Organizing A Tour
Posted by Alex Goodman

U of T Jazz alumnus Alex Goodman shares his thoughts on planning and organizing a tour.

Establish Clear Goals

If you know what you want to accomplish with your tour it will be much easier to know what you need to do in the planning stages. Make sure you’ve got a project worth investing a huge amount of time and energy in, often for little or no financial reward.

Think of possible reasons for organizing a tour, such as gaining exposure, making money, seeing new places, meeting people, playing new venues, having a fun road trip, etc.

Bookings

Think outside the box – there are many places to play outside of the major clubs in each city such as performance halls, festivals, outdoor stages, schools, casinos, churches, restaurants, etc. It can be hard to find some of these gigs, but talk to people you know who live in the area. Ask touring musicians where they play in certain cities, and look at various musicians’ itineraries on their websites or myspaces.

Every venue has a different booking policy – make sure you call every potential venue and ask questions. “How far ahead do you usually book acts?” or “what is your booking policy.” Some venues book over a year in advance, some may only book a few weeks ahead. Make it easy for presenters and club owners to book your group. Call them at times that are convenient for them, make it easy for them to hear your music and BE PERSISTENT. Give them a reason to book your group other than “We really want to play at your club.” Club owners are business owners first.

Decide on a few anchor gigs that you definitely want to play and contact those venues first. Once you get these, they can help define your route of travel. Getting gigs in smaller cities and towns can be easier if you’ve already got something confirmed nearby.

Many potential places to book your group may only be seasonally operated, such as schools, festivals, clubs and societies. It is important to think about this when deciding the time of year you want to tour. It is important to remember that most of the places you will contact will not work out for countless reasons. Don’t get discouraged, but make sure you have a plan B, C and D.

Finances

Create a budget template early in the planning stages and add information as time progresses. If possible, you can drastically minimize your expenses through donations in areas of the budget such as accommodation and transportation. This is especially important if you are touring without the support of a grant. If you know people that live in the cities you are traveling to, try and find homes to stay at on instead of spending hundreds of dollars nightly on hotels. If available, using a band member or leader’s car will save funds that would otherwise go towards a rental. Even offering a band member a per diem for using their vehicle is likely cheaper than renting.

EVERYTHING costs a bit more than expected. If you are driving a long distance, be prepared for car problems. Even fast food is expensive, and it adds up fast. Try and buy food at grocery stores to save money and ensure nutritional value. When you are playing for the door, don’t expect generous attendance every night.

Granting agencies are valuable for subsidizing your costs, but are extremely competitive. Explore other options, like corporations and individuals that support the arts.

Advertising, Press and Media

The fact that you are on tour doesn’t guarantee that people are going to fill the venues that you perform. You will have to create excitement over your project on your own. Flex your networking muscles to contact radio stations, newspapers, magazines, television networks and websites. Make sure your story is interesting – you need something to set your project apart from every other touring act that comes through town.

Remember that it is in both the venues’ and your interest to ensure that there is a good turnout for your show. Most club owners are more than happy to help out when it comes to advertising.

Write an exciting and interesting press release that clearly describes your project. Compile an extensive list of media contacts – almost every media outlet will have its contact list outlined on its website. Although a press release blast out can be effective, it may be a good idea to target some specific writers, radio show hosts or television producers and contact them personally.

When on The Road

Have fun and remember that the music is the reason while you’re all there. Take advantage of down time and travel time to keep your finance books up to date. Keep a record of all your revenue (gigs and CD sales) and expenses (food, gas, accommodations, etc).

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