Ready for the road?

We’re having an early summer heat wave here in Seattle, and the sunny weather always turns my thoughts to…touring! Roadtripping , playing in different cities to new audiences, living on fast food and floor crashing at the homes of host bands and/or brave and generous superfans. Alas, as gas prices continue their seasonal skyward climb, it never made more sense to play the home field.

I’ve only done a few tours, most of them costly learning experiences that I still wouldn’t trade for anything. In preparation for my next extended journey (whenever that may be) I’ve started a checklist of things I wish I’d thought of before I hit the asphalt with my guitar. With the internet, there’s really no excuse for poor logistics. A Google search in any zip code in which you’re playing a gig should reveal:

  • a map and driving directions to your gig. Almost every online map service provides these for free.
  • the nearest self-serve copy shop, for last-minute printing of flyers, mailing lists and other stuff.Nearly all of them have internet access, so plant a few flyer templates on a hidden area of your website for easy access
  • bank locations, for making deposits and eliminating the chance of losing loose cash on the road (or having it stolen out of your van)
  • the local music supply and repair shop, so you know where to go when you break your last snare trap at the previous gig
  • an emergency care center — it never hurts to know where you can go for antibiotics

It’s also a good idea to have some sort of road service plan for when your tour vehicle inevitably conks out en route, a celebrated rite of passage for touring bands.

As Mike Watt once famously said, if you’re not playing, you’re paying. If you’ve got some extra time on your hands, don’t fritter it away puttering around the city. Look for record shops, bookstores, colleges and other places you can play an acoustic set to advance that night’s show. Get in touch with appropriate radio stations and offer to perform on-air. Contact the city’s Chamber Of Commerce and find out if you’re allowed to busk during the day. There are lots of things you can be doing to promote your music (and maybe even make a little extra money) instead of drifting idly through the aisles at Target, waiting for showtime.

Got more touring ideas to add? Feel free to share ’em in the comments.



One response

  1. Yes, Scott, you’ve hit the nail on the head here. Our latest tour was slightly profitable because we were willing to a)ask for a place to stay and b)play anywhere and everywhere we could. Even though we didn’t always get paid, we stayed busy with radio shows and lunch time college shows, women’s bookstore gigs (I never even knew such a thing existed), and random coffeehouses where we could still get great press. We did have a few solid guarantees which allowed us to fill-in with not so good paying shows. But I’m still amazed at all the folks we met and all the merch we sold along the way. With gas prices and all the work, I can only afford to hit the road a couple times per year, but I’m more committed to making it worth my while.