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5 Tips before going on your first tour

Paula Aciego Mendoza
Chief Operating Officer

5 Tips before going on your first tour

Author: Paula Aciego


Here at Pop Off Agency, we work with many independent artists that are about to go on their first tour. This is a very exciting moment for any artist’s career and their team, but it can also be a little bit daunting. In this article, we want to give you some of the tips, strategies, and tools that we provide to all our artists. We want to make sure that you enjoy and maximize this experience to the fullest. Let’s do this!


#1. Budget

I recommend having all the money that you are going to need upfront. Do not go on a tour expecting to make money. Chances are that you will lose money on this first tour, so it is essential to know that at best, you might just break even. 

If you do not have all the money that you need for touring, here are two options: 

1)  Join forces with another band and share the costs. Two are better than one, and if you can add a third band to open for you in each show, you have the line-up all set. It is important that the third band is a local band from each city/place that you play in order  to maximize your audience reach. 

2) Create a crowdfunding campaign. Some of the platforms available for that are Patreon, IndieGoGo, Kickstarter, and PledgeMusic.

Write down a list of all your tour costs, and keep track of what you spend on tour. Tracking costs is crucial in order to measure tour performance, especially for improving and optimizing your next tour. Some useful apps that can help you to track your costs are ArtistGrowth and TrailWallet.  


#2. Team

In order for a tour to be successful, it is important to put a team together, or at least to be connected with the following “tour players”: road managers, roadies, local promoters, booking agents, press and media outlets, photographers, etc. If your budget is limited, focus on connecting with local promoters and local press. The local press could be a local newspaper or local radio, a college or university’s paper, magazine, radio, etc. Think outside the box and connect with influencers, webcasters, and anybody you think could become an advocate for your music. You need to get as many people on your side as possible, and the sooner you start connecting and establishing relationships with them, the better.

There are people in certain markets that act as the nerve centers of that city’s art scene. They have their hands in everything - and if you can get in with them, you can move around in that city more quickly.  These are the people that go to 2-3 shows a week. They might also book concerts, or run a concert blog.  If you do your homework, you can usually find these folks in some cities. They are wildly useful.


#3. Venues

First, prepare an email and a phone pitch before connecting with any venue. Second, try to connect small venues directly and establish a relationship with the owner and the booking agent. Moreover, consider other non-traditional venues:

  • Festivals – Research all the festivals that are happening in the area during the time that you are planning to tour and see if you can get a spot. Festivals are highly attended and it is a great chance to capture new fans that might follow you to the next concert.
  • Colleges and universities – They usually have a considerable budget for concerts and other student activities. Most of the time there is a dedicated team that will help you promote the event and ensure social media impact and exposure. Take this opportunity to promote the rest of the tour.
  • Sofar Sounds (www.sofarsounds.com) – Sofar is a global community that creates a new way to discover live music. Their events are secret and the event’s address is not released until the very same day. People that attend do not know who is playing. The events are highly popular and once you are in, there are many opportunities to perform in different locations within their network.
  • House concerts – House concerts are growing in popularity. Connect with potential hosts (the best way is through acquaintances), and create invitation-only events presented by a host, where all the proceeds go to the artist. This work is great for creating  long-lasting relationships as it provides a sense of intimacy and close interaction
  • Extra gigs (free of charge) – Aside from the main gigs of the tour add free gigs for greater exposure and to attract new audiences to your concerts:
  • Local radio stations
  • Coffee shops
  • Record stores 


#4. Transportation and Accommodation

Transportation is one of the most expensive elements of the tour. You have multiple options (train, plane, and car) but the economic option is driving, especially if you have to carry instruments everywhere. Do not go cheap on transportation, or you will regret it. It is important to get an insurance that covers E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. This is a piece of advice shared across nearly every single band, artist, and tour manager. 

Depending on the route taken, you normally have two options. Either staying in a different place almost every night, or establishing a home base. In terms of accommodation, options range from AirBnB, sublets, Couchsurfing, to hostels (Hostelworld) and fans/friends’ houses. This will depend on preferences and budget. Whatever your decision is, packing a sleeping bag, an eye mask, and earplugs is advised. Also, be a good houseguest! You are cultivating relationships that could be very useful for future trips. 


#5. Social media plan

It is important to implement a content calendar and a performance tracking system. Planning content provides more time to focus on other aspects of your work, especially when touring. Moreover, consistency is key and the posts should follow a narrative and a style. You want your audience to recognize you right away, and you want to create a sense of expectancy and engagement. 

Here it is important to know that each platform should have its own function. If you are not active on one of the platforms and do not post regularly, you might consider to focus on the ones which you are most active and have a greater following. You might want to deactivate other platforms in the interim.

It is also useful to break social media posts into different focus areas – like "food", "backstage", "weirdness", "fans", etc. – then you can collect and categorize things, and when you are ready to plan your weekly social, everything is there.  That way the social feed is not a big mass of photos of you on stage (which is cool, but gets old).

You can get "social fatigue" over the course of a tour, so it is useful to assign someone either to social, or a specific channel, for specific blocks of time. 


If you want to learn more tips, strategies, and tools to help you prepare for your next tour, do not hesitate to contact us at info@popoffagency.com



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