I don’t much about the business end of being a touring musician but I felt like it was important to address it here because it is a huge part of a tour actually happening. Here are a few things that I learned this tour.
1) When you book shows through or with a friend in another town, do it with someone who actually works as a performer. That is, if you actually want a show that is (hopefully) well attended and where you know exactly what you’re getting in to. People who work as performers usually understand what a successful show is. Chances are, if they can’t line up something adequate, they will know someone who can and connect you with them. Also, booking with friends, friends of friends or places you’ve played before seems to be way more effective than with strangers.
2) You still have to send out emails about booking to strangers. You never know if it will turn into something. It’s not really that fun to do either. Quite often, you email several times with absolutely no response.
3) There seems to be way more business than art. By business (on this tour) I mean all the planning, coordinating, booking, getting there, making connections, pretty much everything that isn’t actually performing, practicing or creating. We did so much more of everything else than we made music. It was great to be touring with music as our main purpose but it took up less than ten percent of the time that we were on tour. This may not be typical of other tours but when you’re on bicycles, certain things are different. It takes more time to get from one place to the next, you can’t really eat on they fly, you can’t really play music on a bicycle (not accordions and trombones anyway and not very well) and you’re often sleeping somewhere where there isn’t really a space for performing or practicing. Taking time to eat, sleep, meet people, promote and get to your location is all part of the business of a tour.
4) Keep track of your money. Incoming and outgoing. Where the incoming comes from and where the outgoing goes. You can use this information to become more efficient and put your outgoing into the things that will bring in more.
5) Make connections with people! Don’t just do this with the frame of mind that you’ll get something out of this possible relationship in the future, do it to be awesome and real. A huge part of making connections is for the future but don’t underestimate the power of making a good connection for this moment. That is where the sweet spot is. It may do you wonders for the future and it may not, but it makes for a much better life, tour, moment, friendship, or whatever, over all.
6) Take time for yourself and take time to relax. Yes, this is business! If you’re too tired, you wont perform well. You’ll also probably be harder to get along with. No one really likes spending much time with an angry diva. So do yourself and everyone else around you a favor and buy that special food treat, take yourself to a movie, sleep in, call a loved one, take an extra long shower, go for a walk, hang out by the river and do NOTHING, all day. Make time for this on tour and the rewards will be great! You’ll have a much greater ability to take care of business with a sound mind and give your all on stage.
7) Having stickers to give away as business cards or just general cool promo is awesome! Business cards are great when you need to make a professional impression but for almost everything else, stickers are where it’s at! Have a cool logo and a web address and you’re set. Plus, it’s fun to have something just to give to people.
That’s all I can say about the business end of a musical bike tour for now. Some of it is not as much fun as the creating part of it but a lot of it actually is or can be, you just have to know how to work it and take care of yourself while doing it.