I’ve just returned from a weeklong tour with Atascadero, CA’s Hollow Sunshine. The tour went from San Diego to Santa Rosa with stops in Santa Cruz, LA, & Berkeley. I was driver, photographer, & defacto tour manager.
Here are 7 helpful tips that will make your next (or first) band tour a little easier.
- Get a written “guarantee” from EVERY venue whenever possible. A guarantee is how much you’ll be paid regardless of audience turnout. It’s your insurance and your gas money and it’s a VERY BIG DEAL. Locking a promoter into a guarantee however small, might mean the difference between making it to the next show or not. $30 or $500 get your guarantee in writing, and confirm it the day before the show! If promoter can’t do a guarantee, you can expect a shady show. I’d recommend avoiding shows without a guarantee, unless you’re stuck with no other show options in that city.
- Call each show two days ahead and confirm the lineup & guarantee. This is a VERY SIMPLE step that will tell you a lot about what to expect from the show & promoter. If you can’t get a hold of the “promoter”, call the venue and ask the staff if there’s a show on that date. If the venue doesn’t know about your show, the show is going to be wack. Try to find another gig before it’s too late!
- Bring Food! Eating out is where all your money will go. Cliff Bars RULE!!! Bring lots of snacks, they’ll keep you sane, and save you a lots of money. Peanut Butter & Jelly is a must. Hit the dollar store before you leave, because everything is expensive in the cities & gas stations. I also recommend budgeting for just one restaurant a week. This will save lots of money and gives the band something to look forward to.
- Play more than once in each city!!! Many venues ask that you not book more than one show, but those same venues ain’t paying you shit. Go around town during the day and find places to play. If you’re any good at all you should be able to trade an hour acoustic set for lunch in a café or restaurant. This will save you money, help you meet new people and you may lead to merch sales or a place to play. Bring acoustic instruments for this & for street busking. It helps pass time, too.
- Bring Beer! If you like to drink, you’re gonna hate finding out how much a couple beers cost at the venue. If you’re going to drink buy a cooler and six pack. Nothing worse than thinking you’re drinking for free and getting handed a bill that is more than what you made at the venue. Even better – TOUR SOBER! You’ll remember things better for when you’re old and want to tell everyone about the time you played to an empty room in Los Angeles.
- Pack light! Two changes of clothes, and the smallest amps, and drum set you can find. Loading in and out with nowhere to park is NOT FUN! I washed my underwear in the sink every night and hung them out to dry on this tour. Kept me feeling fresh and clean, and kept my bag light.
- Don’t leave anything of value in the car!!! A smash & grab is one of the worst things that can happen to you on tour. Even a phone charger is worth stealing to a crack head. San Francisco is notorious for this. I’ve had a car robbed while I was across the street. They smashed the window and stole everything in the car. Be smart and don’t leave valuables in view unattended or the tour is OVER.