Archive for June 6, 2011

Industry Tips & Advice: The Ultimate Tour Checklist by Tourbinder

If you’ve followed the Ultimate Guide To Planning Your Tour so far, you’ve determined that you’re ready, decided where you want to go, chosen the right venues, and successfully booked each venue. Now it’s time to decide what you need to bring on the road and make sure you don’t leave anything behind. Remember to pack light, because there won’t be much room.


This is going to be different for every band, so you’ll have to take the time to make this yourself. Include EVERYTHING: guitars, backup guitars, guitar tools, drum keys, bass drum pedal, drum stick, cab chords, amps, mics, cable bags, pedals, tuners, even extra strings. Try to put things back into the van the same way and in the same bags each night, so that you are sure to not leave anything behind. Refer to this checklist after every show to ensure that everything get put back into the van.

In Your Tour Book
Name of each venue and date
Venue Address
Directions to the venue (or use a GPS)
Load-in Time
Time that doors open
Your set time
Set length
Set lists for each show
Names of other bands you are playing with

Merchandise Inventory checklist – keep track of what you sell and give away each night.

Summary of contract agreement – are you getting a guarantee or percent of the door, and what are the agreed upon numbers? Are you getting free drinks or half-off food?

Copies of contracts/email conversations with venues – every once in a while, you may run into a promoter who doesn’t want to give you what you previously agreed upon. Bring documents to prove your agreements.

Healthy snacks – you are going to be eating copious amounts of cheap junk food on the road, and you don’t want anyone getting sick. You’re going to be in close quarters with everyone, so if one person gets sick, everyone’s getting sick.

Towels and Washcloths – shower every day, and keep clean. You are going to be meeting tons of people on the road, and will be in close quarters with your band mates. Nobody wants to talk to the oily, pimply, smelly one.

Camera / video camera – even though the flip cam has been taken off the shelves, find a way to document your trip. Uploading daily photos/videos is a great way to stay engaged with your fans from the road. But also, touring is a lot of fun, and you’re going to want to remember the incredible things that you see and do on the road.

AAA card – just in case. Vans break down, and you want to do everything you can to not let that get in the way of a great tour. Also, take care of your van, and keep the oil changed.

Appropriate clothes – always bring an extra pair of shows and more than one pair of pants.

Phone chargers and laptop chargers

MIFI card – if you can afford one, get one! It’s a great way to get Internet on your laptop from the road, so you can stay in touch with your fans. Otherwise, make sure that at least one band member has a smart phone, so you don’t disappear from the rest of the world.

Business cards – you’re going to be meeting tons of people on the road, and you want to be able to give them something to remember you by. Business cards are standard, so try to invest in some quality business cards.

CDs and Merch – Set a goal for how much merch you want to sell each night, and try your hardest to meet that goal each night. It’s a great way to get extra gas money on the road. I know that merch can take up a lot of space in the van, but the last thing you want to do on tour is run out of things to sell to your fans, so plan accordingly.

Bottled water – you don’t want to be dehydrated on the road, and you definitely don’t want to live off of sodas and sugary drinks the entire time either. Water bottles are easy to refill, while gas station drinks will add up to be rather expensive.

GPS – these are great for finding places to get food, and will also help you find the venues and get there on time.

Extra show posters and handbills – If you get to your city early and want to try to drive in a little more traffic to your show, carry around a few extra handbills wherever you go. Ask locals for advice on where to eat and explore, and let them know that you’re playing a show and that they should be there!

Safe / Moneybox – Keep this secure! Avoid internal arguments about money by keeping all revenue in one location. Whenever we got paid each night, we would put the money directly into an envelope inside the safe, and would use that money for gas. You can also decide on a per diem, and take that money directly from the safe each day.

Credit Card reader – you will sell exponentially more merch if you have the ability to make credit card payments. Get a free square credit card reader and download the app for your smart phone or iPad.
Sleeping Bags / Pillows – decide as a band if you want to have these or not. They take up a lot of space, but if you are going to be driving through the night, crashing on floors, or sleeping in the van, then these will definitely come in handy.

What are some other checklist items that every touring band needs? Share them here!



Article: Opening Band Etiquette by Heather McDonald

Being chosen as the opening band for a more established act can mean great things in your music career. You will get to play for larger audience than you might draw at your own show – an audience who might then get excited about turning out for your next headlining set. An added bonus is that peppered in amongst those potential new fans might be members of the press and industry who may become contacts for future opportunities.

All of those good things could evaporate pretty quickly if you violate some of the unwritten rules of being the opening act, though. Some of these rules might a touch frustrating, but take the long term view – making a good impression now is money in the bank for your future music career.

1. Co-Promote
There may not be a formal arrangment for you to roll up your sleeves and help promote the show, but get on board and do what you can. Announce the show on your website, social networking sites and via your mailing list. Be sure to include info about the headliners in the promotion you do to your existing fans.

Contacting the local press and radio may also be helpful, but consider checking with the show promoter before you do that. They may have plans for reaching out to the local media, and you don’t want to step on their toes and confuse the message. Generally speaking, the larger the show, the larger promotion machine behind it, so do check before making the media calls.

2. Watch The Clock
When the headlining musicians, their management, agent or the show promoter asks you to be somewhere at a certain time, be there. Yes, even if you know if absolutely everyone else involved in the show is going to be late and you’re going to be spending a lot of time standing around waiting. If something happens that is going to delay you – getting lost on the way to venue, flat tire, forgotten instrument, etc, etc, etc – call someone and let them know. Even if they treat you like you’re giving them T.M.I., better to err on the side of being thorough and showing that you respect the schedule set for you than to bank on the fact that everyone will be cool with you rolling in when you can.

3. Accept The Soundcheck
In most cases, soundcheck starts with the headliners and finishes with the first opening act. The reason for that is partially a practical one – the first opener will take the stage first, of course, so when they soundcheck last, the stage is set up with their gear so the show is ready to start.

However, the reason is also partially hierarchy. Allowing the headliners to get the first crack at soundcheck means they can kind of take their time and soundcheck until they feel good about their set. Sometimes, this means the headliners end up taking up ALL the soundcheck time – or most of it – and that of course means the opening act gets little or no time to check their own sound and get comfortable with the stage/acoustics.

For an opener, that can cause some serious stress, but your best bet is to grin and bear it rather than kicking up a fuss. Sure, it would be great if the headliners made sure everyone got a pop at a soundcheck, but it IS their show and their perogative to take the time.

4. Discuss Merch
Before you assume that you’ll be setting up a merch table the night of the show, discuss it with whoever booked you for the gig. Sometimes, headliners (or their reps) frown on support bands selling their merch because any money thrown your way is money not spent on the headliners’ merch. That may rub the wrong way – especially if the headliners are making big bucks for the show while you’re getting a pittance – but you’re kind of bound to the rules set by the people who invited you to play the show. Have a discussion about this before the night of the show.

5. Respect The Set Length
Even if it feels like the audience is eating it up and you’re having a great time on stage, wrap up your set when you’re supposed to. When you run over, you take time away from the headliners. It’s important that they get their full set – or if they don’t, that it is not your fault. Remember, the headliners are who the audience is REALLY there to see, so just be glad you made some new fans and promise them a longer set in the future.

6. Stay for The Show
Unless there is a valid reason why you have to play and dash – you’ve got a plane to catch, a 14 hour drive home, an illness or something along those lines – don’t skip out before the headliners play their set. Yes, even if they are not your favorite band, stick around and watch them play.

7. Say Thank You
Say a quick “thank you” to everyone who helped you land this opportunity and everyone who helped the show run smoothly. From the headliners and their reps to the venue manager and sound engineer, a quick thank you goes a long way.

8. Learn More
Learn more about shows, from booking to promotion to making the most of your audience in Playing Live 101.



Industry Tips & Advice: 25 Things To Watch For That Can Derail Your Music Career by Vinny Ribas

It’s easy to tell when you’re doing things right. Your audiences are happy. The manager is happy. You sell a decent amount of CDs each night. Everyone in the band gets along great. You are on top of the world.

It’s important to realize that sometimes we get so caught up in the creative side of things that we fail to see the small telltale signs of trouble brewing. Then one day we look up and realize that something is
dreadfully wrong. And all too often, the damage has been done and it is difficult if not impossible to undo it.

So here is a list of things to watch out for. Some items you’ll just want to keep your mental radar on, while others can best be measured with actual statistics. Be careful not to dismiss these and blame them
on the economy or the political climate or some other scapegoat. Do your due diligence and get to the root of any challenges that you’re having and make the necessary changes or adjustments.

1.You’re selling less CDs and/or merchandise. Are you mostly performing for audiences that already have your CDs? Are you still making a strong effort to market your CDs during your show and sell them afterwards?

2.Venues are giving you fewer dates. Have you lost some of your sizzle? Are you getting stale? Have you pushed your price too high?

3.Band members are doing things without you that you used to do together. Is there discontent? Have you changed the way you treat them? Do they see the big picture?

4.Band members don’t seem to have the excitement they used to. Is your set list getting monotonous? Are you finding ways to keep things interesting? Is the band moving up the ladder of success or is it stagnant (or falling backwards)? Are your band members challenged musically?

5.Your name is showing up less in the press. Are you doing things to generate publicity? Have you played any benefits that the press would cover lately? Are you sending out story ideas and/or press releases? Are you resting on your laurels?

6.Venues are taking out smaller ads to advertise your shows. Have you lost some of your local appeal? Has something tarnished your reputation? Again, are you getting stale and predictable?

7.Your audiences seem to be thinning out earlier in the evening. Are you losing energy and interest as the night wears on? Are you pacing your best songs properly? Are you giving your fans a reason to stay for another set or till the end of the night?

8.You’re getting bored with your set list. Have you been learning new material? Have you tried rearranging your sets lists? Is your material challenging you?

9.Your audience seems bored. Are you bored and showing it? Is something else preoccupying your mind? Are you performing for the audience or just for yourself?

10.Your original songs are not getting the response you expect. Have you had your songs critiqued? Are you writing with co-writers who are better than you? Are you songs a perfect match for the venue?

11.Fewer people are signing up for your mailing list. Are you reaching the same audience repeatedly? Are you offering enough incentive for them to join? Are you sending out regular newsletters that your fans can forward to friends?

12.Your newsletters aren’t getting as much response as you would like them to. Are you making them engaging? Do they have surveys, contests, free downloads etc.

13.Phone calls are not being returned; emails are not replied to. Have you lost the ‘personal touch?’ Are you trying too hard by calling or emailing too often? Have you visited and patronized the venues during off hours to show your support and build relationships with the management?

14.Your family is getting less interested in your music or your career. Have you made promises that you haven’t kept? Are you on the road too much? Is there a healthy balance between your family and work life? Are you providing enough security for them to feel comfortable?

15.You’re getting less help from your friends or street team. Have you shown your appreciation on an ongoing basis? Do you overwork them or expect too much? Is there still anything in it for them?

16.You miss opportunities that you should have known about. Are you keeping up on current events? Are you on top of what is happening in your community? Are you organized enough?

17.Your voice isn’t as strong as it was. Do you warm up before each show? Do you take ongoing vocal lessons? Are you carrying too much of the burden? Do you have the right balance of easy and challenging songs?

18.Your road trips seem to drag out even though they are just as long as you usually go on the road. Have you been traveling too much? Are you burned out on road life? Is there pressure from your family to come home? Are you not taking enough time off in the middle of your road trips?

19.You’re selling fewer tickets or fewer fans are coming to your shows. Have you been marketing yourself constantly? Do you give your fans a reason to return over and over again? Are your ticket prices too high? Are you playing venues that your largest fan demographic feels comfortable in? Have you been diligent in sending out newsletters?

20.Radio isn’t playing your latest release. Are you calling stations personally? Are you doing a radio tour? Are you resting on your notoriety because you’ve had other radio success? Did you pick the right song to release? Did you stray from what your core fans love about you? Do you have a street team requesting your songs? Are you using a radio promoter? Is your sound getting dated?

21.There is less buzz about you on the Internet. Are you as active on the social networks as you should be? Are you building relationships with your fans? Do you have ‘share’ buttons so people can share your web pages with their friends?

22.You feel week and/or tired more than usual. Have you been burning the candle at both ends? Are you eating healthy foods and exercising? Are you bored? Have you had a physical checkup recently?

23.You’re getting either bad CD reviews or none at all. Did you pick the absolute very best songs for the project, even if you didn’t write them? Did you change producers? Did you skimp on the production for the sake of the budget?

24.You’re getting booked for the small gigs but can’t break through into the next level. Are you constantly rehearsing to get better? Have you built up a sizeable following? Is the act tight enough to compete in the better venues? Have you tried to book the better gigs or are you waiting for them to call you? Have you tried working with a booking agency?

25.You’re not selling many CDs or downloads online. Do you have an enticing website? Are your CDs and single-song downloads available on the major online retailers like CD Baby, iTunes and Amazon.com? Are you driving traffic from your social networks and your website to where fans can easily buy your music? Is the ‘music’ button on your website placed where it can be seen immediately when your page is pulled up?

The bottom line is it is vital that you keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening with your career and everything that affects it. Don’t get so wrapped up in writing, rehearsing and performing that you miss the important things that are happening all around you. Left unattended, small challenges can easily snowball into major catastrophes that may be impossible to overcome!