Lucas here. I get a whole lot of booking questions directed my way by people looking to book their first tours. I used to ask these questions all the time as well and often times never got an answer from the older bands I asked. It used to upset me. I would always think “why wouldn’t these people help me?”
I understand a little more now why these questions weren’t answered. I try to answer these questions when I can, but honestly it gets a little overwhelming sometimes between handling stuff for our band and trying to deal with day to day life. I figured I would put in writing how I went about it to begin with and how I feel is the best way to approach things, and hopefully help some people in the process.
I think when you first get the idea to tour you need to ask yourself some questions and be honest with yourself:
1. Do we have a draw in our hometown?
If you can’t bring people out to see you where you live you’re most likely not ready to book any kind of tour. If you don’t understand how to successfully book and promote one show where you live, booking 10 or 15 in places you’ve never been probably isn’t going to go so well. And no, pre-selling 25 tickets to open up for some big band doesn’t count. I’m talking about a local show and people coming to see your band. So many bands just want to get out on tour because they want to be able to tell their friends that they’re in a “touring band.” There is nothing more important than your hometown and this is where you start.
Every town we go to we hear certain bands and certain kids complain about how their scene is “dead” or “dying.” YOU (especially if you’re in a band) are responsible for making your scene strong, supportive, positive, and amazing. If you’re not doing that then no one has anywhere to tour to begin with. You don’t need 100 people at every show to have a strong local scene. An empty room with a P.A. in it with 10-15 kids have been some of the best shows we’ve ever played. Start from the bottom and build up with a good attitude and your scene will start having those 100,200,300,400, and 500 person turnouts.
2. Is my band really at a level where we’re ready to tour?
Be honest with yourself. If you’ve just played handful of local shows, started playing 6 months ago, have no recordings and no merch…its probably not time for you to plan your first tour.
So once you do have a hometown draw, a record to push, a little bit of merch, and some experience this is how you get out there:
Find other bands within a few hours that are doing the same thing as you are in their town. Put on a great show for them in your town in exchange for them doing the same for you. Support each other.
After you do this..do it again. Then do it somewhere else. After you do this 10-15 times and play in 10-15 towns multiple times you now have enough contacts to book your first tour. The best thing about doing it this way is when you book this tour, there will actually be people there to see you (of course this depends on what people think of your band). Build personal relationships with people in other scenes and do good by them and they will do good by you. There are some that will not return the favor but those bands weed themselves out very quickly (we’ve seen that a lot over the past five years). After you come back from your first tour, find more bands in more towns. After a while, you’ll be able to tour anywhere you want. You’ll meet promoters, venue owners etc and be able to book all you want with a little effort (actually it is a lot of effort).
When you do play these other towns, get to know the venue staff, get to know the other bands, and get to know the kids that are there to see you on a personal level.
Booking a tour is one of the most stressful things you can do and its always going to be a ton of work. There are very few short cuts and honestly the shortcuts that do exist aren’t worth it in the end. If you learn how to book yourself and survive in the DIY world no one can ever take what you have from you and you’ll find very small accomplishments very rewarding. I hope this helps.
On My Honor