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How the hell do bands tour these days?


niceguy

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I'm not talking about the big guys; I'm talking about independent rock bands.

 

I'm booking regional shows for my band, and we're hitting any available venue that we can get to and back in one day. Like, leave in the morning, play the gig, and drive home.

 

And since we're all New Yorkers, we're limited to rail and bus. Rent a car? We're looking at $60 a man, and there's NO WAY a venue is gonna pay us $200 at this point.

 

Then, I see all these independent bands touring. How do they do it? I mean, do they have really rich parents or something? Venues DO NOT PAY so much that it'll fund a tour.

 

And how the fuck do people just leave their jobs for 6 weeks? My band can't do that; we all have jobs. "Ooooh, let's all blow thru our savings so we can drive around and play venues for almost no money!" Then what? Look for another job when we get back home? In this economy?! In this CITY?! :mad:

 

I don't understand how it's done. Do any of you guys do it? :confused:

 

Please, break it down for me, down to the last detail.

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- get national exposure first and foremost, you have to have a fan base, but even a small one is enough to get going.

- get with a booking agency, they are the ones that will get you the gigs, but the above is necessary for that to even be a possibility

- forget the good jobs, quit, live in a rat hole in the bad part of town and take part time work to scratch out the rent.

- buy a van, no other way, use gig money, CC, whatever it takes.

- tour in the summer, because chances are you'll be sleeping in the van 5 days a week.

 

 

If you can't do the above your dreams of touring are over.

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I'm not talking about the big guys; I'm talking about independent rock bands.


I'm booking regional shows for my band, and we're hitting any available venue that we can get to and back in one day. Like, leave in the morning, play the gig, and drive home.


And since we're all New Yorkers, we're limited to rail and bus. Rent a car? We're looking at $60 a man, and there's NO WAY a venue is gonna pay us $200 at this point.


Then, I see all these independent bands touring. How do they do it? I mean, do they have really rich parents or something? Venues DO NOT PAY so much that it'll fund a tour.


And how the fuck do people just leave their jobs for 6 weeks? My band can't do that; we all have jobs. "Ooooh, let's all blow thru our savings so we can drive around and play venues for almost no money!" Then what? Look for another job when we get back home? In this economy?! In this CITY?!
:mad:

I don't understand how it's done. Do any of you guys do it?
:confused:

Please, break it down for me, down to the last detail.

 

Sadly, I just don't anymore. I used to book some mini-tours for my current band but the following made me conflude they weren't worth it:

a)We always lost money

b)We couldn't do it frequently/consistently enough to really make a dent in the other markets

 

I hate to sound bitter but I've given up and I'm too old now for all the effort for that much dissapointment. My band been on hiatus but we're about to start playing out again; my goal is really just to establish some kind of folllowing in this city and Tacoma, then maybe branch out to Portland (maybe a show a month if possible) if all goes well. It would take a lot to get me interested in even small tours again. Don't get me wrong, I had fun but the novelty sure wears off- and I never even did any long ones!

 

As for how we did it, it was basically:

-save up a week's vacation

-minimize gear and rent a small van

-stay with people whenever possible

-lose money

-go home

 

I did try to get radio play and press in the cities we were heading out to, but it was just a lot of effort for little return. And you might get a write up in a local weekly or soemthing, but one thing I've learned is that good press just doesn't automatically translate to draw.

 

As for bands who go out on long stints, I think a lot of 'em are just younger guys with cheap multi-roomate living situations who are comfortable with pretty low standards of living. Or people who have managed to find uniquely flexible job situations that pay well.

 

Basically... it sucks. :idk:

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OP, why on Earth would you expect to be able to tour with all those constraints? Now... or ever?

 

You seem to think there was some Golden Age where every rock band was showered with money and travel stipends...

 

As others have said, you quit your job (if you had one), throw your {censored} in a beat-up van, sleep wherever you can find a place to rest your head, and expect to be broke most of the time.

 

If all that is worth it to you... for whatever reason... then you do it. Otherwise, you don't.

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You seem to think there was some Golden Age where every rock band was showered with money and travel stipends...

 

 

Based on my conversations with BWTB's more long-in-the tooth posters with significant road experience, I do not get the impression there was a "golden age", but I certainly was left with the impression things are far more dire now than before.

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As others have said, you quit your job (if you had one), throw your shit in a beat-up van, sleep wherever you can find a place to rest your head, and expect to be broke most of the time.


If all that is worth it to you... for whatever reason... then you do it. Otherwise, you don't.

Yeah, I like having health insurance, dental insurance, and a decent apartment in a decent neighborhood :)

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Sadly, I just don't anymore. I used to book some mini-tours for my current band but the following made me conflude they weren't worth it:

a)We always lost money

b)We couldn't do it frequently/consistently enough to really make a dent in the other markets


Basically... it sucks.
:idk:

 

OK thanks, that allays a lot of my concern. I'm foreseeing nothing but losing money and not making large gains by touring.

 

Yes, there's some romanticized allure to playing shows outside of your home city. But I've always believed that the internet has replaced touring for unknown, independent bands.

 

In the pre-modern era (haha), independent bands couldn't afford the massive studio fees, and it's just impossible to get your album distributed anyway. So, you tour, in order for people to find out about you.

 

Now? Well, my band has some pretty diehard fans in Japan, UK, and Germany---and we've never played more than 30 miles away from home.

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OK thanks, that allays a lot of my concern. I'm foreseeing nothing but losing money and not making large gains by touring.

 

 

FWIW I think there's plenty to be said for picking a few other cities less than, say, five hours away and trying to do 'em consistently. Especially if you develop relationships with the bands in those cities and can share backlines, stay with each other, and so on...

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FWIW I think there's plenty to be said for picking a few other cities less than, say, five hours away and trying to do 'em consistently. Especially if you develop relationships with the bands in those cities and can share backlines, stay with each other, and so on...

 

 

Indeed! I think we'll keep it at one regional show per month. From NYC, we can hit PA, MA, CT, even Wash DC. I suppose it's not too bad, as long as it's possible to keep it to one day trips.

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Indeed! I think we'll keep it at one regional show per month. From NYC, we can hit PA, MA, CT, even Wash DC. I suppose it's not too bad, as long as it's possible to keep it to one day trips.

 

You have it much better on the east coast! :mad:

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Niceguy, this is all we've been able to muster up to this point. We do two weekends out of town a month normally. We pick a Friday night spot that's within 2 to 3 hours drive, then a Saturday night that's a little further out, anywhere from 5 to 11 hours out. Normally we try to use the Saturday nights for cities with more music industry density. If we're going to go through the trouble to make ourselves known somewhere else, it's better to make a name for ourselves in Nashville than Pensacola for obvious reasons.

 

Just like Actionsquid we get press and radio stuff out in advance and sometimes it pays off, sometimes not so much. Using these methods it takes anywhere from 3 to 4 times in any given city to get ANY kind of traction at all. However, if you do get a buzz going, things accelerate quickly after that.

 

One thing we've learned for sure is that going band to band is better than booking straight through the club. The clubs DO NOT PROMOTE themselves, or individual shows. Even if the mooks working the bar swear up and down they LOVE YOU!! They won't lift a finger. Only bands will promote the show. You can potentially cut that 3 to 4 show penetration time down to 1 or 2 times if you play with a solid band from that town. Identifying those bands can be very hard though. Luckily we do have a good draw at home still, so that makes for good currency to help showtrade with heavy hitters elsewhere.

 

We do this spot-touring type of thing year round, then twice a year we coordinate our vacation time from work and hit the road for ten days or so. That usually allows us to get out much further than our promotional umbrella though, often those shows can be horribly attended, but sometimes you get lucky and burn a house down in Sacramento and it gets covered in the press or something.

 

It does suck! I'm not saying it doesn't. You have to do whatever you can to try and stay in the black. You have to sell merch, get paid off the door as best you can, sleep at some drunks house you met at the show and hope to god you break even at best. Honestly though, having a solid network of 12 cities and 12 strong partner bands running in constant rotation should be enough to establish a really good regional presence. That's enough! Local - Regional - National. That's the way it works.

 

Keep punching.

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I know one woman and also a duo here that tour consistently (10 days to 2 or 3 months at a time, several times a year). Both acts are full-time, and not 'living the viva loca.' Both rely heavily on their network of friends to supply places to stay on route. The acts are good friends with each another, and I imagine, since they tour a lot of the same routes, the same friends are hosting both acts at different times.

 

In other words, they can afford to do it since they've basically eliminated lodging costs entirely.

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If no one will pay 200.00 for your band why would you expect to be able to tour? If you want to travel and play music, you have to get in a band that makes enough money and has the connections to do that. I just saw an ad on craigs from a group that is looking for a place to play on this date in santa cruz, the next night in sf, and so on. In other words, they have no gigs, but expect to get in a van, pull up to a town, and do a gig. If that's the new music business, I'm glad I was in the old music business. A tour used to be that you had paying gigs lined up before you left, and you got rooms, sometimes a meal as well. Some travel expenses, such as plane tickets, were included too. I'd never heard of anyone, except maybe solo guys, just getting in a van and going on hope. Stay home and work on your chops, network, and if you want it bad enough, and work hard enough, it'll happen. Maybe not for the particular band your in now, maybe not this year. You might have to play different music. Develop the skills you need to get into the situation that you want, and you'll create the opportunity.

 

 

 

 

I'm not talking about the big guys; I'm talking about independent rock bands.


I'm booking regional shows for my band, and we're hitting any available venue that we can get to and back in one day. Like, leave in the morning, play the gig, and drive home.


And since we're all New Yorkers, we're limited to rail and bus. Rent a car? We're looking at $60 a man, and there's NO WAY a venue is gonna pay us $200 at this point.


Then, I see all these independent bands touring. How do they do it? I mean, do they have really rich parents or something? Venues DO NOT PAY so much that it'll fund a tour.


And how the fuck do people just leave their jobs for 6 weeks? My band can't do that; we all have jobs. "Ooooh, let's all blow thru our savings so we can drive around and play venues for almost no money!" Then what? Look for another job when we get back home? In this economy?! In this CITY?!
:mad:

I don't understand how it's done. Do any of you guys do it?
:confused:

Please, break it down for me, down to the last detail.

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If no one will pay 200.00 for your band why would you expect to be able to tour? If you want to travel and play music, you have to get in a band that makes enough money and has the connections to do that. I just saw an ad on craigs from a group that is looking for a place to play on this date in santa cruz, the next night in sf, and so on. In other words, they have no gigs, but expect to get in a van, pull up to a town, and do a gig. If that's the new music business, I'm glad I was in the old music business. A tour used to be that you had paying gigs lined up before you left, and you got rooms, sometimes a meal as well.

 

 

Um, there are, like, thousands and thousands of rock bands touring with no guarantee and no room. Sometimes out-of-town bands get a substantial meal discount or even a comped meal, which is nice when it happens.

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Um, there are, like, thousands and thousands of rock bands touring with no guarantee and no room. Sometimes out-of-town bands get a substantial meal discount or even a comped meal, which is nice when it happens.

 

 

I'm sure there are, and unless they have a very solid following, it sucks to be them IMO.

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I'm sure there are, and unless they have a very solid following, it sucks to be them IMO.

 

 

Yes it does.

 

From what I've seen you post here, it sounds like you've carved out a great a pretty profitable niche for an original band. That's awesome... but it's also a situation pretty far removed from what most independent/small label rock bands are going to have to deal with. Even really good ones.

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It's true that we play original music and get paid, but touring is another thing entirely. I have toured before, it's been many years. In top 40 bands that played 5 sets a night, six nights a week, and with an orignal artist who had a record deal. I have no idea how my current group could put together a tour that would make any kind of sense, unless we looked at it as a vacation where we play free gigs. I could actually see myself enjoying the adventure of doing something like that, but getting the other guys to do is unlikely. And I can't blame them.

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we are fortunate enough to be able to do the touring thing in reverse. we are based out of south padre island texas. The people come to us. we get them from all over the country and world rolling through here. No way could a band like our ever afford to go out on the road, but we can pack a island bar 7 nights a week thats full of out of towners.

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You have to want the {censored} life, i know i do, i {censored}in love sleeping on some strangers floor, i love having my stomach constantly growling, i love sharing an extra large suite case of clothes with three other dudes. and most of all i love being broke

its freeing in so many ways. its not a matter of "can you tolerate this or that" its more like you have to want to hit rock bottom.

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My bass player (a married 40-something guy with a kid in college and a VERY portable career) brought up a tour next summer (I'm a school teacher with a lot of time off in July and August). If we had the network, it would be totally financially feasible to do a tour around the Great Lakes coast resort towns. There are places that have music every night, they pay a couple hundred $$$ for music every night, and we could split a hotel room, put gas in the hatchback, and eat decently. But we'd both be continuing to draw a steady paycheck from our day gigs, and we've both got wives to keep the home fires burning. We may do it to have done it, but the lifestyle holds little appeal for me.

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My bass player (a married 40-something guy with a kid in college and a VERY portable career) brought up a tour next summer (I'm a school teacher with a lot of time off in July and August). If we had the network, it would be totally financially feasible to do a tour around the Great Lakes coast resort towns. There are places that have music every night, they pay a couple hundred $$$ for music every night, and we could split a hotel room, put gas in the hatchback, and eat decently. But we'd both be continuing to draw a steady paycheck from our day gigs, and we've both got wives to keep the home fires burning. We may do it to have done it, but the lifestyle holds little appeal for me.

 

 

Sounds like a reasonable plan ,,, to be honest you could play a bunch of those places and not ever have to do a hotel untill you got way up north grand rapids is a good location

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Sounds like a reasonable plan ,,, to be honest you could play a bunch of those places and not ever have to do a hotel untill you got way up north grand rapids is a good location

 

 

My thought was Chicago to up to T.C., and yeah, if they were restaurant-hours gigs (done by midnight at the latest) we could drive back pretty easily. The problem with the tour is getting all the gigs in the same week--I'm having enough trouble landing a few a month.

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Based on my conversations with BWTB's more long-in-the tooth posters with significant road experience, I do not get the impression there was a "golden age", but I certainly was left with the impression things are far more dire now than before.

 

 

Well, there actually was a golden age' between the mid 60s and the mid 80s. But it was a different format. Bands toured full time and played 4-6 hour gigs, mostly covers with their own originals thrown in. They made anywhere from $1400 to 3000 a week with motel rooms and often one meal a day covered. When and if they got poplar with a decent following, they got invited to play events and concerts openers doing all their own stuff, and hopefully got the attention of a A&R label guy who signed them. This is just the way it was done. The Beatles, Van Halen, ZZ Top, SRV, Aerosmith, etc. There were a few bands who played mostly original clubs and toured on a shoestring budget (the Police) but that was back when radio was a big deal and they were getting lots of airplay. My own band, back in the early 80s, did this same format of playing covers and originals 6 nights a week and we got offered to do concerts and events, and made a vinyl album on an independent record label.

 

Now, it's a lot different. The full time 6 night a week clubs are gone to sustain a band, and original bands don't want to play covers and probably wouldn't get a crowd if they did. The rock scene is tough now. I can tell you, though, that the blues, country and folk scene still operates a lot like the old model. Just 10 years ago, I put my own modern blues band together, learned 30 covers and 15 originals, did well in the club scene, stared doing festivals and such and used the money to make a record (and two more later), buy a 1-ton cube van truck we modified to carry a band, and had we wanted to, we could have easily gone out and toured for a modest amount of money on the weekdays and the bigger paydays on weekends doing festivals and concert openings. It's still pretty much done this way in about every genre except rock.

 

One of the guys we used to bump into on the road frequently back in the early 80s was Robert Cray!

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