After the ‘Ghosts’ EP launch I really wanted to get this show on the literal road, so I began organising our first ever tour. When people think of tours, they think of a whole band piling into a van with all their instruments and playing a gig in a different city every night, meeting groupies and getting drunk. That’s the dream, but we’re still a very new band so our tour was much more low-key. Our 6 gigs have been spread out over 4 weeks, and for the most part we haven’t been able to get the whole band at any of the venues. Turns out – getting a 6-piece band and all their equipment around the country is expensive, and since nobody knows us (yet) we’re on our own, financially speaking.
We’ve already been to Aberystwyth, Newcastle, Manchester, Nottingham, and in the next few days we have Leeds, then we end in Sheffield.
Each gig has been different – we performed live on student radio for a charity fundraiser in Aberystwyth, serenaded diners in Newcastle, played an acoustic show case in a sports bar in Manchester, and supported the incredible Norwegian folk artist Siv Jakobsen in Nottingham.
It’s been fun. And tiring. But I came up with some tips for any other musicians thinking about going on tour for the first time:
1. Just do it.
Lots of people think you need to have management/a booking agent to go on tour so put it off. But you don’t. Do it yourself. It’ll be fun. Start with cities you know you have friends who will come to your concert and let you crash on their floor. Work outwards from there.
2. Prepare an acoustic set with fewer band members.
You’ll save money on transport/food and it’ll make you more flexible.
3. Look for unconventional places to perform.
If you’re a new band, music venues in other cities aren’t likely to take a chance on you. They make money by how many people you can get through the doors, after all. On our tour, we played at a few cafes and they’ve been some of our most successful gigs (and were the ones we sold the most CDs at! #petrolmoney). If you know you have friends/fans in certain cities, living room gigs are also a great idea.
4. Use any contacts you already have.
I know this sounds obvious, but lots of people overlook it. We asked our fans which venues they’d recommend in their cities and they told us. And showed up to see us. Which made the us AND the venue very happy. Some of our musician friends let us support them at their gigs, and we even visited a Students’ Union radio station who we knew had been playing our EP when it was released. It never hurts to ask!
5. Don’t get disheartened.
Some gigs are shit. Others are incredible. We arrived at one place to find out we were last on a line-up of at least 8 performers. It was a long night, everything was running behind, and there was football on in the background. We didn’t end up getting onstage until 22:45, and we played to just two people… even the other performers didn’t stay. But you can’t let that piss you off. What matters is that you get up and give whoever’s there the best performance you can, even if it’s just one guy. They stayed to see you – they deserve it. That gig was pants, but the two people who stayed bought our CDs and became our fans. The point is, make sure you get something out of it. Even if it’s just performing experience/the wisdom never to book with that promoter again. Which brings me to…
6. Make the most out of it.
Even a small tour like ours take hard work to pull off, and it’s tempting to switch off once you’ve stepped off stage. It’s important that you don’t though, as your job is far from over. You have an audience to talk to. It’s always scary approaching a group of people, but you’ll miss out if you don’t. A mailing list is your best friend in these situations, especially if you offer people something free in exchange for their email address. I found that audience members were a great source of info about the area – lots of people we met had some great suggestions for other places we should play in their cities, and because we took the time to chat with them they’re more likely to make the effort to come see us when we do return.