Or: Hey man, do you think that just because you’re in a band that you can slack off and play music all the time? Hell no! Put down the ukulele, pull on some pants and start planning your damn tour!
First things first: put together a timeline by choosing when you would like to tour and then work your way backward. Say it’s January and you want to tour in June, which means you should budget in 2-3 months for booking, 1-2 months for tour promotion. So that means you plan your tour route in April and start contacting venues right away. Plan on being flexible with your itinerary as bands and bookers and venues get back to you. A month before you leave, send out a press release and mail out tour posters to the venues (budget in 2 months for the monthly publications). A week or two before you leave, start more grass roots promotion by contacting fans through social networking sites, music videos and message boards…more on this later. The booking period takes the most time. Keep in mind that this timeline is just a suggestion and that shorter tours are a bit less work sometimes and might not require as much advance planning. However choice dates at your preferred venues should be booked as early as possible.
Stay organized and be consistent: create an Excel sheet or Google Document Spreadsheet with all the details you’ll want columns for the Date, City, Venue & Booker, Contact (where you record when you last got in touch with the venue), Status (booked/not booked/on hold/cancelled, etc.), as well as columns for Notes, Places to Stay and Travel Time (to the next city). Once again, not every tour requires this level of organization, but it helps to be consistent with bookers who get a shit ton of e-mails each week and don’t need the added annoyance of your band getting dates mixed up. Also, you may think that you’ll remember all of the bands you’ve contacted one night to the next time you sit down to book your tour, but when you’re multitasking it’s completely normal to forget a few details along the way, so afford yourself some peace of mind by taking an extra few minutes to update the booking document with any new developments. This document will also double as a useful record and reminder when it comes time to plan future tours.
About booking: we suggest being as polite and professional and concise as possible in your communications. Bookers are busy folks who field tons of requests and juggle multiples schedules, so you want to be easily understood as well as enticing. So start with a friendly opener and then lay down your request in the second line -don’t make them sift through your poetry to find out what you want. If you’re looking to book on a certain date, consider offering up an alternate date at the same time to make it easier on them and to demonstrate that you’re flexible. Be sure to include a quick description of your sound and a link to a website where they can listen to your music. Many bookers seem to appreciate myspace links because it’s a standardized format where they can assess you band in a glance. If your band has received media attention, add some press quotes somewhere after you sign off.
Nightwood is a heavy, dark but totally fun rock trio from Montreal. The band has recently released their first full-length album, Carta Marina, entirely independently and has been touring in Eastern Canada to support the record. The band, comprised of Amber Goodwyn, Jeremy Mac Cuish and Erin Ross, have been knee-deep in many aspects of the band including filming their upcoming music video themselves on Super 8, silk screening band T-shirts and managing an art-and-style blog on their website. Outside of the band, Amber is part of the experimental film collective Double Negative and founded Lickety Split smut zine and Jeremy also plays in the bands Parlovr and Cotton Mouth. Caravan is the band’s zine and guide to touring independently. www.nightwoodband.com
Excerpted from Caravan: a zine about indie touring