Whether you’re a national song writing sensation or an entry-level local act looking to hop in the van and hit the east coast, there are a handful of bare essentials that are quite imperative when planning to go on your first tour.
Money is absolutely the most important thing when deciding to hit the road. You’re going to need to figure out how far you’re going, what kind of prices you’ll be paying for gas, food, and lodging if necessary. If you’re going further, you’re going to need more money. If it’s your first time out, try not to make every stop a big city like New York, Chicago, LA, etc. The prices in these cities are outrageously inflated due to the fact that they’re a big city. These places will dig into your tour fund and leave you completely broke, not to mention stuck 1,200 miles away from home. Many of these cities have suburbs and outskirts with music scenes that are just as lively as and possibly better than what you’ll find in the metropolitan areas.
Really though, calculate exactly how many miles you’ll be driving with Mapquest or an atlas. See where you’ll have to fill up, and what the current price of gas is there. I know it sounds like a lot of work, and it is. You’re going on tour. Each person should also have a little bit of personal spending money as well.
If it can’t be the first, the second most important thing to consider is what you’re going to be eating for the next three weeks. It’s pretty simple to eat healthy if you just stick to the basics. Grains like granola bars, pop tarts, wheat bread, etc aren’t bad options. Fruits like (not limited to) apples, bananas, pears, and oranges will give your body the vital vitamins and energy sufficient to keep you going. You’re going to be sweating a lot, getting less sleep than usual, and always on the move. Instead of eating garbage fast food, eat peanut butter sandwiches or lunchmeat for protein. Throw some trail mix in for variety. Keeping these kinds of foods and snacks around will really help you get through the tour, save you LOTS of money, and keep you healthy along the way.
The limited diet will become tiresome. After four days you’ll be longing for a home cooked meal. I know…it’s awful. Maybe along the way someone will let you use their kitchen to cook up some pasta or something quick and easy. It’s a privilege, but if the opportunity strikes, take advantage of it.
Bring a few changes of clothes. If you’re going to be the dick that brings three outfits, so be it. Really though, having 5-10 different shirts and a few pairs of pants/shorts isn’t a bad idea. You’re not going to have the opportunity or time to do laundry. You’ll be too busy melting people’s faces off! Even if you’d love to smell god awful, sweating in clothes over and over again isn’t smart and can be detrimental to your health.
ROUTING and BOOKING
Making sure you’re booking a tour that makes sense is important. Not only should you try to get some decent shows, but make sure you’re not backtracking miles and wasting gas money and time. You shouldn’t be coming down from New York to play in West Virginia then going back to Philly the next day.
Don’t be too concerned about booking sellout shows. If it’s your first time out, you’ll be lucky to play for some people that’ll stay for your entire set, and maybe even afterward say they enjoyed it. You’re out to get the experience of the road and successfully executing a tour. Venues and bars are cool, but house shows can be just as or even better than them. People are more apt to be having a good time, and sometimes can be a great atmosphere. The house normally doesn’t charge cover, and encourages a donation bin. People are more likely to buy your merch as well! These places will more often than not give you a floor to crash on as well.
I’m getting long winded, but these are some good ideas that’ll get you started on your first tour. It’s a lot of fun, and extremely demanding all at the same time.
Steve Krantz is a music enthusiast that resides in St. Clair Shores, MI and plays guitar in the progressive punk quartet Day In Day Out.