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Pt. 6, Touring: Booking the Gigs

B.D. Lenz By

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Booking a tour for your band might be about the most ambitious (and insane) endeavor you will attempt as a musician. To do it requires that you apply many of the skills that I've covered throughout my columns, including booking, networking, PR and use of social media, as well as some I haven't, such as tour management, driving...and psychotherapy.

I've booked many tours for my band throughout the US, UK, and Europe, and if you're doing it all yourself, as I have, then there's a lot to know about the all pieces that make up this entire, complex puzzle. In fact, there are so many moving parts to this it will take multiple columns to talk about it all.

It's a ton of work but it can also be a ton of fun. I'll try and cover the basics, as I've learned (often the hard way) throughout my travels.

The first (and most difficult) step is, of course, just getting the gigs themselves. In fact, I never worry about any of the other logistics until I've booked the gigs. And, while getting gigs is undoubtedly the hardest part, booking them in a semi-logical route just adds to the complexity of it all. Very often, on my tours, we'll have to drive to a city a few hours away, only to return near where we just were a day or two later. This leads to the question I get asked over and over (and which really annoys me): "Why can't you book your gigs in a nice straight line?" It's such a frustrating and dismissive question, as if it's never occurred to me before and that I just love the hours and hours of "us" time my band gets in the car.

The reality is that different venues do music on different days of the week, and it's unlikely that they'll change just for you. Sometimes I need to drive a couple hours for a Monday night gig if the area I'm in doesn't have one. And, you never want to play geographically too close on consecutive nights, so as not to water down your audience. Your appearance in a particular town should be a special occasion, so people would opt not to miss out. While it's generally easier to book Friday and Saturdays, the challenge often becomes: how to book Mondays or Tuesdays? How badly are you willing to fill those nights? I've often had to consider whether taking a gig that doesn't pay well, or is just not enjoyable for other reasons, is really worth it.

When you're on the road, every day costs money and sometimes a gig that may only pay little—or only feeds you, or only puts you up—may be worth it. In the end, these decisions are up to you, but my general belief is that it's usually better to be playing, because who knows what might come from any gig? By being out there as much as you can, you're building an audience, networking with people, selling merch and laying groundwork for future tours. It sure beats sitting in a hotel room watching the The Bachelor. When you reach the point that you can be more selective on the road, then you can afford to turn more gigs down.

As I said earlier, booking gigs is the hardest part of this whole thing. How do you convince someone who may have never heard of you that an audience will want to come see you? Well hopefully, before you've even started this whole process, you've gotten your press kit in order (as per my previous column). You'll only get one shot—if they even pay attention to you at all—so your press kit needs to be easy to find, easy to navigate, and flattering without being untruthful or overly hyped. I have an Electronic Press Kit (EPK) page right off my website that I send to people. It has my bio, audio, video, press quotes and more, all in one spot (you can check out mine here). Make it as easy as you can for them.

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