It used to be that a band needed substantial radio play, not to mention one or two hits, before they were able to hit the road and bring their music to the masses. All that changed when YouTube, Spotify and SoundCloud came into being, democratizing music and allowing anyone to explore and discover tracks on their own terms. Consequently, localized cult scenes have thrived in many cities for almost all types of music, and the bands making that music are in demand. It’s not unheard of for bands without a record to tour, filling out small venues on the merits of their online singles alone. South African hip-hop duo, Die Antwoord, are perhaps the best example of this, selling out early shows on nothing more than the coattails of their notoriety.
But just because touring is that easy, does that mean it’s for everyone? It’s hard to say unless you’ve tried it, although there are sure to be a lot of inconsistencies from the glamourized and romanticized road trips of Hollywood. There are a few things to consider before heading out, however.
Should you buy or rent a van?
It used to be that you could pick up a second-hand van for no money at all, throw a couple of bucks and a lot of elbow grease at it and having a rolling home in no time. That’s not quite the case now. You have to take into consideration both the cost of buying as well as the overall maintenance costs of keeping a van running during the entire trip. A more popular alternative might be to rent. There are a number of van rental sites such as Campanda that allow you to rent a van or RV online. This means you’ll only pay for the days you use the van which could save you a lot of money. However, buying a van outright means you’ll be invested for future tours. It’s definitely something you’ll have to compare costs on.
Know your bandmates
Don’t get me wrong – bandmates are tight. Any band, from Blink182 to Audioslave (with the exception of maybe Oasis) became close after they started making music. But taking four or five people and cramming them into a metal container on wheels for any extended period of time is invariably going to be trying for everyone involved. That’s why you should take a long, hard, retrospective look at your relationship with your band before going on tour. If there are grievances air them; behaviors you’re uncomfortable with, broach them. Know that you’re going to have to compromise on personal comforts and preferences, but just make sure that everyone else does as well.
Plan your route in advance
You’re going to be travelling to a lot of different places. Ensure that you have the entire route mapped out in case (God forbid) your phone or GPS cuts out on you. This means knowing which hotels or floors you’re going to crash on, the venues you’ll be playing and anywhere you might visit for leisure in between shows. Knowing where you’re going and the most efficient way to get there will save you a lot of time, not to mention it make the difference between you sound checking half a hour early or missing your gig entirely.