Booking a tour is basically planning a road trip with the goal of playing music every night and (hopefully) making enough money for gas to your next destination. Booking your first tour is a grind, so it’s helpful to have higher purpose that is fun and motivating. Bands usually plan a tour to promote an EP or album release, but the first “tour” I went on was a 32-hour drive straight to SXSW in 2011 with my two-piece band Pool Sharks (my drummer, Lani now plays in Weeping Icon) in order to play one house party at SXSW that was shut down before our set. I’ve been to SXSW seven years in a row now, so it’s a fun place to start!
You could be really creative with your touring intent. Kino Kimino toured down to the Woman’s March on Washington in January (the house party we played in D.C. post-march was INSANE). This past August, Sharkmuffin toured to see the Total Solar Eclipse in South Carolina with our appropriately named friends Wild Moon.
Garage rock/folk blues guitar goddess Melissa Lucciola (of Wild Moon, Francie Moon, and bassist of Kino Kimino) is one of my tour heroes. She has undertaken DIY tours that have lasted 4 months or more at a time, with small breaks in between. One of her main goals as a musician is to tour and will take every opportunity to do so.
“Touring has always had an array of special purposes in my life. I have toured in bands and acoustically from house shows to art galleries to larger venues and have always found great purpose in any of those situations. I went on my first tour ever because I love to travel and play music every day and fortunately we were asked to join another band that knew how to book it. Later on I was asked to tour solo and acoustically. Even though playing acoustic wasn’t my first choice, I figured since I had the opportunity to do the leg work and learn how to tour, the places to play, and how to make some money while at it that I could one day help all my friends who want to play music full time too. I’m still on that path and was able to bring my full band on the road earlier this year on my most successful tour yet, which was very encouraging for me.
Touring has also made me aware and extremely appreciative of this amazing network of people who constantly help each other out. By touring you eventually find yourself in this very large community of fellow musicians, artists, organizers, and just straight up supportive people who are pushing each other along. I am part of a bunch of groups online that are always assisting each other with booking shows, finding photographers or artists to help with merchandise and posters, website designers, videographers for music videos and just simply sharing their music with each other.
I’m really honored to not only be able to do what I love, but be a part of something bigger than me that continuously helps others be able to do it too.” – Melissa Lucciola
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Whether you want to support your release, support a good cause, or are just craving adventure, here are some basics to start booking your tour:
- Give yourself enough time. It’s best to start booking tours 3-5 months in advance. If it’s a tour to a festival like SXSW, the earlier you start booking it the better. Keep in mind that you’ll want to start promoting the show at least a month in advance and it could take two months to lock down the date/venue/supporting acts.
- Make friends & trade shows. Pay attention to your band’s e-mail/Facebook messages. Musicians you probably have never heard of are looking to play in your town and may have reached out for your help. If you set up a good show for them in your area, they’ll most likely be happy to return the favor in their town!
- Take advantage of online DIY communities. The Internet is a beautiful thing sometimes. Do DIY is a great resource of DIY spaces and organizers in many cities across the U.S. There are also Facebook groups for DIY scenes almost every major city that you can join and post in. While reaching out to people, always include links to your music, bio/other press, the dates you’re looking to play, and if you have any friends/know bands in the area.
- Google. When all else fails, reach out to every venue & band you like in a certain area. Go to a venue’s contact page on their website or message them on Facebook.
- Use your social media network. You probably have more friends/fans in different places than you would expect! Posting “Can you help us find a show in these places on these dates?” on each of your social media networks could get many unexpected results when you’re stuck.
- Stay Organized. It is easy to get confused and double book dates or forget to fill dates all together. Creating a spreadsheet you can share with your bandmates with the dates, cities, bands, venues contacted, and any notes on the progress really helps keep things clear. And then you’ll also be able to yell at your bandmates to CHECK THE SPREADSHEET in the group text when they ask the same question for the thousandth time!