TOURING and not paying to play
You may have noticed the article on the pay-to-play tours put on by the XiL company. Unfortunately there have been other rumblings of these pay-to-play tours being initiated by some national companies. Just like local shows, there is never a reason to hand money over to be on one of these tours. Many bands have been recently complaining that I only give the negative side of paying-to-play, especially when it comes to touring. They say I don’t offer any advice. That’s fair. It seems pretty obvious to me, but if a little of our experiences can sway a band to try this on their own and not pay $1500 to travel on a coach bus to play to nobody, I’m game. Since I’ve been on many tours all over the US, Canada and Europe, maybe I actually do have a couple of insights and ideas that might be helpful.
Just like I state with my opinions on playing without paying, this is just my opinion. This is how our band has done things and it’s worked for us. We’ve logged a lot of miles over the years so I’m going to discuss a few of the particulars. -Bon/Girl Trouble
Touring is hell. There, I said it. Even though it can be exciting, even though it can be fun, even though it can be exhilarating, going on tour is HELL. If you’ve watched videos from rock bands depicting how glamorous it is to be on the road, bagging the smokin’ hot babes, participating in one giant orgy of sex, drugs and rock and roll, get that image out of your head immediately and never think of it again! Actually, once you’ve really been on tour, you won’t ever think of it anyway. When I hear songs and see videos about how hard life on the road is for some brooding rocker who gets driven from city to city and only sees a series of hotel rooms I think, “Somebody DRIVES him!? He actually gets a hotel room? How lucky can you get?! And he’s whining about that? Jeez!” On the road being able to afford a hotel room is like Heaven and the only guy that’s going drive you around is a member of your own band! When the rubber meets the road you’ll be sleeping on somebody’s sofa or floor (and thank God for those people), eating at Burger King for the 20th time in 20 days, listening to the constant roar of the van for so long it never leaves you, and probably getting the dreaded “tour cold”. When you’ve finally located the club, double parked it in heavy traffic, and unloaded the van...it’s time to get up and play a “fantastic” show! By the second week this grind usually hits like a ton of bricks. The Girl Trouble name for the result of bad road food is called Goofy Goo. You’ll know it when you get it, and you will get it.
WHY GO ON TOUR?
WHY DO YOU WANT TO TOUR?
|BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE DRIVEWAY...
HOW WELL DO YOU GET ALONG?
Everybody has little habits that drive the rest of the band crazy. This is just normal human behavior. There isn’t a person alive that doesn’t annoy somebody at some point. Before going on tour you really need to think about how well you are all getting along. If there are already band fights, misunderstandings and constant arguments during practice, you can be sure that being stuck in a van all day will bring that out faster than you can get out of town.
Does the guitar player tell the same stupid jokes over and over that drive you nuts? Is it hard to watch the drummer constantly flossing his teeth? Are you annoyed when your singer will only eat a certain type of food or wears the same shirt every day? Take any of the little insignificant things that drive you crazy about your band mates and then think of five weeks of being stuck with them day after day in a confined space that jars your insides. If I’m not being too corny, for touring to really work, you’ve got to love these people a whole heap and think of them as family. And they’ve got to love you back.
BE TOLERANT, BE FLEXIBLE, AND DON’T GET YOUR PANTIES IN A TWIST
A ROCK AND ROLL BUSINESS TRIP
And here’s an important sub-step: Leave the “significant other” at home. This is not a vacation or a romantic getaway. You will not have enough time to devote to your girlfriend/boyfriend. Romance and touring do not mix. Since the significant other is not part of the band there is no payoff for them. All they do is hang around and watch you. That might seem exciting/interesting the first couple days but wait until you are on week two of a grueling five week tour. They get bored and start complaining. The rest of the band gets to either watch the couple fight, or sometimes worse, be all lovey dovey. No van full of horny guys (and to be frank from the time men leave to go on tour they instantly become 8th grade boys - this is a scientific experiment I have conducted numerous times) wants to watch one of the band members getting all the benefits of love while they are running on empty and pining for their special someones back home.
And here’s a sub-step to the sub-step: No sexy unattached merch girls/boys either. We’ve been with enough bands who thought adding the sexy T-shirt girl would enhance their sales. We’ve watched the extreme high drama that followed as each guy tried to hit on their band sales girl. It’s excruciating to watch and can come close to busting the band up. Touring is hard enough on its own. Leave the drama and the romance at home. Make this policy right now amongst your band members. No romance. Send travel postcards instead.
BUT AT THE SAME TIME...
|READY TO GO ON TOUR...
BUY A BAND VAN:
And our personal advice...get Triple A, and be sure it’s the AAA Plus. No, we don’t work for them but they have saved our skins more than once out on the road. This is worth every penny you spend on it. You want to get the Plus because of the amount of towing. In Rochester NY we got our van towed back to a garage (the back axle came apart on the freeway!) AND several hours later they also towed the borrowed car from the club booker at the Bug Jar (also broke down). Two tows in one day! You might think your van is running perfectly when you leave home, but after putting 5,000 miles on it, sometimes shit happens. And it always seems to happen on the freeway. When you are alone on some desolate highway at 2 AM and that tow truck is coming to help you out, you are going to thank me.
HAVE A FANBASE IN YOUR TOWN:
DIP YOUR FOOT/FEET IN THE WATER:
PARTNER UP WITH OTHER BANDS:
THE BIG BAND TRADE-OFF:
HIRE A REAL BOOKING AGENT
TOUR ON A MAJOR RELEASE:
SENDING OUT YOUR PROMO STUFF:
TOURING WITH ANOTHER BAND:
DIVERT YOUR ATTENTION:
THINK OF THE TOUR AS A WHOLE:
MERCH - DON'T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT
Being able to tour isn’t for everybody. If you pulled it off you should be damn proud of yourselves. Each time you go out you’ll learn a little bit more about what works and what doesn’t (and you’ll probably tell me to take a hike on my stupid “suggestions”). When we roll into Tacoma, I always feel like we’ve come home from a major battle. No sleep, crappy food, loud music, grueling miles, adversities and total boredom...but we made it! We played our music to people who loved it, we made all kinds of new friends, we saw places we've never seen before, we worked as a team and had an absolute blast in the process. You’ll experience it all. We wish you the best tour ever!