Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
Those who truly love music never go long without a concert performance, but like many industries, we had to endure a long gap between live events as the world faced a pandemic. Now, as a musician, the anticipation for the sense of the stage and thrill of that first applause during live performances this summer probably has you on the edge of your seat.
But before you hit the road, you have to make sure you plan your tour carefully.
The logistics of traveling can be nothing but a big headache. You’d rather focus on performing your art than transferring equipment and managing travel arrangements. As an opera singer, I spent years traveling around both Europe and the United States. I was so passionate about the music that I often didn’t think about boring little details like if there would be a staircase to carry heavy equipment up at my next venue. I was too busy learning from legends like Andrea Bocelli.
However, I learned through firsthand experience that if you cut corners in the planning stage, it will only make your life harder when you’re out on the road. These are some key planning tips to make your journey easier and your summer tour go off without a hitch, so you can put the majority of your focus on what truly matters — the music.
Trust me, going on tour is not at all like going on vacation. This is going to be your full-time job for the next few weeks or months. You can’t just throw some clothes into a bag, grab your sunglasses and catch a flight. Even if you’re a veteran, you likely haven’t toured in more than a year, so you may be slightly out of your element at first.
To have a successful tour, start planning months in advance. Write down every important task, even if it seems minor. By checking each item off your list, you can ensure nothing gets left behind. When running through your checklist, ask yourself these questions to be extra prepared:
• What concert dates will you be performing? The first step in logistics is finding and booking venues and making sure those don’t overlap. You’ll need enough travel time and setup time between each venue, so plan this stage very carefully.
• What does your team look like? Will you be performing solo or with a band? Do you need a booking agent to help handle some of the bigger concert dates? You may already have a great team in place, but sometimes summer tours may require extra help, such as a tour manager.
• Where will you stay? Trust me, you don’t want to get done with a late-night concert, so exhausted you can barely keep your eyes open, only to find out you don’t have a bed to sleep in that night. This is why planning is important; not only will it help ensure you have a place to stay, but it also will assist in keeping your budget intact.
• How will you travel? If you’re traveling as a solo act, this can be a bit simpler; but once bandmates or heavy equipment get involved, it becomes a bit trickier.
Don’t Forget Plans for Your Equipment
Your instruments are likely some of the most prized possessions you own. It is vital you plan just as carefully for this precious cargo as you do for your own transportation.
Again, start with a list of the complete inventory you will be taking with you. You might be confident you could never forget a piece of your equipment, but keeping a list doesn’t hurt and can help your stress levels in the long run. While you are writing each item down, go ahead and add a note of its value and condition, just in case anything is lost or damaged on the road.
After making your list, you next need to decide how you plan to transport each item. The answer to this is simple: very carefully. Smaller instruments can easily be carried in a case, but for bulkier equipment like amplifiers, you’ll want to plan transportation. If you have extremely difficult items to move such as a piano, you might even have to look into hiring professionals.
Trust me when I say, it’s good to know what to expect before you arrive at each venue, so call ahead and speak with your contact person before you arrive. Find out what the stage setup looks like, if there are any stairs or sharp corners to maneuver around, if there will be sound or lighting technicians on hand to help out, and how much time you will have to prepare. All of this will help you manage your time and your stress that much better.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
A summer tour is not your local backyard concert, and it’s likely you’ll need some help along the way. This isn’t anything to be ashamed of; even those who have been on the road for years haven’t done so recently and might need some extra help getting reaccustomed to tour life.
Use your contacts to your advantage. Booking agents might know how to make every extra dollar for you because they know how to work the venues and time selections. Find an assistant who can help you carry luggage and make sure you don’t skip a meal. If you’re on a tight budget, consider asking for help from a friend or a die-hard fan who would love to go on a music tour.
As you plan, consider how much of a relief it will be knowing you carefully arranged for all equipment to be where it is supposed to be and have strategies for your next venue, so you can be free to leave everything you’ve got on the stage. That is the difference planning ahead can make.