Drowning @ Ieperfest in Belgium
For many bands, touring is the ultimate career goal—the golden key to their hopes and dreams. I spent in seven years touring with my old band Drowning, so I can say it’s far from the glorious adventure many outsiders might think it is. Five or six friends in a van traveling have to be living the dream… right? I’ve toured the majority of the US and internationally in a mid level band, so I can definitely attest the many hardships of touring… which is why I’m sharing these tips I’ve learned over the years. Hopefully these help out new bands heading out on their first tours.
Hygiene— Touring bands could be gone for weeks or months depending on opportunities given. Everyone should bring the general amount of clothes they would need for daily use, but I also suggest bringing a couple extra packs of underwear and socks. Being on the road and often no place to shower after a show things can get pretty disgusting. It never hurts to have spare clothes available for times like that.
Another life-saving toiletry is lots of Baby Wipes. Living in a van doesn’t guarantee chances to shower in between gigs. Baby Wipes are a fast and efficient way to clean yourself on the go.
Last pro tip, other than obvious hygiene, is to bring a pair of slides. When in the van and downtime, it’s always a good idea to let your feet air out to avoid them getting too smelly after a particularly sweaty show.
SUPPORT THE LOCALS— Whether your band already has hype, or you’re testing the waters to accomplish your dream, always make sure to support the locals bands. You have to remember that you were once in their shoes at some point. Make a point to get to the venue early so you can catch the opening acts. Unless you’re in a giant band like Dying Fetus or Despised Icon, this becomes one of the essential aspects of successful touring.
Locals always notice when a headliner is watching them. It is appreciated. Never be so entitled as to assume that everyone showed up just to see your band. Embrace the fact that it’s a group effort from the opening band until the final set. I’ve seen whole rooms clear out after the locals because the arrogant headliners feel the crowd owes them something. Honestly, I do not disagree with that rule. Be genuine and support the whichever local scene you pass through, and most of the time the support comes full circle.
Professionalism— Professionalism molds a band’s career, for better or worse. Always follow the instructions a venue gives you. If you are a headache to deal with, venues and promoters will not invite you back. The ultimate goal of every first show should be to keep doors open for future tours. I know a lot of bands are on cloud nine when they start touring and act wild, but at the same time you are here for a purpose. It should be work as well as vacation.
Be respectful to all personnel and the actual building. Being appreciative, polite and saying “thank you” goes a long way. People tend to remember good first impressions. If the turnout wasn’t great, but you carried your weight, promoters will want to support your band just because they had a great experience working with you.
Friends are fans— Be social and talk to everyone at the show! Don’t wait for someone to recognize you or to come up to you. Take the opportunity to be a part of their scene for a night. Any hyped band will tell you that their first fans were actually friends that they’ve made at their concerts. After that, you’ll start seeing repeat offenders and more, every time you come back to the city. The shows become more of a family union and party than just watching a band perform. Being down to earth and personable goes a very long way.
Merch— Having something to sell is extremely important getting by on tour. It’s better to bite the bullet to invest in some quality merch before tour, so you can have money for gas and even food if you end up in a tight spot. Let’s be real, you will not be making much money from the actual gigs, let alone if you’re heading out for the first time. This allows you to consistently add money to the bank after whatever payout you are lucky enough to get from playing a show.
Band Chemistry— Before hit the road, make sure your bandmates are on the best possible terms. There’s nothing like a road trip crammed in a small van for a group’s true colors to surface. I’ve seen bands literally break up on tour, and many more having mini-meltdowns due to the sheer adversity and pressure. Make sure you know your bandmates and are all on the same page. It’s ok to sit down and have a meeting establishing rules and ideals before attempting anything.
Teamwork— Make sure to work as a unit. A band is only as strong as their weakest link. All work together to promote,network, and switch duties(driving/loading in and so on).
Persistency/Promotion— Always make sure before tour you make a list of tour dates and all the info you need for each gig, and always promote every single show as much as you can. If the promoter will sees a band that isn’t doing its part as a major red flag. If you can’t promote yourself, how can someone else trust in promoting you? That’s where persistence come into play. Yes, it can be overwhelming, but do everything in your power to get the word out everywhere you can—and stay at it. Again, you ahve to treat touring like work instead of a vacation for it to accomplish your goals.
WALMART IS YOUR BESTFRIEND— The ongoing relationship between bands and Walmart is no secret. I’ve spent countless nights parked in a Walmart parking lot, and here’s why. Walmart is often open 24/7, which often carries all and any needs for what a band member could want. It’s the ultimate one-stop-shop.
Not only that, but they have surveillance to avoid any sketchy situation. You can pull in and get a great nights sleep without worrying about any weirdos or theft. Plus it makes for a great location to bbq or throw around a football to let off some steam. I’ve had some of my best memories in those parking lots with my bandmates and the people we’ve toured with.
Reliable Transportation— It is always very important to make sure you have reliable means of getting from gig to gig. Unfortunately, I’ve seen so many driven bands get cut short because of a van breakdown. As you prepare to hit the road, make sure to invest in a vehicle that won’t let you down. If you are going out for a week or two every couple months I would suggest renting a van that can absolutely see you through until the end. I’ve even invited along a few close friend on the tour so they can pitch in on the rental. It cuts down expenses and makes for a lot of amazing memories with other people close to the band that isn’t in it. Let’s be real everyone likes to travel and see the road.
Drowning @ Support Our Scene Fest in Denmark
These are just a couple of a million tips I can give for bands that are starting to tour but the best way to see if they are true or not is to hit the road! Once you do it once I’m warning you that it is heavily addictive for all the right reasons!