • Utilize all the popular streaming services out there, like Spotify, Pandora and Bandcamp
  • Promote your music through social media to ensure you reach as wide an audience as possible

Struggle #4: You’re reluctant to accept help.

You may be thinking “I’d have no problem accepting any help that came my way.” And you might be right, but many musicians can get caught up in what they think their musical path should look like. They end up missing opportunities where they could meet new people, promote their music and build their fanbase, all because they thought they’d be able to do it on their own.

I talked with P.T. Banks, a musician from Austin, TX, and he said there’s nothing like your community to help you succeed, if you’re willing to let them.

“I refused some managerial and financial help early on in my career because of pride,” he said. “Working on your craft is the most important thing, but accept help and let people believe in you.”

Maybe that looks like setting up a Kickstarter to get your new album recorded or accepting when friends or family offer to support your music financially. Getting to the next level may be as simple as getting out of your own way.

Is Touring Still Relevant In the Digital Age? Yes, Actually – More Than Ever.

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Patrick McGuire. Patrick is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.]

 

In 2017, there’s never been more ways to experience the world around us on our computers and smartphones through the omnipotent lens of the internet. The internet’s effect on how music is now being created, discovered and distributed is so profound that it’s hard to remember a time when listeners discovered new music from friends and record store clerks rather than music blogs and playlists.

For bands coming up in an era when seemingly everything can be done, seen and heard through the internet, it’s tempting to question the real value of something like touring. Is touring still relevant in the digital age? Yes, actually. More than ever before.

Where are you right now? Are you reading this article on your laptop at a coffeeshop? Or maybe you’re thumbing through it on your smartphone on the train home from work.

Look around you. Everyone’s eyes are constantly glued to some kind of a screen, and this is why the live music experience is more vital now than ever before. No amount of technology can replicate the experience of seeing a band performing their music right in front of your eyes in real time. Live music will always be a distinct and powerful experience because it’s something that can’t be translated to the world of screens.

Yes, at any given moment there’s thousands of bands live-streaming their performances from every corner of the globe that you could watch whenever you like, but that will never substitute the feeling of being there in the venue and experiencing it all for yourself in person. As our culture becomes increasingly reliant on the internet for everyday things, the need to experience nature, visual art and music right there in the moment will become more important than ever. And here’s where your band comes in.

If you make great music that you can pull off well in an engaging performance setting, people will go out of their way by rearranging their night and by paying to see you. Yes, touring is an experience filled with challenges, risk and even financial hardship for some bands, but if you’re viewing what you do as a sort of business, investing in the touring experience might be your best shot at actually earning money as a band.

Many of the fans who’ll jump at the chance to see you play live in their hometown won’t drop a dime on your new record. This is a difficult thing to accept, but it’s true whether we want to blame streaming services like Spotify, rampant music pirating or the shifting attitudes toward the value of media in the digital age. Yes, you’ll probably sell more music if you release your records on vinyl, but even with those increased sales, the days of small bands making a living purely from selling their music are pretty much over now. The live music experience will always be valuable because it can only be experienced in person, and if you’re able to present your music in a truly unique and thrilling way, there be a higher demand for your performances.

But the benefits of touring in 2017 are more than just financial. Hitting the road with your band not only builds tightness and more confidence musically, it can also give you priceless connections with other bands/artists, new fans and music industry folks that you simply couldn’t have established by releasing music and strictly playing shows in your hometown.

Yes, maintaining a social media presence can help with these things, but nothing can substitute the value of human interaction. Talking with a fan after you’ve just gotten off stage is an experience that can’t be matched with a tweet or Facebook comment. And maintaining a constant presence on the road tells press and industry people who might be interested your music know that you’re serious about what you’re doing.

Trends in music come and go every day it seems, but touring is here to stay. Unfortunately, this doesn’t change the fact that a band has to make huge sacrifices for their touring efforts to be worth it. Hitting the road for two weeks over the summer to play a few cities in your region might be fun, but it won’t make a significant difference in whether your band gains traction or not.

If you want to get the most out of hitting the road, you’ll have to book multiple tour routes a year through cities where you think you have the best shot at building a presence in. You and your bandmates will have to walk the thin line between obligations, like careers and relationships at home, and taking the time and energy to build a national presence by frequent touring.

It’s not easy, predictable or simple, but if you’ve been at this game for awhile, you probably already know that nothing in this industry is.