If you’re in an aspiring band and haven’t quite reached rock star status yet, you may find yourself at some point in a rank smelling, speeding piece of metal, elbow to elbow with four or five mates smelling equally rank, and realize you have no idea where you are. This scenario is called touring. (Just to reassure you, rock stars experience the same scenario, just in a bigger speeding piece of metal.)

And yet, if you want to grow your audience, hone your chops and sell your new release, you must get out and play. Depending on your ambition level, touring can be crucial to success. Meeting new fans, growing your audience, and the experience itself is the point of a great tour. Having a few goals in mind and some touring tools at your disposal will make for a solid base upon which you and your band can grow. Here are a few disaster scenarios you can easily avoid, and tips for paving the way to successes while on the road.

What To Bring:

  • Credit card for emergencies
  • Roadside assistance card/insurance
  • Mobile credit card reader for merch sales (Square, iZettle, PayPal Here, etc.)
  • Duct tape—this will come in handy for numerous situations, from mending guitar cases to a faulty muffler
  • External batteries/charger for phone
  • Extra guitar strings, drum sticks, cables, batteries
  • Cash for merch sales change, tolls, parking
  • Complete itinerary of your tour including addresses, phone numbers, load in and set times

Planning for Success:

  • Announce your dates on social media, emails and even phone calls. Set up interviews with local press and college radio and send out press releases starting a month before your tour.
  • Advance your dates one to two weeks before the tour to confirm shows and secure load in, sound check and set times.
  • Plan for just two to three selections of items to sell (ie. T-shirt, key chains and CDs) and set aside a limited amount of free merch for DJs who play your album and people who put you up for the night.
  • Bring a notebook or laptop to store fan email addresses and other contact info.
  • After your tour, follow up with anyone you’ve come into contact on the road to thank them.

Dealing with On-The-Road Mishaps:

  • NEVER leave gear and instruments in the vehicle overnight. Lock your vehicle when left unattended and if you must keep instruments in the car, make sure they are out of sight.
  • Keep photos and store a list of all tour instruments and gear, including serial numbers.
  • Do a final check after loading out of club and before leaving your room for the next show. That means surveying all areas including the stage to make sure nothing is forgotten, including instruments, stands, gear and merch.
  • Obey the speed limits and traffic laws. Tickets add up.
  • If you do break down or get delayed, be professional: call the club and let them know.
  • If you’re new to a town, there’s likely be a show where you will play to a single person in the audience—and that may well be the bartender. No matter what, make the best of it and perform as if the room were full. You never know who will be watching.

Over the course of repeated touring, you’ll add on to or develop your own list of what to bring on tour and how to get the most out of your shows. The experience, including any missteps, mistakes or complications, is invaluable and will make you a road worthy and well prepared touring band. And the more successful a tour is, the more likely you’ll enjoy your time in a cramped moving vehicle on your way to a great gig.