Are you a musician or band ready to take your career to the next level and plan a music tour? If so, you've come to the right place. We're about to detail the essential steps to effectively plan your music tour.
Touring can be a great way to promote your music and expand your fan base. But it can also be tricky to plan correctly. Show dates, budget, logistics, merchandise, and setlist are just some of the critical elements that must be planned. And you may need to consider assembling a team to help you get the show on the road.
The 12 key steps to successfully plan a music tour are:
- Ensure You Have Enough Music
- Consider Assembling a Team
- Secure Venues and Gig Dates
- Work Out Your Budget
- Plan the Logistics
- Look for an Opening Act
- Draw Up Your Set List
- Make Your Merchandise
- Determine How You’ll Make Money
- Write & Distribute a Press Release
- Update and Send Out Your EPK
- Market Your Tour
Apart from these crucial elements, you’ll also need to consider how you’ll make money on the road. And marketing your tour will be just as vital.
This article will outline some guidelines for planning and executing your first tour successfully. We’ll provide you with the essential steps to take and offer some additional tips along the way.
12 Essential Steps to Plan a Music Tour
1. Ensure You Have Enough Music
Before you can even think about touring, you must have a catalog of music to play live. This doesn't have to be an extensive catalog. But you should at least have enough songs to entertain a crowd for an hour or so.
Therefore, it’s ideal to plan a music tour when you have a good 10 to 15 songs in your pocket. These should be songs that showcase what you offer as a musician and will entertain a crowd. They should also be songs you can perform well live.
Playing a cover song to beef up your show is not entirely off the table. But it should be a last resort and should certainly not exceed one or two songs. Remember that if you're going to play someone else's music live and profit from it, you must do so legally. Find out what your options are and the cost involved.
2. Consider Assembling a Team
When you plan a music tour, something to consider is who you’ll take with you. Putting a good tour together is no small task. Therefore, you'll benefit from putting a good team together if the budget allows.
This may mean engaging the services of a manager, promoter, account, and marketing professional. Adding a sound technician to your team will ensure that your audio quality is at its best from one venue to the next. And bringing a lighting technician on board would be beneficial, especially if the lighting is integral to your performance.
That said, it’s worth noting that some venues have their own in-house sound and lighting technicians. So, it’s exploring your options in this regard when speaking to venue managers.
If money is tight right now, perhaps just hire a manager and promoter, as these will be the most critical hires. These professionals will help you get ready for your first tour. It would also be to your advantage to speak to tour managers and booking agents. If you have some budget to spend on this, it's a good idea to speak to a few tour managers and booking agents.
These experienced individuals can help you plan your tour dates, find venues, secure transport, and take care of all the logistics for you. And this could provide a great deal of relief if you're not familiar with how touring works.
3. Secure Venues and Gig Dates
Without a tour manager or booking agent at your disposal, you’ll need to tackle all the planning and scheduling yourself. Once you have some tentative dates in mind, start planning out the prospective route of your tour.
You'll need to think about things like how many gigs you want to do each night and how long each gig should last. You’ll also want to consider which cities or towns you want to visit and how much traveling you're prepared to do.
Bear in mind that the availability and willingness of venues to allow you to perform will dictate your dates and route. Don't be surprised if things don't work out exactly as planned. You may well have to double-back to a venue in a town you've already passed through. And that's not the end of the world.
The important thing is that you start contacting potential venues and planning early enough to avoid surprises. You should give yourself at least 3 to 6 months to plan a music tour. This will give you enough time to secure bookings and plan your route accordingly.
It's also a good idea to ensure no clashes with other major music events when selecting tour dates. You don't want to compete for fans.
Have a look at our blog post on “How To Get Gigs For Musicians And Bands” to help you secure those venues.
4. Work Out Your Budget
The budget for your tour will be dictated by your overall approach. For instance, if you’re planning to stay in hotels and fly from city to city, then you’ll need a larger budget. However, if you rent a large van and camp en route, you could get away with very few overheads.
That said, you should make provision for the basic costs, rather than rely on what you could potentially earn on tour. Therefore, vehicle rental, accommodation, fuel, and food are all things you'll need money for on the road. Remember, though, that you'll also need to pay for any merchandise you have made before you leave.
5. Plan the Logistics
Once the dates have been planned, it's time to start thinking about the practicalities of touring. This includes things like transport, accommodation, and food. For instance, you’ll need to decide on the type of vehicle you need and where you’ll sleep. You’ll also need to determine whether you’ll have the facilities to cook your own food or if you’ll be eating out.
It's also essential to think about the time and resources you’ll need for soundchecks, meet and greets, and merchandise sales. Therefore, it's best to give yourself sufficient time before and after your show to arrange these other essential aspects of the tour.
Next, you’ll do your official mapping of routes between each venue. And you’ll establish how long you need to travel between towns and cities. Once you're sure of where you're going and when you can start arranging for accommodation along these routes if necessary.
If possible, try booking your accommodation in advance, so there are no surprises when it comes time to check in at each location. And make sure to double-check the amenities they provide beforehand, such as Wi-Fi access and parking. This way, nothing is forgotten during your stay, which could cause problems later down the line. And it will help you avoid any unnecessary strain on your finances or stress levels while on tour.
It's also essential to think about food. Will you be catering for yourself, or is there a local pub/café which offers good deals?
6. Look for an Opening Act
As a new band on tour, you'll want to find some good supporting acts to work with. This can be tricky because there are so many bands out there.
Perhaps you know someone who already has an established fan base. If so, this could be the perfect opportunity for them to come along and support your show. It's also a great way of building relationships with other musicians in the industry. These relationships will benefit you when it comes time for future tours or collaborations.
If you plan a music tour covering multiple regions, you could consider using a different supporting act in each area. Irrespective, you’ll need to take the logistics involved into account. If you enlist one band for the entire tour, you must make provisions for them to tour with you. However, if you come to an agreement with a different act in each region, you’ll need to plan your schedule thoroughly.
That said, find out if any other bands or artists are performing in the same regions simultaneously. It may be worth your while approaching them and offering to perform as their opening act while you’re in town. This would be a fantastic way to gain additional exposure to their fanbase.
7. Draw Up Your Set List
The next step is to start thinking about what songs you'll play at each gig. You need enough material to hold your own and entertain the crowd. But not so much that you’re your act seems to go on forever, and you end up boring the crowd.
It's a good idea to start off with a bang to get the audience energized and in the mood. But don't deliver all your best material at the start of the show. Spread it out a little, sprinkling in some slower or lesser-known songs in between. Always end your set with something memorable to leave a lasting impression.
It's also worth researching local radio stations to see if any would like to include some of your music in their programming. This could whet the appetites of potential fans before your music tour comes to town. And, based on the popularity of those songs, it may help to inform your setlist.
8. Make Your Merchandise
You must have some band or artist merchandise ready to sell at each gig. T-shirts, hoodies, CDs, vinyl records, stickers, and buttons are great options. If people enjoy your music, there’s a good chance they’ll want to support you by buying your merchandise. They may also want to wear merch to let others know they love your music.
You can always get creative with the designs on these products. Try to find an up-and-coming designer or artist in your community to create your designs. Just make sure that the design style aligns with your or your band's brand and aesthetic. This way, the artwork for your merchandise and albums will be unique and distinguishable.
Remember to offer a range of t-shirts, hoodies, etc., in both men’s and women's cuts, so there's something for everyone. The idea is to make your fans feel like they're part of something bigger than themselves. And this will hopefully encourage them to continue streaming and buying your music and merchandise in the future.
9. Determine How You’ll Make Money
One of the primary questions musicians ask when they plan a music tour is how they will make money from the tour. If everything goes well, the tour should pay for itself. But it's always good to have some cash available if things don't go according to plan. Generally, your earnings will come via ticket and merchandise sales.
You should, therefore, try selling as many advance tickets as possible for each gig. And ensure you have plenty of merchandise to sell after each performance. Most people want a souvenir from shows they attend, so they will part happily with some cash here. You could even set up an online store where fans can buy concert merchandise before or after shows.
However, some artists also charge for signings and meet and greets before or after shows. This will also make those who attend feel extra special and bring in more money for you or your band.
Another way you’ll earn money is through the increased number of streams and downloads of your music. Once you’ve played a few gigs, you’ll gain some exposure and, hopefully, more dedicated fans. This should see your number of streams and downloads on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music rise.
This, of course, is only applicable if you’ve released your music to these and other platforms. If not, this is something you should prioritize. And we advise that you work with a reputable distributor to get your music distributed and published successfully.
Contact the experts at Sugo Music Group to discuss your options. Sugo Music Group doesn't charge any set-up fees and can distribute your music to over 200 streaming and download services hassle-free.
10. Write & Distribute a Press Release
You must create a press release which will be sent out before each performance on tour. This will help attract attention from the media and fans alike. The primary objective would be to promote upcoming tour gigs in the area. But you should also include details about who you or your band members are, their musical influences, etc.
The idea is for journalists, bloggers, and other pertinent members of the media to publish the press release on their respective platforms. Ensure all contact information is included at the end of every press release. And you should also provide your social media handles and website URL.
11. Update and Send Out Your EPK
One of the most essential tools in any musician’s arsenal is their electronic press kit (EPK). It’s the ultimate resume for promoting an artist or band. And you should make every effort to ensure it’s up to date at all times.
Your EPK will be central to both your planning and promotional efforts. When securing venues, your team, and opening acts, you'll use your EPK to promote yourself. You'll also use it to market the actual tour once you've finalized dates and planned your schedule.
As you plan a music tour, you should add all confirmed tour dates and venue information to your EPK. You can then send this out to members of the press and relevant music industry role players to help promote your tour.
If you’re not sure about how to create an EPK, have a look at our step-by-step guide here.
12. Market Your Tour
Of course, your most effective mean of marketing will be via social media. And you must maintain your artist profile by posting content consistently. If you've uploaded posts and stories regularly, at least a few times a week, you'll start to gather a following. Then, when it comes time to promote your tour, you can leverage your audience to market your tour.
If you have an artist website, chances are you have started building a mailing list. Perhaps you’re already frequently sending newsletters to your mailing list of fans. Sending out tour venue and date announcements to your mailing list is a great way to promote your tour. You could also offer those on your mailing list early bird ticket sales at a discounted price.
Your press release and EPK will serve as essential online and print media marketing tools. However, it may be prudent to reach out to podcasts, radio stations, and vloggers for interview opportunities. This will help to boost awareness massively.
You should also speak to the venues and supporting acts you’ve secured regarding promotion opportunities. It would be ideal to partner with them to promote your upcoming gig dates on their social media pages. This will go a long way to getting the word out there. And it’s more likely to draw in an audience closer to your target market.
So, there you have it. 12 steps to help you plan your music tour successfully. Planning your own music tour is certainly not an easy task. But if done right, it can be an enriching experience both for you and your fans.
Remember to keep everything as organized as possible. And consider all the different aspects that need to be planned ahead of time. Give everything from your press release and setlist to travel arrangements and merchandise sales the time it needs. Your music tour should be a big hit with sufficient planning and dedication.