By Khayree Billingslea
“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.”
— H. Keller
You go to your favorite local band’s “Tour Kick-Off” show.
You know the crow.
The crowd knows the words.
The band shouts out to the fans and community members that have been so supportive of them and their growth, thus far.
They give some EPs away and ask for donations to help the members pay for gas and dry hermetically-sealed food from roadside convenience stores–and maybe a couple of 30-racks to help dull the pain of daily 6-hour commutes.
Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll pay $7 for the CD.
You may even kick the band a couple of bucks extra.
From the outside, going on tour may seem like an adventure young, daring, fearless creative-types undertake in the name of getting their work into the hands, ears, and hearts of fans and musical colleagues in distant lands…
…because that’s what a tour is, essentially.
But, there’s a difference between the essence of a thing, and what a thing is, exactly.
The TK Team has been hitting the pavement hard to find out exactly what touring is like for many independent, DIY, musicians so we can release a tool and system best suited to make thing easier for them on tour.
In our quest for the truth of the DIY tour, we’ve discovered that while the essence of the tour is the same for pretty much every musician, the details of the journey can be heartbreaking.
Below is fictional journal written by a hypothetical member of an imaginary band from Phoenix, AZ, called “Face North.” The journal will recount this band’s first tour, and will attempt to parallel a typical 1-month tour based on stories from musicians we’ve interviewed over the past 30 days:
– DAY 1 OF TOUR –
We’re so excited to finally get the change to take our music on the road. It finally feels like all of the time, sweat, and money we’ve put into our EP is finally about to pay off. Our first stop is in Albuquerque, NM. I saw on SoundCloud that we were getting some plays from there. Maybe someone will know the words! That would be awesome. That would make everything the band has been working for worth it.
The promoter is from a band we played with a couple times in Phoenix. She seems like a rad person and said she’d put us up for a night.
Man, I love tour.
– DAY 3 OF TOUR –
New Mexico was super sick. The community there is a lot like ours–people are passionate for the music. They really care about the bands and the fans really provided a sense of belonging. Two of the people in the audience actually knew the words to all of our older songs. We saw them singing along, and, for a moment, everything made sense. I truly understood why I do what I do: to make people feel great.
The promoter was at the venue early to help set up. She knew the bands well, managed her staff, and kept the show moving at a good pace. We didn’t even ask for a guarantee, but she threw us $175 bucks from the show to help us get to the next town.
Great times. Great times.
I really wish our guitarist would keep his shoes on in the van. It makes the van smell like a tuna’s mouth…also the van is making a weird noise. I hope that doesn’t become a problem down the road.
– DAY 5 OF TOUR –
So, that noise totally became a problem, and we’re stuck on the road between San Antonio and Austin.
It’s 2am, and the van still smells. I hear weird noises coming from the side of the road.
Can’t tell if it’s wild man-eating beast or the anxiety of putting up $200 to fix the van.
Oh, man. It’s both.
– DAY 10 OF TOUR –
Sorry, I haven’t been keeping up with journal. It’s hard to stay focused. Since our guitarist was eaten by a Texas highway jaguar, I’ve had to learn his parts…major time eater. The van is less cramped now, and I can finally breathe through my nose.
The last 3 shows (or was it 5 shows? My sense of time is getting sketchy) were pretty…ok. The next few promoters were cool. Lot’s of new faces. Somewhat engaged fans. Most of the promoters were kind enough to kick us some gas money.
One of them, though…he avoided us all day and ditched the venue after the show with the cash box, leaving the touring bands to fend for themselves.
Thankfully, a fan let us crash at his house, which he named “The Punk Chunk”. Nice guy. Small bathroom. Big roaches.
– DAY 15 –
I’m very hungry. Very broke, and I’m pretty sure the promoter is cancelling our show tonight. There are no cars in the venue parking lot and the promoter hasn’t answered our calls. The show starts at 7pm, according to the flyer.
It’s 7:30pm.[Entries end here. Somewhere between days 15 and 29, the band’s equipment trailer was stolen. The writer sold everything she owned, including her pencil, to pay for food and begin saving for a new bass.
The author went on to make a new band after her first tour. Their first album will likely mostly be about being on tour and a close friend who was eaten by a Texas highway jaguar.]
Have you had similar experiences on tour? The TourKidd Team wants to read your story!
Email your tour stories to Khayree@tourkidd.com, to help us learn more about what musicians, promoters, and even fans experience on tour or booking shows. We may even post them to the TourKidd blog!