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Going On Tour! Part 1: An Introduction

In Celebrate Your Scene, Features, Gigs on May 15, 2010 at 1:02 am

It seems nowadays that going on tour with your band or your friend’s band is the choice-means of ‘seeing the world’ (or at least the country or continent you live on). What was once a privilege that most bands could not afford, has now become a much more realistic possibility. The desire to travel is strong for many people (myself included) and combine that with the desire that many people have (myself again included) to play music, and you’ve got a combination that leads to a restless drive to go on tour. But going on tour takes more than just the will to do so because there comes the financial reality that going on tour is expensive and does not guarantee to be profitable or that you will even break even with the cost of food, shelter, transportation, and of course numerous other expected or unexpected costs. And these days it seems bands are very highly ambitious, they often to want to play everyday with no days off, and each day in a different place, likely to a different audience.

This brings up a number of issues; the first being that, especially for smaller bands, getting people to come to your show, even assuming you can find someone to book you outside your locale, is very tricky. Networking is essential. Bands reach out to fans, friends, family, other bands, friends & family of fans, friends of family of fans, friends & family of other bands, etc, etc in order to set up shows and attempt to gather interest and eventually an audience. It can be a very difficult task (especially) for even the most ambitious bands, unless of course you have a booking agent, which many of the smaller bands out there don’t have. So how do they do it? They cut their expenses to the absolute minimum. This is done by most of the time skipping the hotel or motel and instead staying at a friend, family member, or fan’s place. As well, it means spreading the word in the hopes that they can get as many people out to the show as possible; for one because playing to more people is generally more fun but also because any money they can make will help them to keep the tour going. Finally, these bands will often sell their own merch, such as t-shirts, cds/cdrs, tapes, vinyl, and/or other items. This is also two-fold: first of all, when people buy their stuff, it helps to spread the word about the band, but it also helps the band to be able to afford to go and stay on tour. Finally, they try to have fun and make all the traveling worthwhile.

These challenges do have numerous upsides though: for one; it helps to connect different bands, fans, and local music scenes such that when a band from NJ wants to play somewhere such as Pennsylvania, then bands from the PA scene are more likely to be able to then book shows in NJ. As well, playing in other parts of the country/continent/world helps both fans and musicians by exposing both to a world outside that of which they are used to experiencing. Going on tour is a great way to see the world and experience different cultures, no matter how similar or different they are to your own. The same is true of going to see out of town bands play when they come by your ‘neck of the woods’. One of the things I respect most about the two music scenes I have been exposed to, in NYC and Montreal, but is probably true of many other locations, is that nearly every smaller to medium sized show has at least one local opener. In this way, it is possible to both support music from your area as well as exposing the local audience to music from other parts of the world.

This feature is not about Titus Andronicus (I promise!) but a friend of the band, Alex Tretiak, has made a very interesting series of short documentaries about the joys and pains of touring with a focus on them.

Parts 2 & 3 coming later today. Part 2 will focus on Sirs & Weird Korea. Part 3 will focus on Zona Mexicana.

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