5 Big Tips That Will Save Your Band’s Tour

There’s a lot of great advice out there about how to book a tour but I haven’t found many things about how to survive on tour. Going out on the road can sometimes be a dangerous affair: long hours on the road with little sleep, many late nights, financial risks, etc. 80s band Flock of Seagulls recently had over $70,000 worth of gear stolen from them on tour right outside of their hotel!

Here are 5 easy tips to remember that can save your band’s tour and avoid disaster:

  1. Set a Driving Schedule: For most of my touring career, driving consisted of having whoever felt the least tired drive for as long as possible, then switching off to someone else when they got too tired. There was no set order and sometimes people would make irresponsible decisions (drink after a show so they couldn’t drive or not getting the rest needed, etc). I had too many friends get in horrible accidents in tour and knew something needed to change.With my current band, The Slants, that changed. We now have a specific driving order set before the tour begins and everyone is responsible for a 3 hour driving shift in the day or 2 hour shift at night. The schedule is posted in the bus so people can see who is next and prepare accordingly. This way, we get a 1-2 day break between shifts and people give up beds for those about to take the wheel next. The driver also gets privileges like deciding what’s on the radio. We also have a co-pilot to make sure the driver is alert and can help them stay awake as well.One other thing: plan your route carefully. I know our band’s limits so I make sure the route doesn’t exceed a safe, reasonable driving schedule each day.
  2. Secure Your Gear: We all know stories about bands who get their gear ripped off during tour – people break into trailers, steal vans, or sometimes steal gear from the back of the venue. Luckily, my bands have never had that problem. It’s probably because we are paranoid about our gear. Here’s what we do:
    1. Add Deterrents: A wheel lock like the club is good. A wheel lock, like this one, with a 125 db alarm and flashing strobe is better. If you have some extra money to spend, this list has even better ones. The harder you make it for someone to break in, the better. Another easy trick to protect your bus/van is to unhook the distributor cap at night.
    2. Get Better Locks: If you have a trailer, you better be using the “puck” style lock. It’s much stronger and can’t be cut off. You should also get a locking hitch and locking hitch pin as well.
    3. Park Smart: When staying the night somewhere, back up the vehicle/park against walls so that it is harder to open large doors. If you have another car, have it block the vehicle in.
    4. “Night Guard:” If we are unsure about a place, 1-2 people will sleep in the vehicle overnight. In the past, I’ve also created a dummy using a sleeping bag and mannequin head, to feign someone sleeping inside.
    5. Cover the Windows: It seems simple, but if people can’t see what’s inside, they can’t tell if expensive equipment is inside.
    6. When in doubt, unload: I can’t tell you how many times we’ve unloaded gear into hotels and motel rooms, just to be safe. It’s better than getting your stuff stolen!
  3. Get Healthy Habits: Make sure everyone stays hydrated and eats well. A case of water and bottle vitamins is a small investment. Try to avoid fast food if you can. Get to know some remedies for the times that someone gets sick.
  4. Deposit Large Bills and Checks: It’s better to not have large amounts of cash on you at all times, even if you have a locked cash box. Make regular deposits and pay for gas/other expenses using a debit/credit card instead. Speaking of cash boxes, lock it up during the show. This is the one I recommend.
  5. Have an Inter-Band Agreement Before You Tour: It’s good to set realistic expectations over each other’s duties as well as having a plan on how money, responsibilities, debts, and things will be divided. What if some band members believe that merch should only be sold to get gas money but others believe some things should be given out to promote the band? What if someone has a lot of friends and takes up all of the guest list spots? Who will handle social media and promotion? Some simple communication, especially things in writing, can save a lot of heartache on the road.

Touring can be great for a band if it’s done right. Investing some time and money ahead of time can keep you and your gear safe so that you’ll be ready for another round of hitting the road!

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