Touring bands were decimated in 2020 – and even though shows aren’t allowed right now (for good reason), we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Now, do you want to be the band who scrambles to put together a tour when shows are allowed and safe, or do you want to be the band who has all their plans in place and just needs to book the shows when it’s time?
The latter band has a big leg up in this situation so we think the choice is clear.
Listen now to learn how you and your band can prepare for the return of shows so you aren’t caught sleeping on the job.
What you’ll learn:
Click here to join the discussion in our Facebook community.
To help keep Bandhive going, we sometimes use affiliate links. This means that if you buy something using one of the links below we may get a small commission. This absolutely does not affect what you pay for any of the linked items – your price will be the same whether you use our links or not. This trickle of income is what helps us keep the free content flowing!
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Welcome to Episode 61 of the Bandhive podcast.
It is time for another episode of the Bandhive podcast. My name is James Cross, and I'm here with Matt Hoos of Alive in Barcelona. We just finished up Recording episode 60 about half on hour ago.
How have you been in the last 30 minutes? Matt. You know, it's been a pretty eventful 30 minutes. James. How about you? It has, Yeah, it's been eventful. Here's well. I filled up my water bottle and took care of some business and drafting up the outline for this episode. It's been great. Such a busy 30 minutes sounds like it. Well, we have a good one for you, at least in my opinion, because what we were talking about in last episode was what we want to see during 2021 1 of the things we mentioned is that hopefully we will see shows safely return.
Obviously, this depends on how quickly the vaccine rolls out, how effective it turns out to be in actually usage rather than testing all that kind of stuff. But we're genuinely hoping that shows will be safe and legal during the end of 2021 going into 2022. Obviously, we can't tell the future, but we can hope so. This episode is going to be about planning your tours. Now, why are we talking about this now? And why are we saying that you should plan your tours now? Essentially, it's because once tours start opening up, promoters and venues are going to be absolutely flooded with requests for shows, and they're not going to know what to do with all of these Booking increase.
It is going to be insane. So if you start planning out what you want to do now and have a plan in place, you are going to be able to jump in and book those shows a little more quickly than all the other artists who are waiting to put everything together once shows open back up. That is why this is the perfect time to start building relationships with promoters and venues so you can have an in when you're looking for dates on your tour. So, Matt, we've outlined a bunch of steps that artists can take to get things going.
But there's some basic information that needs to be outlined when you're planning any tour, and this is one of the key things you could do right now. Do you wanna take us through those? Absolutely. Yeah. You know, the most important thing about a tour is a plan. Even if it doesn't go according to plan, the plan is still invaluable, and that's just because it gets everybody's head in the game. People on the same page attach is you. You just fix it, you more inside of your business.
And whenever you arm or inside of your business, the better your business does. So when you plan stuff, it might seem pretty simple to some of you, but it also might seem pretty complex. You need to start with how many shows you wanna play. Everybody always has dreams of grandeur, and they're like, Oh, I'm gonna go on my first tour and it's gonna be a full US tour. Don't do that. That's a terrible idea, and you will find yourself broken, broke and disheartened from wanting to play music ever again.
You want to start with a small tour. The common term is Weekend Warrior, where you go out and play a show on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. After you do weekend warriors, you do full week tours. And so this is a slow progression to where the idea is that you're making your tours larger and larger, and you should only be doing this if you're having success on your smaller tours. So you start off with how many shows you wanna play. Are you doing a weekend warrior? Are you doing a week long tour?
Are you doing? Two weeks, three weeks a month, six months? How long is your tour? Once you know that you can basically figure out, you know, like you can schedule in where you want your days off to be, You know, you know that maybe your singer needs a day off every third day. Maybe he could do two shows, and then the third day he needs a chance to rest his vocals. This will probably very from style to style. I think rappers can generally play a show every day of the week and be a little bit easier.
And it's a little bit easier on them versus a you know, a death metal band. If they play a show every day, they're gonna end up getting throat cancer because that's the natural progression of putting that much stress on your voice every day of the week. So you need thio cater your scheduled to exactly the needs of your band. You need to figure out where you want to play. So if you're doing a weekend warrior, you want to do those in markets and cities that are close to you.
So let's say, if you're in Seattle, your weekend warrior should not be Los Angeles, Santa Fe, New Mexico and Las Vegas, Nevada. That would be a bad weekend warrior for you because, for starters, you have to drive all the way down to L. A to start your first show from Seattle. That's, you know, 15 hours, 17 hours or something like that, and then on top of that you have to turn around and drive back from Vegas back up there. So that's a bad idea. On top of that, if you go down there and you start making quality fans down there and then you disappear off the face of the planet because it's a long time for you to make money to actually tour back there again, you're going to miss out on an opportunity to really capitalize on creating that true fan because you will have got their attention and then you will have lost their attention.
And so it's really important to start in your small circles. If you're in Seattle, then you should be playing Seattle and then Spokane. And then maybe, you know, somewhere near Walla Walla or, you know, some central Washington, maybe the tri cities in Washington. That would be a good weekend warrior for you. You know, maybe you hop over in, uh, in Oregon and play a smaller town. And there, when you're doing these small weekend warriors, don't be afraid to look in small towns. Ah, lot of small towns have kids that don't have anything to dio.
They go and hang out at Walmart because that's literally the largest hang out spot in their town. And, you know, some of you might be listening this and saying This has gotta be a joke, but it's not. I've played its, um, venues where it was like you rolled into the town and you're like, This is is literally a one horse town. But the entire town shows up, and it's like the best show. You've had all tour and you make 500 bucks because every single one of these kids by is one of your T shirts because they're starved for art.
And so be sure to check these smaller towns and determining which market you're gonna play in your weekend warrior or in your week long tour. Those are very important. Make sure that the ideas make sense. You know, you don't wanna be driving back and forth over and over and over between all of your venues. You don't want to be doing that. You need to know what types of venues that you're gonna be playing. You know, a lot of time you play bars. What happens when you bend?
Members are not 21. Then they have to wait outside. Yes, I'm absolutely serious. Your band members are not allowed to be inside of the venue if they're not 21 you're playing bars. So it's important to make sure that when you're booking shows, if you have band members that are under 21 that if you play bars, they're not gonna be allowed inside, that's gonna be kind of a drag for them. And who knows, maybe you play folk music. Maybe maybe bars is definitely not your venue. That's why it's important to know the type of venue to play.
Maybe your venue is a coffeehouse. Maybe you play E. D M music, and it's more of the club scene, and your time to shine is, you know, tended to Maybe you are a singer songwriter. Maybe you play jazz and your your reaches jazz clubs. There's all sorts of different things and eso you need to focus on what venues cater to your style of music. Bars is more rock metal. You know, things like that. Coffee houses, more folk, jazz, you know, same clubs. E d. M. Jazz. It depends on the type of club and so on and so forth.
If you're playing country music, you might be playing in a bar. You might be playing in a coffeehouse. You might be playing in a venue, so there are certain ones that kind of transcend all of those but uneasily toe figure out what the venues really cater to is go Google them. Look at them. Take a look at their list of shows that they've been putting on. Look at their flyers. See who the promoters that they work with are go check out to promoters pages. See what bands the promoters promote.
Well, see if they have an active audience. See if there's active engagement on the promoters posts. Things like this are all going to give you indications on what the markets are doing, what cities air actually good and thriving in the music scene. And, more importantly, it will help you make a tour routing. This is where it gets difficult, and this is where I say the plan is valuable, but it might be totally useless at the same time I live in Denver. So I would say I want to go from Denver to Salt Lake City to Las Vegas to California from Vegas.
You go North California or South California, All of those. They're not a super far drive, and it's all pretty consistent. So if I know that, that's what I wanna dio from Denver, then I plan my routing. Denver, Salt Lake City, Vegas Those were all in a straight line. Well, what happens when those venues you know, breaking Benjamin is also trying Thio book a show there? Well, due to what's been going on in this last year, breaking Benjamin will probably get the slot. What does that mean for you?
It means that you need to be adaptable, and it means that you need to kind of allow for these types of things toe happen. The ideal routing would put you on Lee playing a show every couple hours apart because generally people won't travel between markets that far. But once you get closer to the West Coast, it's really, really hard for you to even necessarily find places that you can book shows. So it's up to you to kind of be like maybe instead of going from Denver to Salt Lake City like I wanted Thio.
Maybe I'm gonna have to go from Denver down to Texas, over to New Mexico. Then maybe I'll go up into Las Vegas because I wasn't able to book in Salt Lake City on the date that I needed. So when you plan your tours, you need to kind of have, ah, loose idea that things can change. And so when you have that idea built into the forefront of your mind that allows you like a little bit of it keeps you from going crazy while you're on the road.
And it also really helps you when you actually sit down to budget. Your tour is well, so budgeting is like the most important thing of it, or ever, and you can either macro budget and say, like the maximum that I can do period is is 500 miles in between shows, which is really, really far. Or you could say, you know Oh, look, all these dates are booked, Their all confirmed. So now, once all these dates have been confirmed, I can go through, and I can actually go look up how many miles air in between all of them and then tack an extra like 15 miles on their, you know, to account for, stopped at gas stations, bathrooms, eating food, things like that.
And then you look at the price of gas in that local market, and then you add about 15 or 20 cents per gallon. This is like macro budgeting, and you can Onley really start your budget once you've got, you know, like it's it's building blocks. So you have to know if you're doing a weekend warrior. How long your tourists? Okay, once you know how long you need to know where you're going, Okay, Once you know where you're going, then you can start in on your budget. And so it's like you have tow, have one step in front of the other.
There's so many small and little trivial things that you will get caught up with when you're on the road, there's always more to do what you're on the road. So having a plan and like knowing these concrete details way far in advance eliminates so much of that stress. Even if things change, it's much better for you to have things change on a small scale than on ah, large scale, where you're just completely unprepared for that magnitude. Yeah, absolutely. And going back to routing for a second because that ties into budgeting.
I remember Warped Tour 2015. We played a show I want to say it was Bonner Springs, Kansas, and then had a NAWF day driving to Cheyenne, Wyoming. And from there we drove to Salt Lake City, did a show in Salt Lake City, drove overnight to Denver, did a show in Denver, then drove, had to off days in Las Vegas and then did a show in San Diego. That is the most convoluted routing now. Obviously, Matt, you and I have seen more convoluted stuff on world tour than that.
But this is a perfect example that fits in with what you were saying, using those cities as an example. And I would bet money that work tour wanted to do the order of Denver, Salt Lake Vegas, San Diego with Vegas being the off day, of course. But because they did not get that, then they had to add that off day and Cheyenne for the bus drivers to risks. The bus drivers there are only allowed to dry so far legally, and that is why we had that off day.
Otherwise, they would have gone straight to the show in Salt Lake, then to Denver and then the off days. All of that cost a bunch of money for warp tour because when they get hotels, they pay for hotels for everyone on the production staff and everyone that is on a production bus. So that's a lot of the sponsors. That's many of the artists now. Obviously, these sponsors and artists are paying to be on those production Busses. They're renting those spots, but it still costs extra money. If Warped Tour says, Yeah, you can get a spot on this bus for 2000 week, and then all of a sudden work tour has an extra cost.
They're not going to go to the artists and say, Oh, our costs just doubled for this one week. You got to give us an extra $1000. That's not how it works because they have a contract worked for, then has to eat that cost because their plan didn't work out and for you. If you are booking your own tours, you have to work that kind of stuff into your budget. So when you're doing a macro budget personally, I would add more than 15 miles per drive. I would basically say Just tack 10% onto whatever you dio, So if you're driving 200 miles.
Add 20. And you could say that with a minimum of 15. If you're driving 400 miles at 40 because over the length of the tour that will add up to hopefully cover any major detours, you have to do where show gets flipped around or anything like that. And you have a more solid idea of where you're going. Another thing to be constantly in the forefront of your mind Is that like you don't just tour for the business opportunity? You know when you're going to new cities, you guys were gonna wanna go look around.
That's part of the reason that I say attack the extra miles on because it's like if you go to a new city that you've never seen, maybe you wanna go see like you go to San Antonio. You've never seen the Alamo. Okay, well, you're gonna want to drive to go see the Alamo. Or maybe you're driving through Arizona and you've never been to the Grand Canyon. Or maybe you're driving through ST Louis and you wanna go visit the arch. These are all things that are basically going to eat at your available budget.
If you haven't planned them. All of these things are gonna eat away at your existing budget if you haven't built them in. And obviously it's really hard for you to go like, oh, on this tour. We're gonna hit this spot, this spot in this spot, and I definitely wanna go here, and I definitely wanna go here. Well, what happened when your bandmates don't wanna go there or what happens when you have to get a flat tire and you're behind schedule and you can't stop there? There's other things that happened.
And so it's best to just say, you know what? Here's this random little budget that's essentially like, Oh, yeah, By the end of the tour, we will have had an extra 1000 miles that we could have driven that we budgeted. And then guess what happens when you get to the end of your tour and you haven't driven us extra money in the bank. That's how that works. If you budget to spend money, and that's what the budget is for. The budget is to track your spending. If you track your spending and assume that you're spending is always gonna be high, assume that you're shipping and handling costs are always going to be expensive.
Assume that gas is always going to be more expensive than it is assumed. That the mileage is going to be further than it is. Assume that meals are going to be more expensive than they are. And then you get to the end of the tour and you go like, wow, like after all was said and done, we came out $1000 in the black or positive rather than coming out $500 in the red or in the negative. You need an emergency fund and that emergency fund, you know, could be for anything it could be for.
You know, you have a flat tire or, you know the radiator is out on your vehicle, or here's a random one that I have had to do more than once on tour. One of your band members is having tooth problems. One time we were on tour and one of our band members was having the worst tooth pain ever, and so we had to go and take him to get I don't remember exactly what was happening, but we had to go take him for an emergency dental exam.
And honestly, we weren't sure if his insurance in Idaho would cover where we were at in whatever state we were in. And it was it was nerve wracking. But we had an emergency fund. And so no matter what, we knew that our guitarist was gonna be okay. That was great, even more than us worrying about, like whether or not we're gonna have gas money. We're worried about our friend. There's certain securities having things like an emergency fund or budgeting extra money in for gas and food. It's always beneficial.
It's always beneficial. There's never a time when you look at that macro budget and say, Dang, I budgeted too much money for this. No, because at the end you get ahead and you're like, Dang, this is awesome. I thought we only made 500 bucks, but it turns out we had $250 left over in our gas budget. So now our tour is actually worth 50% more than I thought it waas at the end of your tour. It's empowering rather than like crippling for me every single tour that I've ever been on.
I believe 100% in a macro budget because you always come back in a better position than you expected, rather than coming back in a way, way, way worse, off position. And I think to illustrate that to something that most people can relate Thio, which would you rather have at the end of the year, a tax refund or owing taxes? Obviously, you're gonna want the tax refund now. Ideally, this is a rabbit hole. You don't wanna owe anything and you don't want to refund. Because if you get a refund, that means you just gave the government alone for a year interest free, and they're just paying you back.
So ideally, there's no financial transaction there, but that doesn't happen. And no matter what, a refund is gonna be better than paying Mawr, especially if they assess penalties for you having to pay more. That's how you should look at this. If you're looking at a tour budget and you say, Oh, hey, look, we had set aside that money and now we don't have to spend it. That's great. Personally, Matt, I think an emergency budget should always cover the get home quick fund. You might end up in the middle of a global pandemic in Europe and say we had two more weeks of shows left.
Now we have to book emergency flights home tomorrow so we can get home and not be stuck here for who knows how long in the middle of a pandemic that stuff like this literally happened to me. Not that I was on tour. I was visiting family. But when the pandemic hit and the travel ban started, I was visiting family in Germany and I was like, Okay, I have my travel fund. I have money in here. I am booking the last Delta flight home because I didn't know if Air Lingus was going to actually operate the flight that I had booked later in the week.
The original flight that I was planning to come home on. Turns out they did. But another one of my family members had a flight a week after that, and her flight didn't operate. Thankfully, she was on that same Delta flight home with me, and we both made it home safe. You always have to prepare for the worst. Obviously, if you're touring Europe, I would say you're doing pretty well, but driving around the states in a van, make sure you have enough gas money that you could drive home at any point in time.
Because if you're in Texas and you live in Vermont and something happens like a pandemic, you need the capability to say, Okay, we're driving our van and our trailer and our gear home. We have the money to do. This will be home in three days. Boom. Done. Now that's a lot of driving in three days, but you got to do what you gotta dio. That exact thing happened to us, but very early on in our career. So my drummer and his wife, their anniversary is on New Year's.
Obviously, it's important for any husband and wife to be together on their anniversary. But we were on the road for two months on. This was before we knew that that was too long for us. Some people could go on the red for two months at a time, and it doesn't affect them at all. For us. That wasn't the case, you know, and it was like we went through a lot of hardships while we were on the road for I think it was like, you know, when we hit Week five, I think we were so tired and drained that we weren't sure if we wanted to continue playing music and then knowing that we weren't going to be back for my drummer's anniversary was really, really hard on their marriage.
This was their first wedding anniversary that my drummer was gonna be missing and that was, you know, a huge problem. And it was eating away at him. And we love each other like, more than anything, you know, that's a very that the forefront of our band was like, Look, we love each other more than anything and that that was something that we had prepared for now because of this issue where it was like Chase was having marital issues. And so it was very easy for us to say Okay towards canceled because a to us are, band members are way more important than than our business.
You know, we're friends first and then and then, you know, business partners after, but we also we were tired. We were ready to go home, but there was something about the preparedness that way. Didn't budget well for the tour in general, we had shows that were canceled and we didn't have contracts ahead of time that guaranteed our funds. And so when we finally had an opportunity, when we made enough money, it was like the perfect storm and hit. We had enough money and then marital issues were happening.
And so with that cocktail, it was like, You know what? We're going home. We drove from North Carolina to Spokane, Washington, And so for those of you who are a little geographically impaired, that is a very, very, very long drive. We also did that drive in late December. This was also during one of the coldest winters, historically, and on top of that, like we were having consistent van troubles. I think that was the tour that we went through three wheel bearings because one of our rotors was warped, so that caused us to wear through other parts.
It was so cold on New Year's Eve that we actually had to pour hot water into the locks in order to be to pour water in and jam the key and and open it before it would re freeze because it was like I can't remember. I'm sure one of the guys could probably tell you, but it was like all these crazy things. And like we were just lucky. Had any one of those things like gone a little tiny bit worse than it already. Waas. We like hit snowstorms.
We had to stay in a hotel one of the nights because, like locks were frozen, We were wearing through car parts. It was like all of the things that could go wrong. We're going wrong and we did not plan for it. And it was really, really hard. E mean, We all look back now because it was so many years ago and we say, You know, we smile, we laugh, we remember the good times. But when you actually think about how unprepared we were, it's absolutely incredible that we all made it home.
The preparedness that you have in business will reflect how well you dio the more variables that you try and quantify the mawr equations that you solved beforehand, the better you will be in the long run. Absolutely. And you know, that's the kind of thing that journey for you guys to get home. They've made movies about that where everything goes wrong like John Candy and Steve Martin did a movie. I think those planes, trains and automobiles literally that situation. Except it was Christmas instead of new years trying to get home, and they made it happen.
This is why it's so important to have a plan in a budget in place. So our point with all of this in this episode is not that you should start booking shows right now. I would not recommend that it is too soon for that, because chances are if you book shows right now, they're gonna fall apart. But if you put together your basic tour information your routing your budget and start growing relationships with right people so the promoters at the venues that you've put on your short list If you start doing all that, then you can start booking shows as soon as things are opening up and moving again.
Whereas all the other artists are going to have to put together all this basic information when that happens and they're gonna be at least a week or two behind you unless they just start booking shows without planning. And that's not what we would ever recommend. So have all your plans drafted and you'll be ready to hit the road running that does it for this episode of the band. I've podcast Thanks so much for tuning in, and here is to touring and shows returning in 2021 towards the end of the year.
As long as it's safe. I would love to go to a show this year. Wouldn't that just be amazing if we could all start going to shows again? So if you are in a band who wants to tour, make sure you start planning out your tours now, so you're not caught sleeping on the job. Once bookings do start picking up, thanks again for listening. We'll be back with another new episode of the band I've podcast next Tuesday at 6 a.m. In your favorite podcast app. Until then, have an awesome week.
Stay healthy And, of course, as always, keep rocking
Find out how!