Road Hazards: 5 Challenges Of Touring and How To Avoid Them

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Patrick McGuire. Patrick is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.]

 

For young, ambitious bands, there’s nothing more exciting than hitting the road for a national tour. There’s something timelessly exciting and relatable about a band traveling from city to city in hopes of getting the world to care about its music. But while tour is capable of bringing huge benefits for artists as far as opportunities and industry credibility goes, touring can be tedious, thankless and even downright dangerous for some bands. In this article, we’ll highlight some of the road’s more serious challenges and show you how to cope with them.

1. Physical Inactivity

If you’re someone used to exercising regularly, touring for long periods of time can be especially brutal. Unless your band is raking in the dough and traveling in a big tour bus, you’ll most likely spend the majority of your days on tour crammed in a car or van. Long-term physical inactivity is hell on your body, and the longer you stay sedentary, the more your risk for things like depression and heart disease increases. One two-week tour isn’t a big deal, but if you’re a serious musician intent on touring over the course of your career, inactivity can lead to massive problems.

The only solution here is movement. Make every effort you can to move as much as possible throughout the day. Encourage your bandmates to get a gym membership at a national club and to reserve an hour or two each day for exercise. Easier said than done, of course, but if you don’t take care of yourself on the road you simply won’t be able to do it for very long.

2. Excessive Drinking and Drug Abuse

Partying is simply the funnest part of tour for some musicians, and while it’s not our place to judge here at the TuneCore Blog, booze and drugs have caused musicians more than their fair share of problems over the years, so we think it’s worth mentioning. Whether it’s a tedious eight-hour drive through the midwest or the lengthy period between loading in and performing, there’s a ton of time to kill on the road, so it’s no wonder musicians drink and use drugs to pass the time. But while casual drinking or drug use is completely harmless for some people, it can be hugely damaging for others.

Moderation is the key here for some musicians, but if you find yourself getting out of control when you drink or use drugs, it’s time to stop and even consider getting off the road altogether. Assuming that you tour because you’re a serious musician, the main goal of touring is playing well on stage and making connections on the road, and this is going to be much harder if you’re drunk and high constantly. If drinking and drugs are keeping you from being your best on the road, consider cutting down, taking a break or stopping completely.

3. Strained Relationships

Maintaining relationships out on the road can be a huge challenge whether you’re touring for the first time as a young band or are a seasoned touring veteran. Relationships are essential to the happiness of most people, and this is one of the main reasons why so many serious musicians become depressed and eventually burn out. If you plan on being a serious musician for the rest of your life, you’ll have to learn how to make relationships work on the road.

Nothing can replace the time spent away from a loved one, but there are things you can do maintain relationships while you tour. Scheduling and sticking to daily calls, FaceTime and Skype chats is one obvious option. Bringing your loved ones with you on the road for certain legs of your tours is another, though that’s not always an option for some musicians. No matter what you decide to do, just remember how vital your relationships back at home are and proceed accordingly.

4. Financial Hardship

Touring is a huge financial investment that never quite pays off for some bands. This means weeks or months at a time away from jobs and a steady source of income. There’s no way to tell for sure, but money problems have probably caused the untimely demise of many bands, and it’s not difficult to see why. Musicians are accustomed to making all sorts of sacrifices for their craft, but there’s a point where lack of money makes it impossible to keep going.

To avoid burnout over money issues, conversations need to happen long before you hit the road about your resources and limitations. Lots of bands set out with lofty goals for tour without having this conversation break up when they realize they can’t be on the road for months and pay their bills at the same time. Communication, realistic expectations and planning will help you be able to tour and keep your personal bottom line intact.

5. Lack of Sleep

Everything from the bad food to excessive drinking on tour can be hell on your body, but the lack of sleep can be especially pernicious. Not getting eight hours of sleep a night while you’re on tour might not seem like a huge deal for some bands, but sleep loss can cause everything from obesity to depression. Again, on a short tour this isn’t a problem, but it’s something that serious career musicians should address.

A major factor in sleeping issues on tour has to do with the fact that most bands can’t afford hotel rooms every night on the road. What can you do if the house you’re sleeping at has a party raging till four or five AM? Doing your best to find accommodations before you embark on a tour is essential if you hope to get good sleep on the road. Stay with friends and family when you can, and communicate your needs, even if it’s awkward to do so.

Is Touring Still Relevant In the Digital Age? Yes, Actually – More Than Ever.

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Patrick McGuire. Patrick is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.]

 

In 2017, there’s never been more ways to experience the world around us on our computers and smartphones through the omnipotent lens of the internet. The internet’s effect on how music is now being created, discovered and distributed is so profound that it’s hard to remember a time when listeners discovered new music from friends and record store clerks rather than music blogs and playlists.

For bands coming up in an era when seemingly everything can be done, seen and heard through the internet, it’s tempting to question the real value of something like touring. Is touring still relevant in the digital age? Yes, actually. More than ever before.

Where are you right now? Are you reading this article on your laptop at a coffeeshop? Or maybe you’re thumbing through it on your smartphone on the train home from work.

Look around you. Everyone’s eyes are constantly glued to some kind of a screen, and this is why the live music experience is more vital now than ever before. No amount of technology can replicate the experience of seeing a band performing their music right in front of your eyes in real time. Live music will always be a distinct and powerful experience because it’s something that can’t be translated to the world of screens.

Yes, at any given moment there’s thousands of bands live-streaming their performances from every corner of the globe that you could watch whenever you like, but that will never substitute the feeling of being there in the venue and experiencing it all for yourself in person. As our culture becomes increasingly reliant on the internet for everyday things, the need to experience nature, visual art and music right there in the moment will become more important than ever. And here’s where your band comes in.

If you make great music that you can pull off well in an engaging performance setting, people will go out of their way by rearranging their night and by paying to see you. Yes, touring is an experience filled with challenges, risk and even financial hardship for some bands, but if you’re viewing what you do as a sort of business, investing in the touring experience might be your best shot at actually earning money as a band.

Many of the fans who’ll jump at the chance to see you play live in their hometown won’t drop a dime on your new record. This is a difficult thing to accept, but it’s true whether we want to blame streaming services like Spotify, rampant music pirating or the shifting attitudes toward the value of media in the digital age. Yes, you’ll probably sell more music if you release your records on vinyl, but even with those increased sales, the days of small bands making a living purely from selling their music are pretty much over now. The live music experience will always be valuable because it can only be experienced in person, and if you’re able to present your music in a truly unique and thrilling way, there be a higher demand for your performances.

But the benefits of touring in 2017 are more than just financial. Hitting the road with your band not only builds tightness and more confidence musically, it can also give you priceless connections with other bands/artists, new fans and music industry folks that you simply couldn’t have established by releasing music and strictly playing shows in your hometown.

Yes, maintaining a social media presence can help with these things, but nothing can substitute the value of human interaction. Talking with a fan after you’ve just gotten off stage is an experience that can’t be matched with a tweet or Facebook comment. And maintaining a constant presence on the road tells press and industry people who might be interested your music know that you’re serious about what you’re doing.

Trends in music come and go every day it seems, but touring is here to stay. Unfortunately, this doesn’t change the fact that a band has to make huge sacrifices for their touring efforts to be worth it. Hitting the road for two weeks over the summer to play a few cities in your region might be fun, but it won’t make a significant difference in whether your band gains traction or not.

If you want to get the most out of hitting the road, you’ll have to book multiple tour routes a year through cities where you think you have the best shot at building a presence in. You and your bandmates will have to walk the thin line between obligations, like careers and relationships at home, and taking the time and energy to build a national presence by frequent touring.

It’s not easy, predictable or simple, but if you’ve been at this game for awhile, you probably already know that nothing in this industry is.

6 Things You Can Do To Get Your Fans to Take More Photos At Your Shows (And Why That Matters)

[Editors Note: This blog post was written by Hugh McIntyreHugh writes about music and the music industry and regularly contributes to Forbes, Sonicbids, and more.]

These days, everybody is taking photos…of everything. Now that cameras are everywhere and anyone can upload their latest capture to the world wide web in mere seconds, there is no stopping the deluge of images that continues to grow larger and larger by the hour. Some musicians are upset about this, as it distracts them when they are performing and they feel audiences aren’t paying the sort of attention they want, but none of that is going to stop how people act nowadays, so why not make the most of it?

As a working musician in a social media-focused world, you should always be on the hunt for great content. You will find yourself constantly needing something to post or to save for another day, and snaps from a concert can be the perfect filler. If you’re in the beginning stages of your career, keeping a photographer with you at all times (especially when touring) probably isn’t an option, so why not rely on your fans to supply you with the pics you’ve been looking for?

Here are a few ways to get your fans to take more photos of (and with) you, and then to share them in a way you can find them easily and repost them…with their permission and proper crediting, of course.

1. Pose!

Young people these days don’t always need to be told to take a photo—it’s in their nature by now. Most under the age of, say, 30, have extensive experience with smartphones, and the vast majority of them have become used to taking photos of almost everything in their day-to-day lives. This is the generation that has had to think of everything in terms of content, be it for Facebook, Twitter, or especially Instagram, and they have a mind for this sort of thing. If you do something fairly obvious that says “take my picture!,” chances are they will understand the message in no time.

Pose for a moment on stage, stop moving for a minute or so, put the spotlight on just you, stand with your bandmates before taking a bow at the end of the night…you can be as creative as you want with this idea, but it’s really, really easy, and you may be surprised how popular those few seconds will be in the photos you search for later.

2. Make A Special Moment

Every concert and every performance should be fun and special in its own way, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go out of your way to do something extra during at least some of your shows. What this might be differs for every band or artist and it should vary by staging, but if you do it right, you could wind up with plenty of photos and perhaps even some press.

Shoot confetti out of cannons, bring a fan up onstage and sing to them, gather two fans together and arrange a marriage proposal (this is always a crowd pleaser), use a funny prop during one of the songs, or bring out a special guest that those in the crowd might recognize, if that’s possible. Any one of these would likely end up being the highlight of that particular performance, and it just begs everybody in attendance to whip out their cameras.

3. Create a Photo Booth

This option might not yield any photos of you and your bandmates doing what you do best (performing), but it can supply you all with a different kind of picture, which can wind up being useful in its own way.

Work with the venue before you arrive to set up some sort of area specifically designed for photos. This can be a “photobooth” of sorts (though you might not want to shell out the money to rent an actual photobooth just yet), or perhaps something as simple as a backdrop. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to make this a reality, though it might cost your band a few dollars to have something printed with your band’s logo all across it, like what red carpets are lined with. If you’re meeting fans afterward, why not make sure to do so exactly where you want to, with this added bonus? It might help push a new song or album, or maybe just a hashtag you are trying to promote.

4. Suggest A Hashtag

Speaking of a hashtag, that is something else that younger music lovers are already familiar with, and once you’ve given it to them, they know exactly what to do with it (usually). You can print the hashtag, which should be easy to understand, make sense, and be as short as possible, and people will see it. Show flyers, event reminders online, and perhaps even posters placed throughout the venue can all feature the phrase, and you can even mention it while performing, but don’t be annoying here, because while most young people don’t mind being asked and reminded about a hashtag, especially if there is any incentive to go tweet it or Instagram it, they can very quickly become a nuisance, and once that has happened, nobody wants to be a part of the movement.

5. Post On Social Media

Since you are looking for pictures to share on social media later on, why not use the medium to influence more fans to start taking pictures in the first place? Start posting on your accounts telling everybody flat out that you are on the hunt for some really excellent snaps. This will let those who catch the missives know to go out of their way to do so when they are at your next show, and you never know what pics are already out there sitting on phones or in folders on computers, just waiting to be unearthed by those who are into your music who might not have realized anybody was interested in their digital souvenirs.

Also, once you begin posting pictures shot by concert attendees and tagging them (and thanking them in your tweet), it won’t take long for people to get the idea and start sharing openly. Who doesn’t want a little recognition for a well-framed picture and a thank you from a musician or band they like?

6. Ask Them

If all else fails, or if you’re feeling particularly lazy—or perhaps if you just want to be direct and honest with your fans—why not just ask them to take some photos and share them? While you’re on stage and chatting in between songs (if that’s your thing, which isn’t the case with every artist), casually mention that you love seeing pictures from your shows on social media.

You don’t need to beg or plead, and please don’t be obnoxious about it (nothing is worse than someone bugging you to snap an excessive number of pics of them), but if you’re doing a good job and entertaining those who paid to see you, and since some of them will already be taking photos on their phones anyway, nudge the rest of the audience to do the same, and you may be surprised to see how many come flowing in over the next few days.

How To Prevent Psyching Yourself Out Before a Show

[Editors Note: This article was written by Anthony Cerullo and originally appeared on the Sonicbids Blog.]

It’s a quiet Thursday night, and you’ve just gotten home from a long day of giving music lessons. Now that the distractions of the day have dissipated, it’s just you and your thoughts. Yes, those pesky thoughts that bounce off the empty walls in your room, teasing you with every chance they get.

This time, they’re focused on the big gig tomorrow night. It’s at a high-profile venue and a large turnout is expected. The opportunity is substantial, but instead of excitement, your brain focuses on the stress. Memories of last week’s show haunt you as every wrong note, missed cue, and voice crack dance around your brain.

You try to block out these negative feelings by thinking of rainbows and unicorns, but even that’s helpless. Sleep becomes a wasted attempt as the sensation of public humiliation before a large audience is all but a burning reality. Worst-case scenarios continue to repeat themselves throughout the night and even the next day leading up to the show.

Some may think feelings like this are nothing more than a little anxiety, but psyching yourself out can have a major impact on a performance. If the bulk of your time leading up to a show is filled with negative thoughts, that will likely lead to a poor performance.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though. A solution exists for even the most anxiety-plagued musicians around.

Seeing is believing

Say what you will about visualization, but there’s some truth to it. That’s not to say that just by thinking about a boat, you’re going to get it, but thinking positively can certainly help with a musical performance.

If you still are skeptical about this, though, introduce yourself to Michael F. Scheier and Charles S. Carver. These two men brought the science of optimism to the forefront in 1985. Before that, this type of thinking was nothing but theory, but now researchers have embraced the research and have confirmed the powers of positive thinking.

Just like intense negative thinking can lead to a dramatic decrease in quality of your playing, the same is true for the opposite. By reinforcing positive thinking, an actual increase in performance quality is possible. That’s right – simply imagining how you’re going to play will translate into reality. It sounds crazy, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense.

For example, think about when you practice an instrument. You’ve probably heard the term “muscle memory.” By practicing the correct patterns repeatedly, it’s as if your fingers remember the movements easily. Eventually, by practicing these good habits, they become more natural until you’re hardly thinking about the notes in a given scale. Now, think about when you practice a pattern incorrectly. Poor habits are developed which are much harder to get rid of.

Well, it turns out this same occurrence can be found in our mentality. By reinforcing your brain with positive thoughts, it becomes a more natural feeling until positivity practically bleeds from your pores.

Again, this may seem like some mumbo-jumbo made up by some two-bit psychologist, but there’s truth to it. A few years ago, psychologists at Purdue University tested this theory out among professional golfers. Their conclusion showed that with positive thinking, golfers’ performance actually increased. If it can work for them, it can work for you.

What not to do

Now that you have some idea of how to think positively, it’s important to know what not to do.

When you have negative images in your head, it’s not just a matter of blocking them out. In fact, blocking them out actually makes the situation worse. You may think you’re thinking about them less, but suppressing negative thoughts mean you’re only increasing the chances of them invading your head once again.

For example, for the next minute, try not to think of a metallic purple magic school bus. So, how long did that take before you thought of it? Using that logic, you have to reinforce the ideas that you actually want, not what you don’t want.

When you’re thinking about an upcoming performance, it’s important to think about specific words you want to use. Avoid words like “don’t” (e.g., “Don’t play the chorus too fast this time”). Instead, say something like “Be mindful of the tempo during the gig.” That way, you aren’t just focusing on the thing you want to avoid and therefore making it more likely to occur.

Put a stop to that evil voice in your head

We all know that evil voice – its sole job is to pollute your mind with negative images, but it’s really up to you whether you want to put up with it. You’re going to see images, both good and bad, no matter what the situation is, so you may as well make them positive ones.

When a thought pops up in your head, ask yourself if this is a constructive thought or a negative one. If it’s a negative one, then simply redirect your focus to something that will help you become more successful.

The thing is that negative thoughts tend to be more natural. We can thank our survival instincts for that one. According to Clifford Nass, a professor of communication at Stanford University, negative thoughts are processed more thoroughly than positive ones. As a result, we tend to contemplate unpleasant events with stronger words than we do with pleasant events.

Because of this, we have to try a lot harder to direct our focus to positivity. Over time, your ability to focus on good images will become better conditioned, not unlike practicing an instrument. Eventually, you won’t have to try so hard to think positively, and you’ll have more control over your mind during important moments like that big gig coming up tomorrow night.

How To Build a Great Set List

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog post written by Mason Hoberg. Mason is a freelance writer who covers music-related topics and is a regular contributor to Equipboard.]

One of the hardest parts about being a musician is that unless you come from a genre that’s acceptable in academia, (essentially just classical or opera), no one ever really teaches you the finer elements of stagecraft. Most musicians have to learn things like building a set list, using a microphone, or setting up a stage by trial and error.

Like any other craft there is a lot of variation in how you can approach the more technical apects, but there’s still a few things that you should know in order to put on as good of a show as you possibly can. This article is going to give you all the information that you need to perform one of the most important parts of being a good musician – building a great set list:

Using Tempo

Your first focus when building a set list is to make sure that you don’t perform in chunks or divide your set list too predictably when it comes to tempo. You shouldn’t have four slow songs followed by four fast songs. All that happens when you do that is that you cut the effect of every song in your set. Your fast songs don’t seem as intense, and your slow songs seem boring and drawn out.

This still holds true if you play a genre like metal or rap also, because “fast” and “slow” are relative terms. I’m not saying that if you’re in a super speed metal band you’ve got to break out the acoustic guitars every show. Just be aware of the dynamics of the songs in your set relative to one another, and play them in an order that avoids monotony.

There are a few different schools of thought on how to use tempo, but really there’s only one principle you need to follow; don’t focus on the song, focus on the show. Ideally, your fastest songs should directly precede or follow your slowest ones. Mid-tempo songs should go between one extreme or the other, but never in the same way repeatedly. For example, don’t build a set that’s fast song, mid-tempo song, slow song, repeated ad nauseam.

Know Your Keys

Just like tempo, you want to make sure that you don’t play every song in the same key. However, this isn’t quite as strict because playing in the same key for a few songs in a row isn’t quite as noticeable as playing at the same tempo. When it comes to keys, just use your best judgement.

A good rule of thumb is that if two songs in the same key could potentially be mistaken for one another there should probably be a few songs between them, if not several.

Know The Length Of All Your Songs

Knowing the length of your songs is super important because you’re never going to play a show without a set time slot. You’re generally going to have one to two hours at the most, and you’re going to want to make the most of them.

Two days before I do a show (I never sing or play the day before a show, I prefer to spend that day getting lots of rest and drinking a ton of water) I run through my whole set and time out every song. Then I open up Polaris Office and type out my set list, putting the keys and time right next to the song.

It’s important that you do this before every show, because as you practice your songs they’re gradually going to change a bit from performance to performance. It might only be a difference of 10 or 15 seconds, but if you’re playing a two hour show those tiny differences in song length will start to add up.

Also, make sure that you give yourself 10 minutes of space in your alloted time slot whenever you do a show. This covers the time that you’ll spend retuning (which you should do every four or five songs) and the time that your frontman will spend interacting with the audience. If you’re worried you won’t use up the whole ten minutes throughout the course of your show, put an extra song on your setlist that you can use to fill up that gap

90% Of The Audience’s Impression Comes From The First And Last Song

The harsh reality of being a musician is that the impression you make on your audience is made up of a million small moments. The most important of which is how they feel after hearing your first song, and how they feel when they feel at the end of your show.

The reason for this is that it’s the only time you can really guarantee their attention. Everyone’s mind starts to wander throughout the course of a show. Maybe the guy in the first row gets distracted by the cute bartender. Or the hipster girl’s attention starts to wander five songs in and she decides she’d rather be flicking through Instagram. While that’s not ideal, it’s not all that big of a deal. So long as they can hear you, (which they probably will), you’re still good.

However, when you play your first song they’ll watch you because they’re curious. And when you play your last song they’ll watch you because they expect some sort of finale. So make sure that you bring out your best stuff towards the beginning and end of your show.

Leave the stuff you’re not quite as confident about to the middle, because your audience is only really going to remember the parts of your show where they were most engaged.

In Conclusion

Like many parts of being a musician, building a great set list isn’t really complicated so much as it’s just something that requires some forethought. Remember to capitalize on the periods of your set that will have the most engagement, be aware of the length of each of your songs, and remember to avoid monotony by recognizing the tempos of every song on your set list. Most importantly, have fun. Not every musician is going to hit it big, but every musician can have a great time performing.

Feel like I missed something? Feel free to tell me all about it in the comments section below!

13 Tips For Getting the Gig From Talent Buyer Christina LaRocca

Hello music makers!

My name is Christina LaRocca, Founder/CEO of L Rock Entertainment.   As a talent buyer with a decade of experience, I get somewhere between 25-100 requests A DAY from bands all over the country, asking to play the Big Apple or looking for assistance with tour booking.  How do I choose which bands are the best fit for my shows?

First impressions are everything.  Remember you are contacting a human being, so it’s best to treat them like one.  No one is going to reply to an email that says: “My band is awesome you need to book us…check it out man www.weareanawesomeband.com”

With that in mind, here are some great tips to help you get the gig: Continue reading “13 Tips For Getting the Gig From Talent Buyer Christina LaRocca”