Do you ever wonder what it's like to drive cross country with your best buds and play music that you love? If you are thinking about making that move, here are some thoughts on it that I hope you'll find helpful.
I miss touring! I spent about ten years of my life playing well over a thousand shows and living out of a van. Touring with the same guys night in and night out. We were lucky, we made our living playing our music for audiences around the country. Touring can be such a fun way make a living, and it can be a very tough lifestyle. Here are some thoughts/tips/advice (call it whatever you want)...
1.) Don't be an ass and drink when it's your turn to drive.
Seriously a dick move here. It's a great way to build resentment in the van, and can make for a very angry band in the morning, and at the next show, which of course, an audience can pick up on. Pull your weight, I don't care what you play.
2.) Set up your merch every night, even if you don't want to. When the show is over, go and hang out by the table.
An obvious one it would seem, but I've been to so many shows where it'll be 4 or 5 bands on the bill, and only two of them have their shwag out and viewable. Even if you don't have any t-shirts, and the record hasn't come out yet, at least have a snazzy mailing list, a pen (yes!) and a light by which to see. Also, when you can, place the merch by the door, so people walk by it on their way out. (Admittedly, I could take my own advice here sometimes too!)
3.) When you crash with strangers, treat their house with respect, make your bed, do the dishes, say thank you with your actions, not just your words.
The strangers you meet on the road are the real reason we do this. They are friends in the making and fans for life. It builds good will, and the next time you're in town, they are likely to have you over again, come to the show, tell all their friends that the coolest band in the world is coming to town etc.
4.) Try not to eat at too many greasy spoon joints.
When I finally learned this lesson, I started the habit of packing and bringing some healthy food with me, especially on the shorter runs of shows. You aren't always in control of what your eating options are, but make healthy choices when you can. A good trick is to shop for breakfast at a local grocery store instead of the diner. More now than ever before it seems like they'll have an organic section with some healthy options. If you're touring, your in it for the long haul, your gut (and your wallet) will thank you.
5.) Be on time, even though no one else will be.
Hurry up and wait is the name of the game. But being on time is a good way to build trust with venues and promoters, even though most people won't be. It is also a good way to guarantee you a sound check, which will make the show that much better.
6.) Never, ever, ever talk shit about another band you are playing with.
Word will get out, and it's not the other bands that will suffer, you'll be known as a prick. Don't be a prick.
7.) Don't stare at your shoes.
The show is for you, AND the audience. Look at them, or at least pretend to. I still struggle with this one sometimes, but inevitably, when I come out of my shell, the show takes a turn for the better. Have fun, you're playing music.
8.) Tip the bartenders at every show.
They, more often than not, have the ears of their bosses, and promoters. Treat everyone you meet well, and they will more than likely remember you for it, even if it doesn't seem so at first. Oh yeah, and of course when you do meet an asshole, ignore them.
9.) Give your band mates space when they need it.
Everyone gets pissy now and again. We miss our significant others back at home, we're hung over, we don't want to drive 5 hours today, we're missing the game, whatever the case, don't take things personally. If someone says something that (you know) they don't really mean, let it roll off your shoulders at the moment, and when calmer heads prevail, bring it up then if you really need to (maybe after the kick ass sold our show you just played). Communication is of course key, but timing is a good thing to get a feel for too.
10.) Stop to smell the roses.
There are so many wonderful experiences to have when you're out there on the road, playing show after show. You're with your best friends (at least some of them!), you're getting to see the country and meet so many cool people, making friends every where you go. Don't take it for granted. Some of those friendships I formed I still cherish dearly to this day. Stop and smell the roses, and smile.
So what did I miss?? What are some other things that every band should know when they start touring?