touring band

Life in a touring band may well throw up Class A opportunities for sexual encounters, drug consumption and a little rock’n’roll, but how do you get on the road in the first place? As boring as it sounds, the fastest road to rock piggery lies in proper preparation.

The first step is organization. If you’re doing it yourself, it’ll be a case of sending out demos and hassling promoters. If you have friends in more successful bands, convince them to take you along as support – it’s worked for plenty of Jack White‘s buddies.

As you get closer to signing a deal, a booking agent will most likely come into the picture. For 10 per cent of your income on each show, an agent will take the aggro out of a tour. They’ll organize a sensible itinerary, tie up contracts, get you a decent fee and give the promoters your rider requests. As they usually represent more than one band, they’ll have a fair bit of bargaining power and can also be instrumental in getting you a good slot, although factors like record company politicking and money, also come into the equation.

With a few dates in your diary, it’s time to sort out the travel arrangements. Without transportation of your own or any mates to blag, the cheapest option is to hire a Transit and pile in with the equipment. As well as being illegal and dangerous, it’ll set you back around £50 a day. The next step is the Splitter van, where passengers and equipment are separated by bulkhead. These start at £100 a day plus VAT from the big music rental companies. If you want to travel in style, sleeper buses are the only way to go. At £300 plus a day, they solve accommodation problems and have the added bonus of looking cool.

If it’s too far to drive home after a gig, and without a luxurious tourbus, you’re going to need to sort of place to stay. Friends and families’ floor-space is the cheap option; otherwise it’s a scuzzy bed and breakfast or cramming into a Travelodge. A travel agent used to dealing with touring band should be able to use their sway to book hotels at a reduced room rate.

As well as making sure all your gear’s in pristine order before you set off, get some spares to guard against an emergency. Making a trip to the local music shop to pick up extra strings, picks, sticks and drumheads will save you a made chase round a strange town and pull you out of a tight spot if it goes pear-shaped onstage. An extra guitar and snare, too, are must-haves.

The key to successful touring is preparing for every eventuality. At the end of the day, the less unpleasant surprises you have on the road, the more time you have to get stuck into the perks. Owen Hopkin

© NME 28 June, 2003

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