Dear bands: your t-shirts suck. There’s one thing that 90% of bands cut costs on that ultimately kills their merchandise
Let’s take this show on the road!
You’ve spent the last 3-5 years conquering your local market. You’re the top dog in your hometown, and maybe you’re even relatively well-known in your regional market. You’ve stopped booking your own shows because shows now come to you. What’s next for the band? Expanding your influence, and gaining new fans, of course! And that means touring – the word that brings joy to the inexperienced and potential dread to the jaded road warriors.
Don’t get me wrong – touring is not all bad. It can really bring a band together. But it can also completely tear a band apart. Some of the stressors on the road are ones that you (and your bandmates) likely haven’t experienced before – for example, having your van break down in rural western Virginia, missing the pivotal Friday night show that would save you from debt, being forced to listen to 6.5 hours of country music, and crying in the middle of a trailer park. But as I’ve always said, “You’re not a real band unless you’ve broken down, crying in despair in the middle of a trailer park.”
So how do you prevent most of the issues that can come up when touring? And how do you plan a successful tour? It’s all in the planning! And luckily, I’m here to help.
As Sun Tzu, author of “The Art of War” states – “Never bring your country to war unless you already know the outcome.” In the touring world, this translates to always having a plan for everything. Make sure you have at least six months to: get the shows together, contact the venues, contact the other bands on the show, and find a place to sleep each night. Before you go on tour, here are a few questions to ask yourself and your band members:
- Can all of the band members realistically ask for a week (or more) off from work?
- Can you stand to spend every waking moment with the other members of the band?
- Do you have a reliable merch person whom you trust?
- Do you have a reliable vehicle that can hold everyone, your merch, and your equipment?
- Do you have an extra $800 in the band fund for when that “reliable” vehicle breaks down?
- How about a trailer? (UHaul is always an option at $20 a day!)
- Do you have enough merch to take on the road? Enough sizes of all your shirts? Enough CDs?
- How much, realistically, do you think you can make or sell a night?
- How about on a Tuesday night when you’re playing to 3 people?
- How far are you willing to drive per day?
- Is there at least one fully-functional, reliable, level-headed ADULT in the band who can make the tough decisions? Hopefully two?
- Did you get a AAA gold membership yet? (DO IT.)
Once you’ve answered those questions, you can start planning your trip.
In my course, “The DIY Band: Touring”, I’ve created a spreadsheet that will automatically fill out most of the info you’ll need to prevent your tour from flying into the red. It includes areas for
- Venue Name
- Distance from the last venue
- Contact name, email, and phone
- Where you’re sleeping
- Load-in time
- Set time
- Set length
- Other band names
- MPG of Van
- Gas cost
…and more! Once you have the basic info entered, the spreadsheet will automatically keep track of your budget and let you know what your “break-even” amount for the day will be. This can allow you to tell your guitarists, “Yes, I know we made $300 yesterday, but we’re still $78 from breaking even for the day. SO STOP DICKING AROUND AND SELL SOME DAMN SHIRTS!!”
This spreadsheet is an absolute MUST for keeping your tour organized and profitable. Outside of the data, there’s a lot of real-life advice that our course can teach you: how to route your tour properly, how to stay healthy (and sane) on the road, and where to sleep. Speaking of sleeping:
This is the most important piece of advice I can give you: Pick up a few blow-up beds. Trust me, you’ll thank me later. You can get a decent, self-inflating bed for around $40. You’ll be crashing in random places – often on uncomfortable, hard surfaces – so having a nice cushy bed that inflates in under a minute is a MUST. Remember to pack pillows and blankets for each bed as well.
If you want to find out how to conquer the road and stay in the black, you’ll want to pick up my DIY touring course. We cover everything from making your own road cases to in-ear monitoring systems, routing, safety, and more. You LITERALLY can’t afford to take your band on the road without it. If nothing else, it’ll save you from ugly crying in a trailer park in West Virginia.