How to plan your first tour

Planning and organising your first tour can be a daunting task, from deciding where to go, to booking venues and tour.jpgforecasting the cost of the whole tour.

So, where do you start? How do you ensure that everything will go according to plan, and most importantly of all, how do you make sure all costs are covered and you meet your breakeven point? We give you some tips on how to tour an artist or band.

1. Set dates


One of the most crucial things to get right when planning a tour is timing. Think about your target market and determine when they are most likely to attend a show. For example, many bands tour during the Spring/Summer period because a) many people are on holidays and have more free time, and b) people are more likely to go out and get involved in activities during the warmer months. Ideally, you should start planning a tour at least 6 months prior to make sure you can book in a gig at the venues you want.

2. Research, research, research!


The next step to putting together a tour is to research. Where are the right places for your band to perform? Will it be a national or international tour? Find out which markets would be best suited to your band/artist and their music. If you don’t choose the right town or city based on the interest of your market, this could heavily impact on your ticket sales and overall revenue. You also need to know what kind of competition you are up against during the time that you are planning to tour, so look at what other artists that are touring at the same time and where. 
To make sure you don’t miss a thing, put together a Tour Manual. This should include all relevant paperwork and information for the whole duration of the trip. 

3. Book your gigs


Once you have planned where you are travelling to and when, now you must book your venues! Always take under consideration the capacity for each venue. If you are working with an up-and-coming band, you do not want to book a venue with a capacity of more than 500. It is ALWAYS better to sell out a smaller venue than book a bigger venue but only fill it with half capacity. When looking at venues, see what kind of music the venue show regularly. For example, a pop band/artist would not usually perform at a hard-core club. It is always best to email first, detailing your act and providing links to the band/artist’s work, and if you don’t hear back within a week or so, give them a call. 

4. Dolla dolla bill y’all


It goes without saying that with planning a tour, you need money to fund it. Unfortunately, a first tour will not garner any financial return. The main aim of your first tour should be to develop awareness of your band/artist and building your market, so do not expect to make money your first time around.  To help you along, grants are available for performing artists to assist with tours (check your eligibility first before applying). Be prepared to have to pull funds together from the band/artist and yourself, so make sure that you record all money that will go into your capital. Keep a running budget of the tour of both incoming money and outgoing money; this will be your bible leading up to and during the tour.

5. Plan out every. single. day.


Now you need to really think about every day that you and your band/artist will be on the road. Work around the dates you have booked at venues, make sure there is ample time to travel between locations, and ALWAYS include at least one rest day in every seven days. This would also include booking accommodation and sorting out sleeping arrangements, deciding on the mode of transport between each city, any media or press activities such as radio interviews or social media activity, and money allowances per day.

One last thing…

For the bands/artists that are a bit more established in the industry, merchandise is a key factor in reaching breakeven and is a must to take on tour. This will mean extra material to take with you on tour, so be careful with how much merch you bring with you (especially with flights and extra baggage charges). 

It is also important that you have a tech rider. This document details all the necessary equipment the band/artist need for their show and is to be provided to the venue prior to your performance. As well for those more established bands/artists, think about an artist rider. This is for requests made by the artist/band for what they would like whilst at the venue (see how ridiculous they can get here).

And, probably the most important tip of all: make sure you register your songs with APRA before going on tour. This will ensure that all royalties are going to the right songwriters, composers, and publishers and that your band/artist owns the rights to all their songs if they wrote them. Have a read of our blog: Knowing the Music Copyright Laws

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Listen to our Alumni Liam Clifford about his time touring with band Sheppard...