How to Book a Tour

How to Book a Tour

Embarking on a tour is something every musician dreams of. It's a chance travel, connect with fans, showcase your talent in new cities and build momentum for your music career. I actually, started my career booking tours for Nile Rodgers and his band Chic, so I can honestly tell you the whole process of booking a tour requires careful planning, organization and strategic decision-making. A missed flight, a canceled show or simply type on the tour schedule can cause total chaos and put you at risk of losing a ton of money. So whether you're a solo artist or part of a band, here are my step-by-step recommendations to help you navigate the process of booking your first tour and setting yourself up for success.

Preparing and Organizing Your First Tour

Create an Electronic Press Kit (EPK):

An electronic press kit (EPK) is a digital package that includes information about your band members, music and tour. It's a good idea to create your EPK before doing anything else because you may need it when booking your shows, working with booking agents or when getting press coverage for your tour. If you want to learn the steps for creating a press kit check out are article Electronic Press Kits AKA your EPK. In general, you want to create a professional EPK that showcases your music, photos, bio, press coverage, the date range your band is available and any scheduled performance dates. Include links to your music streaming platforms, social media profiles and website for easy access and above all you'll need to have show some live performance videos. Concert venues, local promoters and booking agent will want to see what your show is like.

Related Articles: Electronic Press Kits AKA your EPK

Set Clear Goals and Objectives:

Before diving into the logistics of booking a tour, take the time to define your goals and objectives, especially if it's your first time going through the process. What do you hope to achieve with this tour? Are you looking to promote a new album, expand your fan base or simply gain experience performing live? Setting clear goals will help guide your decisions and shape your tour strategy.

Planning Your Tour Route: Part 1 - Tour Location

Planning your Tour Route is a 2-Part process.

Part 1: Decide where you are going to tour. For your first tour, you want to keep things simple. Meaning, I don't recommend a cross-country or multi-country tour and traveling anywhere that requires flights. Why? Because flights are expensive and unpredictable and the less money you spend the better. A canceled flight or lost luggage / gear can really put you in a bind and you want to set yourself up for success. When selecting a location, you can target the biggest cities, but it needs to be somewhere you either have friends, family, fans, know other artists, etc. Why? Because you need people to attend your shows, unless you're able to find venues that will supply your audience, and should anything go wrong, you have people that are local that can help you. And again, you want to keep things simple, so if you can connect with some of your fellow artists and perform as an opening act, you won't have to promote as hard and you may even get to play a bigger venue

Research and Contact Venues:

Once you have a rough idea of where you want to tour route, your next task is to book venues where you can perform. Begin researching potential locations in each city or town and your goal is to fine the right venues. Meaning, look for venues that cater to your genre of music, have a suitable capacity for your audience size and offer the backline you need for a successful show (e.g., sound equipment, stage lighting). Reach out to venue owners or booking agents via email or phone to inquire about booking opportunities and always follow up if you don't hear back from them. Be prepared to provide details about your music, previous performances and proposed tour dates - this is where your EPK comes in handy. Be prepared as some venues may ask for your music data, meaning number of streams, typical ticket sales and social followers. If you have trouble finding venues that will allow you to play, you can again reach out to local bands and see if you can open for them, and reciprocate when they travel to your area. Next, if you have buddies in the area, see if any of them will host a house concert for you or check in advance on Sidedoor or Sofar Sounds for available shows. And finally, research local festivals and events in the area and see if they're looking for musical acts.

Negotiate Performance Agreements:

This is something you may or may not need to do depending on the venues where you'll be playing. Ideally, you'd like to have some sort of guarantee in writing that confirm and outlines the terms and conditions of your shows. This includes clarifying details such as performance fees (flat fee, percentage of door or ticket sales, etc.) the date or day of show, technical rider, load-in times, soundcheck schedules, ticketing arrangements and promotional responsibilities. Big acts get to include fun things like a hospitality rider, which is when you can ask for odd things like all red M&Ms. All kidding aside, if you do get a contract, review it carefully and have an attorney look at it to ensure your clear on what you're agreeing to. If you don't have an agreement, the next best thing is to confirm the show via email. Once you know all the details, summarize everything in an email and send it to the venue or promoter that booked your show and ask them to confirm if the information is correct - be sure to include what happens if they cancel the show. Once they confirm, save the email, along with any other correspondence. YOU ALWAYS WANT TO HAVE SOMETHING IN WRITING. This will require some hard work and you doing your due diligence, but this is the type of tour work required when you book venues is you want a successful tour

Planning Your Tour Route: Part 2 - Coordinating Logistics and Travel Arrangements

Part 2: Now that you have a list of venues, the date range for you tour and specific show dates, you're ready to start mapping out your tour route. This is a lot easier since Google Maps and you essentially want to enter all your show locations in the order in which you'll be play and the gps will give you the best route for your tour. Once you have your route, you want to take note of the travel times between locations, so you leave enough time to get from event to event. Next, for each venue, you want to search for local hotels where you can stay. This is where services like Kayak,, Air Bnb, etc. will be helpful and your goal is to find the most affordable places to stay that are conveniently located near the venue. If you have friend that you can stay with in the area, even better because you want save money whenever possible. Next, figure out how you're getting everywhere. Arrange transportation for you and your bandmates, whether it's a van, tour bus, rental car or you're own car.

Create a Tour Budget

At this point, you should have a rough idea of what you'll be getting paid for your gigs plus how much you'll be spending on travel and accommodations. What you want to do now put all the information into a spreadsheet and create a tour budget. This will allow you to track expenses and ensure you stay within your budget throughout the tour. Be sure to include things like food, gas, tolls, etc., essentially anything you're going to earn or spend. When you're done, review what you created. Are you going to earn a profit, break even or take a loss? You're goal is always to earn a profit, but for your first tour, you may need to willing to break even or take a loss to gain new connections and grow your audience. If that happens, make sure it's a loss you can afford. However, you don't need to accept that loss. You can always try to add another performance or sell merch at your shows to make up for the loss. And while on tour, ALWAYS COLLECT EMAIL ADDRESSES! Just because you take a loss doesn't mean you can't earn that money back by selling to your new fans after your tour, but you need their email to do that.

Promote Your Tour:

Promotion is key to a successful tour, so start spreading the word well in advance. Utilize your website, social media channels and mailing list to announce tour dates, share behind-the-scenes updates and engage with fans. Ask the people in the area that are attending to bring friends to your shows and create promotional materials that generate excitement and encourage people to attend - you're not just performing a show, your putting on an event. Collaborate with local artists that may be playing your venue on the same night and contact local press to reach new audiences.

Rehearse and Prepare for Performances:

In the weeks leading up to your tour, dedicate time to rehearse and prepare for your performances. Fine-tune your setlist, practice transitions between songs and perfect your stage presence. Consider incorporating special elements into your live show, such as visual projections, interactive experiences or guest performers to make each performance memorable and unique. Also think about how you are going collect emails and sell any merch.

Stay Flexible and Adapt to Changes:

Despite careful planning, unexpected challenges may arise during your tour. Stay flexible and adaptable in response to changes in scheduling, venue requirements or unforeseen circumstances. Maintain open communication with venues, promoters and bandmates to address any issues promptly and minimize disruptions to your tour itinerary. If you're driving, get your car serviced and checked ahead of time and alert your credit card company that you'll be traveling, so they don't put a random fraud block on your credit card.

Enjoy the Journey and Connect with Your Audience:

Above all, remember to enjoy the journey, have fun and embrace the opportunity to connect with your audience. Each performance is a chance to share your passion, energy and creativity with fans who appreciate your artistry. Be sure to take pictures and share your experience in real time with your fans online. At each venue, take time to engage with your audience before and after shows, sign merchandise and express gratitude for their support. Building meaningful connections with your fans is what touring is all about.

As you can see, booking a tour is a significant undertaking for any musician and it isn't all fun and music. That said, with careful planning and organization, you can turn your vision for your tour into reality.

And finally, if you're serious about making music your profession, then I strongly encourage you to learn how to build a sustainable music career for yourself because it takes more than talent and great songs to be successful.

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