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Pt. 7, Touring Logistics


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In my last column, I covered the first step of booking a tour: getting the gigs. And while it's easily the most important part, it's really just the beginning of the road. There are matters including transportation, lodging, gear and PR, amongst others, to still contend with. Logistics isn't the most exciting of topics, especially to an artist. These details might make your eyes glaze over like playing "Giant Steps" in all twelve keys, but if you're managing everything yourself then these practicalities must be attended to for the success of your tour. Having an organized plan before you go away is essential for things running smoothly while you're on the road.

The next thing I take care of after booking gigs is setting up transportation. Searching for reasonable flights and rental cars may take some scouring of the net, but compare prices at many sites. For ground transportation, I've looked at many options for my band including RVs and minivans, but have ultimately concluded that station wagons (or "estate" cars, in England) are the best for our purposes, as we travel as a trio. The station wagon is big enough to transport us, our luggage, and our gear, but is still small enough to maneuver through small English and European roads. And it's cost effective as well.

Just be wary of rental car companies and extra charges. They often push their insurance but I've found (unfortunately through experience) that many credit cards will cover you should there be any kind of damage or accident, so if you use one that does you can turn that down and save some money. But check your card's policies just to make sure, and save all paperwork until your tour has concluded. Should something go wrong you'll need every piece of documentation in order to get reimbursed.

Next on the list: accommodations. There are some venues that will kindly put you up. Some have spaces dedicated to lodging musicians, but most don't. Sometimes the club owners themselves will put you up. Again, lodging should be included in your initial negotiations, so find out whether or not the club owner can take care of this for you. Lodging usually becomes one of the biggest costs on the road. I've found that after a few tours, there will be some fans who will kindly put you up, and that helps a lot if you're ok with sleeping on a couch. If not, or if you're playing a new territory, AirBnB.com is pretty cost-effective, because you can usually find something within your price range and comfort level.

If you're touring somewhere that requires air travel, the next thing on your list is: gear. This can be a nightmare. It would be nice if all venues had shiny new amps and drum sets waiting for you, but that's just not the case. In the past I've rented gear for a whole tour, but that was really expensive. So that leaves you figuring it out from gig to gig. If a venue doesn't provide a backline for you, it never hurts to ask if they could borrow some on your behalf. There were even times I searched myself for musicians who played that particular club, asking them if they'd be kind enough to lend me some gear. In return I'd invite them to join my band for a tune or two and/or maybe buy them a drink. It could be a solution to getting some gear and networking at the same time

The last thing to take care of in advance of your tour is: PR. It can be a real drag to travel a great distance only to find there's nobody there to hear you play. So getting the word out and keeping a buzz going is real important. Of course there's the usual and necessary avenue of social media, but you shouldn't rely solely on that. Make sure the venue has any flyers, posters, or pics, whether they are paper or digital, so that they can promote on their end. Find websites with gig listings for that region and submit your gig. And alert the media. Find local newspapers, websites and radio stations for that area and send them a press release (I'll cover these in a future column) about your tour, along with a good photo.

Meticulous planning before you leave will help ensure your tour goes as well as it can. Make sure you take along contact info for anyone you might need to be in touch with along the way, as well as an itinerary of where you need to be, what time you need to be there, how much money you'll make, and any lodging info. It's important to have these details on hand. Inevitably, things will go wrong, requiring you to think on your feet (my trio once got in a car accident overseas but still made two gigs that same day). But if being jazz musicians has taught us nothing else, it's how to be great improvisers!

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