At its best, touring is fun, lucrative, and creatively fulfilling. At its worst, it’s capable of bringing even the most experienced musicians to their knees. Touring can lead to disaster for musicians of every level of experience, but new bands are especially susceptible. Here are three reasons why.
A drummer who takes his time moving his equipment off stage after shows. A lead singer who snores. A tour manager that drinks too much. When new bands tour, they’re often ill-prepared for the challenging personality conflicts that the road has a way of exacerbating. This is especially the case for new bands with members that don’t know each other well yet. But even for new bands consisting of musicians who’ve known each other for years, touring presents big challenges when it comes to personal relationships.
The best thing musicians playing in new bands can do to stave off potential personality problems on tour is to focus on communication and openness. It’s not a matter of if arguments and negative attitudes will spring up on tour, but when. When issues arise, address them the best you can and don’t let resentment bottle up and explode later.
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New bands have a way of biting off more than they can chew when it comes to touring, and this can be especially detrimental when it comes to the financial side of things. When new bands get the money part of touring wrong, it can lead to major consequences like debt or even the demise of the project. Adopting some common sense around money can do new bands good when it comes to touring like budgeting, planning ahead, and realistically estimating how much money they’ll earn each show. Forking over $100 each night for a hotel doesn’t make sense for a new band who struggles to bring people to their shows on tour, for example, but many still do it.
Approaching a tour with a plan guided by realistic expectations is the best way for new bands to prevent financial disasters on tour. Communication is also key. Who pays the bill if the van gets towed or there’s unexpected car trouble? All those details should be worked out in advance.
Touring for too long
When a new band hits the ground running with new music, booking a two-month tour often sounds like a dream. But in reality, spending that amount of time away from stable careers and relationships at home could have a profoundly negative impact on a promising new band. The “let’s just book a long tour and see what happens” philosophy might work well for some new bands, but it’s not common. Long tours strain finances and relationships for all bands, but for new bands they can be detrimental.
Rather than committing to the monumental task of trying to book and play tons of touring shows out of the gate, many new bands are better off branching out slowly by targeting markets in their region a couple of shows at a time. This isn’t the sexiest advice, but it will help unestablished acts approach touring in a more sustainable way.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.