1) Pack light.
I consider myself good at packing just enough for any trip. For a 3 week trip, I packed enough for each day. Just a few days in my trip, I realized I could have probably brough only HALF of what I did. Why? A big reason is because most of the venues had laundry facilities. With load in times 4 hours before a show and have a few extra hours before (and during) the show, I could have easily done a couple loads of laundry. Some of the hotels also offered laundry facilities, but most of the band waited to grab a convenient free wash at a venue – something that was new to me!
2) Research hotel / venue ahead of time.
For this tour, I was navigating a bus driver to places neither of us have been too. You’d think you could assume each venue and hotel would have bus parking, right? Wrong. I learned very quickly that you need to research where you will be ahead of time and find out exactly where the bus or vehicle of choice should be parked. When arriving in Evans, GA, we couldn’t find a sign for the event space that was apparently in a very small parking lot – FYI, HELL for a big tour bus. I was talking on the phone to a guy not giving clear instructions and trying to voice that to a frustrated bus driver who had just scraped the side of the bus by a tree in this tight parking lot. Turns out, the venue was right behind us IN THE LIBRARY (which had maybe 3-4 signs up). If I had asked or researched this ahead of time and known the venue was in the library, I would have saved minutes of frustration and the driver $100s of repair for his bus. Consider that lesson learned.
3) Get familiar with the space and staff.
5 minutes before arrival, I would call up the presenter and make sure they could meet me by the door. Once the bus stopped, I hopped off and greeted the presenter right away and ask for a tour of the space. “Show me the green room, show me the dressing rooms, show me the stage, show me the front of house, show me where the bathrooms are!” I learned to do this after the first few gigs and once I started, the days got easier knowing where everything was right away – because the band will ask YOU where everything is. Even if you are doing it on your own, get familiar with the space as soon as you can. The next thing? Shake hands with everyone on staff and introduce yourself with a smile. You want to be able to ask favors from these guys for the next few hours- whether its a run to CVS for a case of water or help with loading up the van after the show – and stay on their good side. Giving your CD or a piece of merchandise as a thank you also helps. Leave them on a good note.
4) Treat the band (or yourself) once in a while.
With this tour, I got caught up with making sure where everyone was, checking the itinerary every other 30 minutes, running through what I need to do the next morning, worrying if the driver knows where we’re going…it can get overwhelming. But, the sound engineer (and experienced tour manager) on the tour reminded me that if you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right. The band is away from friends, family, loved ones and away from their homes. Treat them once in a while. I found a late night pizza after the show delivered to the bus or a bottle of champagne for our last night all together did the trick. Remember that behind the planning and logistics, these are still people and they need to relax and enjoy their time on the road!
5) It’s all about problem solving and staying calm.
A heavy message I learned while being on the road managing 8 other people’s time, is that emotions have to be left at the door with any problems that WILL come your way. And you have to stay calm about it. This tour single handedly taught me that things will be okay and it built my strength and ability to stay calm & problem solve. For example, there was a last minute decision that the lead wanted to come out after the show and speak on music education (he authored his own string teaching method) and then sign CDs, I knew I had to step up and contact presenters as soon as possible to discuss the game plan. When we saw that getting our own mic/speaker to set up in every lobby wasn’t going to work (Guitar Center’s don’t exist everywhere, by the way), I had to chat with every presenter and discuss if the plan would be better carried out on stage, in the lobby, and who would take him to where he needs to go. I could have easily gotten overwhelmed or frustrated when things weren’t exactly how we envisioned, but you learn to work with what you have in order to make the show go on!
I could write pages and pages of my experience and what I learned, but I will leave you with what I can fit in this post.
I can happily say, I’m ready to tackle touring in the future and be more prepared than ever before! What tours are coming up in 2014? Can I come?