The Unspoken Rules of How to Treat a Touring Band (for artists)

As an touring artist myself,  I’m sometimes booked with local acts who are either new to the industry or unaware of common courtesy when it comes to working with an out of town band. There are certain unspoken rules that really come down to common sense and decency when you play with other bands. One hopes to treat others well so that in the karmic circle of touring, you’ll have other acts treat you with the same respect in return. Plus, most musicians hold grudges for a long time…if you screw them over, you’ll lose opportunities in the future yourself.

Door Money: If you’re playing with a band that is going to be on the road for the next several weeks (or months), give your share to the out of town act, especially if you’re opening for them. The only exception is if they have a large guarantee and will be set for their travels. But if they’re struggling playing small to mid-size rooms and are just trying to grow their fan base or will be driving all night because they don’t have place to stay, step it up and give them your share. Not only will they be grateful, but they’ll be more likely to help you get a show or some fans when you play their town. You’ll also make the venue happy because you’ll ease their guilt if they aren’t able to pay a hardworking touring band as much as they’d like.

Shorten Your Set: If you are opening for an out of town act, play a shorter set so that they get more stage time and won’t be going on after midnight. You don’t want to be the ones on the other side of the coin, playing thousands of miles from home at 1:30am because some lame local act played so long, everyone left the club.

Engage Your Fans: Encourage your friends/fans to buy merchandise from the band on tour first, then to consider your own. Whenever I go to shows and see an artist promoting someone else, I buy something from both bands. It’s the decent thing to do.

Headliner: Unless its an established national artist, most touring bands prefer a strong local to headline instead. If you know you can get a crowd to the show, don’t be afraid to headline. It will make you look good anyway.

Share the Hospitality: I remember once on a very long tour, we got to the club late because of traffic (and drove over 14 hours straight to get there too). We were starving and exhausted. The club provided food but the other bands and their friends that they invited to the green room ate almost all of it so we were forced to wait until after our set to eat. Just consider others before yourself.

Use Your Brain…and Your Heart: If you remember the golden rule (treat others how you want to be treated), it’ll be likely that other bands will throw more shows your way. Your opportunities to tour with a band who has an established following in other markets will increase. You’ll feel good for helping a starving artist. But if you are a greedy douche bag, no one will want to help you get you where you want to go.


  1. Jeff says:

    This is so true! Especially the short set thing. But, we’ve experienced all if this . . .

  2. Elaine M says:

    Quality articles!

  3. Alan says:

    Yeah, but venues really should plan on feeding everyone working the show and keeping friends out. When I was crew we had to eat, there was nowhere anywhere near to go, and we had to eat. Hell, I woulda paid.

    • Simon Tam says:

      Hi Alan,

      Sure but that doesn’t really have to do with how bands treat each other. Different venues have different rules; most of the better ones have appropriated spaces like a green room so that bands can eat, shower, rest, etc.

  1. […] of how we treat one another are in these expectations that are never clarified. When I wrote about The Unspoken Rules of How to Treat a Touring Band, it was because some artists were very natural about being courteous to their fellow touring acts […]

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  3. […] and don’t treat other bands like crap. They are your allies, not your competition. Learn the unspoken rules of how to treat a touring band. The better you treat your peers, the better off you’ll […]

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