This new set of Tour Tips was written by Steven Juliano, of the punk/metal/rock band, Requiem. You can check out their tips for being on the road, after the break.
Steven Juliano is founder and singer of I AM GHOST (Epitaph Records) and lead singer of REQUIEM (Cleopatra Records). Steve has done well over 30 US tours in his lifetime, including arena tours overseas in Europe and more. If there is one person you should take a tip from about touring, it’s from Steve.
There is a lot to be said about touring. There are so many factors that come into account on a tour that it can be absolutely mind boggling (if you really sit down and think about it). Before my first ever tour, I was a young kid in a punk rock band who dreamed of getting out of my hometown and hitting the road. My “idea” of what a touring musician job was in fact, misconstrued, to say the least. I have done many different types of tours; from the DIY tours without a label or agent, to the biggest opus arena tours in Europe with 7,000 cap seated rooms. I can honestly say, without doubt, I have seen it all. My first big tour was with Goldfinger and Story of the Year. At that time, my old band “The Silence” was young and extremely stupid. Yes, I said it. We hadn’t an effing clue. John Feldman was gracious enough to take us out, but we were a little more than just wet behind the ears. We left on tour in a rented van, no trailer, no merch and thought “this is our big break! Yippy skippy”. Boy were we wrong.
It took me years of trial and error to realize what to do, and (for the love of God) what NOT to do. The days are different now, with social media being as huge as it is, and label factions crumbing at every turn. The general state of music is just not the same as it was in the mid 2000’s. With that said, there are still things you, as a musician, need to take into account before you ever step inside a van and hit the road. Below are my top 5 precious tips. You can either listen or you can tell me to fuck off… it’s really ok. Just be warned that the touring life is not what you think it is.
1. DON’T SUCK LIVE-
Pro-tools is a hell of a drug, I mean, recording equipment. I come across more than my fare share of bands that pretty much all sound the same. The recording aspect now a days can make any local band sound like fucking Metallica. The only problem is now you have this great sounding EP that all your girlfriends dig, but its now time to prove yourself live and to the people across the USA who’ve never heard of you and in actuality… care nothing about you. It’s the very truth at the start. When you begin touring outside your hometown, you will be playing to a crowd that wants to see a show (nothing else, nothing more). If you are not well rehearsed, well trained at your craft, energetic and out to prove something, then stay at home. PLEASE! There is nothing wrong with practicing and practicing and yes, practicing for a few months or even a year, until you are gonna turn heads live. I would say there is no point to tour unless you are actually fucking good. Like, real good. First impression is everything, and most bands don’t get that.
2. TRAVEL FUN AND COMFORTABLE-
Most of you reading this will not be on a tour bus for a very long time. So, you’re gonna be living in your van for a few years. Literally. Work extra hours, save your money, and pool it together and make sure to purchase a van that is reliable, comfortable and most importantly: safe. I see some friends bands purchase a 1993 van with 300,000 miles on it, one seat and spend about $800. Yea, its cheap, but that fucker will break down after the second tour: guaranteed. If only they took out a loan for another four grand, or saved more money they could have upgraded ten times. Also, be wary that 60% of your life on tour will be sitting in that very van. So, make upgrades such as adding a flat screen for movie watching or playing video games. Make your van fun and as comfortable as you possibly can or you will be absolutely miserable on tour. Most professional bands traveling in vans tend to purchase the 15 passenger Ford Econoline Van, which is a great vehicle. I recommend that van 100%.
3. DRIVE LIKE A GRANDMA (NO, REALLY!)-
You’ve seen the stories I am sure: Alternative Press posting about another band crashing and flipping their trailer while on tour. It happens a lot more than you think. I can count almost 14 personal friends bands that have had serious accidents while touring (some even dying). The fact is, about 90% of crashes were a result of the band driving just too damn fast. Touring is a like a video game: 3AM driving through the forests of Portland, you have deers and bears and small little fury thangs that have suicide written all over their faces ready to pounce in front of your speeding vehicle. I have personally almost crashed a few times with deer’s running right in front of me. Iv’e had birds, bats, and alien bugs crash into my windshield. I have definitely killed my fare share of skunks and rabbits. Sadly, its just part of the game. So, with that said: SLOW THE FUCK DOWN! Going 80 miles per hour in a van and trailer because you’re late to the next load in does nothing but put everyone’s lives at risk, and studies show that you really are only gonna arrive about ten to fifteen minutes quicker than a band going 60 MPH. There is no show, no matter how big, worth your life or the loss of all your equipment.
4. HAVE MUSIC AND MERCH FOR SALE (DUHHHHH…)-
At the start, like all bands, you’re not worth a penny unless you are drawing kids to your shows. With that said, the first few tours will be rough. Your guarantee’s will probably be very low, and most likely the venue will be doing a door deal for unknown bands, which is ok. Everyone has to start this way. Make sure you, again, save your money before touring and purchase merchandise like shirts, posters, wristbands, stickers, zippy hoodies (depending on the season) and more. Also, do not tour unless you have pressed and polished music to sell. I mean, that’s the main reason you’re out there, right? You are more than likely going to be living off your merch sales (gas, food, hotel rooms). Make sure you have cool looking stuff to catch the kids eyes, and after every show, slang that stuff like there is no tomorrow.
5. CONTACT AS MANY FRIENDS/FAMILY ABOUT A PLACE TO STAY WAY BEFORE THE TOUR STARTS-
The internet is a lovely thing. You have the power to reach friends and fans around the world, and most of them would die to have you crash on their floor. Yup, it may sound ghetto but if you are not down to do that then you should NEVER tour. Getting a hotel room each night sounds like a great idea. If you’re making $2,000 each night in guarantee’s then yes, by all means, do it. But, if you are new, you gotta make due to what you have. When I am at a show and see a band on stage ask “Anyone got a place for us to crash tonight?” I am like, Ugh…. really? Most tours are planned two to three months in advance. In that time, you already have the exact routing. So, why not hit up everyone at the early stages? Nothing beats a hot shower after a show, so realize you have to prepare, prepare and yes, prepare before any tour.
Touring can be tough, miserable, and sometimes a horrible experience. But if done right, touring can be fun, exciting and worth all the heartache, pain,and utter sacrifice. You just have to be smart. It’s really not that hard if you think about it.