Six Tips to Help You Book Your Own Tour

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Ron Cogswell / Flickr
The open road is calling your name.
By Drew Ailes

As musicians love to explain to anyone stupid enough to listen to them, organizing and playing shows can be a lot of work for little reward. In addition to wrangling multiple groups of morons in the same room at the same time, setting up shows also requires dealing with various disorganized idiots on the booking end of things. Keeping that in mind, setting up 20 consecutive shows across an entire country means booking a tour can seem nearly impossible.

Rather than let musicians waste their money at some hip store that sells Imagine Dragons vinyl, neon fingerless gloves, and dumb coffee table books on how to be a musician, I'm generously dispensing six basic tips to help bands hit the road.

6. Play With Touring Bands in Your Hometown

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Mario / Flickr
It is a simple matter of reciprocation. If you offer support to touring bands that play your town, they will be more likely to help you in theirs.

If a band has their shit together enough to get out of whatever dumpster they normally play in, it means that, most likely, they have something going on back home. Playing with a touring band, in addition to providing much-needed support, gives you the opportunity to make a lasting impression under a positive pretense. Buy them drinks. Let them sleep on your floor. And if you're getting paid, give them your cut of the money. If you really think you and your bandmates need the $50 for loading and unloading gear and driving 20 minutes, then maybe you all should spend less time on your fucking art and more time earning whatever amount of money is required to stop you from being a stingy asshole.

One of the best things you can do to help set up future tours is to be kind to the out-of-towners who play your city. Even if your band sucks, touring acts will remember your generosity and try to help when you come their way.

5. Contact Similar Bands

In the case that you have no contacts in a city you want to play, one of the most effective ways to navigate a scene and book a decent show is to reach out to the bands you like in that area -- preferably of a similar genre. If you don't know any, you might have to really tap into that famous musician work ethic and perform the complex task of typing words into a search engine and then clicking buttons to play songs. I know, it seems extremely technical and confusing for someone who can't figure out how to pay their practice space rent on time, but trust me: It's a solid practice to get a good show.

If you can't find any similar bands you like in that city, it means you are probably too lazy to tour anyway. Close this article and stay home.

4. Don't Bother With Clubs Directly

There are the few rare clubs that have booking agents who know their city and know how to book outside of their interests. However, your only realistic way of finding these heroic geniuses and their respective establishments is through someone who actively pays attention to local music. Provided you're in contact with someone in the know, have them refer you directly to the person who books there, rather than pulling some janky email address off of some bar's rarely updated Facebook page.

The only exception to cold-calling a place to put together your show is if it is absolutely the spot where every single band of your genre plays. Aside from that, sending out emails to random bars in some city is like taking a pogo stick into a minefield. You're likely to lose a limb to some bunk promoter who was too dumb to admit they had no idea how to book you -- but you also deserve it due to your clownish approach.

 
3. Send Follow-Up Emails

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Ben Grey / Flickr
So simple, even a stupid idiot baby can do it.

I've seen it happen too many times: Bands confirm shows three months out, and then, a week before they leave, find out that half of said shows aren't happening. Use common sense and these mystical devices that allow us to contact people a world away and send emails about 30 days out to confirm your shows. Ask for a flier and Facebook invite. If a venue never sends either and it's too late to book somewhere else, binge-spend on tons of alcohol, drugs, sex toys, fireworks, or whatever you need to have fun, and prepare to use all of them, as your show might suck.

In the absence of a legitimate good time, you must be prepared to create your own deviant brand of entertainment. You may not get invited back for future shows, but the increased morale in your band might keep you from killing each other long enough to plan your next tour.

2. Tell People You Are Touring

Many creatives have this bizarre perception that, somehow, things will just come together for them if they cross their fingers and wish hard enough. The sad fact is, we live in a busy world where everyone prides themselves on their bullshit art and won't stop screaming about it. While a big fear people have in promoting themselves is that they'll resemble these talentless attention vampires, I can't stress how important it is for people to tell everyone what they're doing. Ask for help all over the internet, and mention it in face-to-face conversations everywhere you go.

The worst thing that happens is that you find out no one cares -- which means you're probably brilliant or terrible. Either one is better than being mediocre.

1. Be Grateful Even When It Sucks

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Mike Schmid / Flickr
Even if your van literally explodes on the side of the road, at least you got to go on a fun road trip with your friends for a while.

This is one of those tips that will actually help you book future tours once you've set up your first one. Touring is a confusing mess that forces you to give up your privacy and personal space, and instead place complete trust in strangers and unreliable screw-ups. But it's also something that most people never have the luxury of experiencing. So be cool, and recognize how lucky you are to live in a culture where people care about supporting you and your dumb art. Be humble, be appreciative, and marvel at how many friends you make as each tour gets easier and easier to put together.

Tell Drew Ailes how stupid he is on Twitter @CountBakula

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