Getting out on the road and booking your own tour can be a great experience but it’s a huge amount of work. Many are attracted to this idea of setting up for themselves by following DIY icons such as Fugazi from the Washington DC hardcore scene of the late 80s. Bands such as Fugazi were fiercely DIY by design and reusing to compromise their music or vision by signing to anyone else’s label or PR firm. But whether this is your aim or you are just getting going yourself because no-one else knows you yet, you’ll need a little advice to help you get started.
Choosing Where to Tour
Where are you going to tour is the first question you need to answer? If you have a particular following somewhere then it pays to capitalize on that. Also, do you start in your home city or finish there, or even both?
Cold calling venues is a really thankless task. Especially if you have never played there or dealt with them before. But if you have a think, maybe you’ve played venues as support for someone else before, if you have hopefully, you perhaps spoke with a manager or promoter and they may remember you from before? Or if you any bands or artists that are a little further on than you then ask them to make you an introduction. Getting to know people early on is essential and this will definitely be one of the ways it will show.
You need to get around and a van or truck is a must for any tour. If you don’t have one or can borrow one then maybe it’s going to be necessary to rent one. Truck rental is going to be essential and maybe you can even find one that has sleeping berths as well which can save a small fortune on accommodation costs.
How is it to be Funded
You constantly hear the line from mainstream media sites about how musicians don’t make money from album sales these days and all the money is made through gigs and touring. Although this is true for huge artists and well-established performers the reality is that at the level of your first DIY tour you are still likely to lose money. So unless you have deep pockets you need to maximize every penny. Squeeze promoters for as much as you can get out of them, even if your fee is small, chance your arm and ask for meals and somewhere to stay, the worst answer you can get is no. Make sure you have the merch stall manned as even at small shows a couple of record sales and a T-shirt can make the difference added up over the tour.
Getting the Word Out
It’s important to get the word out. Use the internet, get on local listings, find Facebook groups dedicated to the local scene and interact with fans there. Even listen to the other bands online that are playing in the weeks leading up to the show, message them and ask about crowds and compliment them, you never know they might just bring a few folks along.