"Touring is like being in limbo. It's like going from nowhere to nowhere." - Bob Dylan
Touring is a lot of long, boring days of uncomfortable travel interspersed with the occasional half-hour or so of stage time high. Touring is not at all how it's presented in the movies and TV – it's not nearly that much fun and they leave out all of the boring parts. But since you're a singer/songwriter/performer, your performance skills define who you are. And so, you must, at some point, go out on the road. It's probably a little early in your career path to discuss the specific ins-and-outs of touring, inasmuch as you need to conquer your hometown first; but there are realities and pratfalls ahead and you might as well get to know them now.
Here then are the seven most important things to remember as a touring musician that must be memorized in order to survive. There's no trick to coming out healthy, wealthy and wise at the end of a tour (assuming you started the tour that way), as long as you follow these few simple tenets.
- Assume nothing – call ahead. Just because your plane is scheduled to leave at noon, that doesn't mean that it's actually going to leave at noon. Just because the morning hotel desk clerk assured you of a late check-out, that doesn't mean that the afternoon clerk knows anything about it (and, of course, the hotel manager is gone for the day). And when the people you call get irritated at your insistence on double-checking, you should calmly suggest a few ways in which their lives could be improved by the addition of this rule.
- Eat whenever you can. One of the reasons people burn out on the road is that they don't eat when they should – and you should eat whenever there's food available. Do not believe the idle promise that everyone's going to dinner at some great place later; it probably won't happen. If there's food available and you have 20 minutes, eat it now.
- Sleep whenever you can. That's the other reason people burn out on the road - they don't sleep enough, if at all. If there's a place to lie down and you have 20 minutes available, lie down, close your eyes and rest. Trust me – you're not going to miss anything. In any event: sleep is the key.
- Get a moderate amount of exercise every day. No need to run five miles or cross train, just a good walk will do. Walking downstairs to the hotel bar is not exercise.
- Always have your own transportation or an alternative to whatever transportation you're in. Never ride with someone else if you have your own car; make them ride with you. Never go anywhere if there's no taxi/Uber/Lyft available to take you back.
- Always get a receipt. It doesn't really matter what you DO while on tour, as long as you get a receipt.
- Nothing is ever definite until after it happens. If you aren't sure what this means, just wait. You will.
So, there they are – the Seven Rules of the Road. Actually, when you stop to think about it, these rules could be applied to your LIFE, as well as just mundane touring.
"A lot of people can't stand touring, but to me it's like breathing." - Bob Dylan
Larry Butler is a 40-year veteran of the live music performance business – bar band musician, club and concert promoter, tour manager, and VP Artist Relations at Warner Bros. Records for 20 years, working solely on tours and artist performances. His book - The Singer/Songwriter Rule Book: 101 Ways To Help You Improve Your Chances Of Success - is available at Amazon in digital and print form for only $10. He can be reached through his website: www.diditmusic.com