Planning Our First Tour DIY
In 2019 we decided we were going to schedule our first tour with our friend Janell Crampton and her band (which Marlon is in too) for summer 2020. We had a 10 day, full tour, with an RV booked, and places to stay. We had somehow managed to book it so that we had enough money coming in from the performances to cover most if not all of the expenses. We were set. Then 2020 hit, and we had to cancel. Everyone say it with me...."BOOOOOOOOOOO!" Now with everything reopening, we are looking back into scheduling a 2022 tour. I'm having to look back and remember everything we did to be successful the first time around so we can try to finesse and recreate that.
As I've mentioned many times, when we jumped into this, like most things, we had no idea what we were doing. I'm still not completely sure we know now what we're doing, but we did something right I guess? So if you were wondering how we did it, here it is. If you're not, I'm about to tell you anyway.
Janell and I started having weekly work days. We split the work and supported each other. Plus, it's just fun being together while we work. We started by reaching out to friends that had planned full tours before for resources. That's always the best place to start. Talk to someone who has done it. What did you use? How did you do it? More often than not, you're friends are more than willing to share their knowledge. We're all in this together, right? I know it's cheesy, but it's true.
One of the biggest things that was recommended to us was Indie On The Move. It's a great resource online where venues post the contact info for booking. The majority of the places we reached out to, that's where we got the info from. It's nice, organized, and you can type in the place you're going and see a list of booking locations near-by. First we had to create our tour map, though, so we could know where we were going and approximately when we wanted to be in that area so that we knew where to look.
When laying out our map we planned a couple different routes we could go, to give multiple options for booking. Every stop we made sure we knew someone we could stay with or lined up a camping site to park with our RV. Health was a big factor for us, and we knew we needed to make sure we always had a place to get good rest, a way to eat healthier meals and not starve ourselves all day, and a way to travel with some space to spread out. We decided to rent an RV, because it gave us a place to always stay, a refrigerator to store food and drinks, and enough room for all 7 of us to travel. It came with the added bonus of a bathroom and shower, and plenty of storage space for instruments and luggage. Also, the price was cheaper than or the same as most sprinter vans. The gas cost a little more, but with saving on food, and locations to stay the night, it balanced out, and even saved.
We also planned way ahead and rented the RV months in advance to get a better deal. We went down to check it out in person, and discuss cost. As we have mentioned before, none of us are even close to rich, so we are constantly trying to be smart about how we use our money. We also had a mission to try to at least break even when on tour, which generally doesn't happen on a first tour, but we were determined. So we laid out a budget of how much it looked like it was going to cost, with a generous cushion leaving room for error or emergencies. Then we split it up between all of us that were going on the tour so we knew how much to save over the months leading up to tour, just incase we didn't accomplish that goal. Then we split it up by how many shows we were looking to do so that we knew how much we were aiming for when booking.
Planning ahead also gave us the advantage when booking. Many places start booking out their summers pretty early on, and as we started reaching out, we were glad we were booking early. Going into this we hadn't really had to book like we were about to jump into, so we asked a lot of friends and did a lot of research. One piece of advice was to get a professional booking E-mail. So we chose to use my name on the E-mails, and name me the "Booking Agent", and then signed up through google for a business e-mail specifically for booking. Now we needed to research how to actually write a good booking e-mail. Our good ol' friend Google, always coming in clutch when we need it, gave us plenty of templates, and lots of advice.
Next we hopped back on Indie On The Move and Google with our locations mapped out, and typed them and surrounding areas into the search bar to find live music locations that fit us. We'd write the info down in spiral bound notebooks, making organized charts, sometimes remaking them as we ran out of space. We'd start with the places we wanted to stop at the top of the page. Then underneath we would write the name of venues, their contact info, and the date of original contact and a date for follow-up. Then Janell and I split the pages, and went to work!
It was a little nerve-wrecking sending the first few. I don't know why, it's not even like you see them in person. Usually the worst that will happen is you won't hear back. Only occasionally do you even hear a "No". It felt so hard to press send the first few times, though. So we would count 1,2,3 and then just do it until we got a little more comfortable.
Every time we booked something, we celebrated and were excited. It meant we must be doing something kinda right. Before we knew it, we were almost completely booked, and almost had the entire cost of the tour covered. We had a few places we were in talks with waiting to finalize when COVID hit. We held onto hope for awhile, but eventually had to reach out to postpone/cancel. We did, however, set up with a couple places to play virtually for them, so we could maybe build some fan base before we head out that way.
At first, it felt like a waste of time when we had to cancel our tour, but now looking back, we learned a lot. It was like a trial run, and now as we prepare for our next (first actual) tour, we have a head start in knowing what we want to do, and how to kind of go about it. We can't wait to hit the road, and get to make new fans and memories.
Keep an eye out for info on a 2022 tour, and let us know where you would like to see us play!