5 Lessons I Learned From My Terrible Tour

Tour van - Pyragraph

Photo courtesy of Joy Ike.

Originally posted at Grassrootsy.

So i just got back from a 9-day Midwest Tour…and it was pretty terrible!  To be honest, the Midwest is pretty new territory for me and I’d only been to two of the cities in the past. And only one of those two cities counted as a legitimate show on this specific trip. So I’m not lying when I say that I feel like I wasted nine days of my life.

Despite that fact, I did make a handful of solid fans, collected about 50 new email addresses, and sold some CDs. But I spent a lot of time in my car in between cities trying to figure out what went wrong and what I could do better. I came up with the following five learned lessons.

1. You can’t (always) judge a book by its cover.

This trip totally threw me for a loop. The venues that looked lame (based on their websites) turned out to be the best nights of the trip. And the venues that looked fully professional turned out to be my worst shows. Just because a venue has a great website doesn’t mean they’ve got their act together. In most cases it does, but this isn’t always the case. Be sure to ask your fellow artists their opinion of the venue and do whatever you can do to make sure you won’t be wasting your time.

2. You probably don’t have fans in a city you’ve never played.

Common sense, right?!?  Well it’s easy to forget, but remembering this fact is key to your mental stability. Just because you can sell out a show in your hometown doesn’t mean you can do this anywhere else…yet. If people don’t know you, how can they come to your show in mass? Remember this, because when you drive three hours to get to the next city and there are only 10 people there, it will be much easier to deal with the reality of your obscurity.

3. Your fellow artist is your greatest ally.

The best night of my trip took place in a divey theater of sorts. The venue looked pretty run down and the website wasn’t very telling. But a local artist went out of her way to include me in a lineup of other locals.  She promoted the heck out of the show and we worked closely together to make the night as good as it could be. I handled the artwork, and she created the Facebook invite. We communicated with each other as much as necessary to make sure the night was the best it could be. We left consistent posts on the Facebook event wall to generate excitement and keep people interested. (See: 5 Rules For Creating Facebook Invites). 

For me, this show was a reminder that a show can easily be successful when all the artists are equally invested in promoting it. This was also the best night financially. How well you promote a show is directly connected to how much you make.

4. Weeknights will always be harder.

It’s just a fact. Most people go out on Fridays and Saturdays so Monday through Thursday will almost always be harder to book and promote. Keep this in mind when you’re booking a tour because it means that your Friday and Saturday shows need to be good…like, really good. They’re your anchor days and in most cases your weekend shows will make you the most money.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how strategic your booking should be when you’re just trying to fill holes in your calendar.

5. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst…always!

This is my mantra and the only way I stay sane. If you’re an independent artist, you have no choice but to roll with the punches. Things change. Things fall apart. Venues close down their business without telling you…and then you find out through their Facebook status update (yes, this actually happened). The only way to stay level-headed is to hope for the absolute best, but prepare yourself for the absolute worst. Go into every show hoping to sell 20 albums, but don’t be discouraged when you only sell two. Don’t flip out when the venue double-books the night and you find yourself opening for a rock band made up of four 16-year-old boys who bring all their noisy high-school friends to the show (yes, this also actually happened).

Seriously, just just do what you can to stay positive. Don’t let a bad show ruin your life, otherwise you’ll stop touring and call it quits well before your time.

Do you have any terrible tour stories? Please share!

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About Joy Ike

Joy Ike is a full-time singer-songwriter and artist consultant based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her writings on music, business, and branding have been shared by ASCAP, BMI, Bandzoogle, Indie on the Move, CD Baby, and several other prominent music industry blogs. She has also served as a contributing writer for Bandzoogle and gives lectures and workshops on fanbase-building, tour booking, social media best practices, and turning a music career into a sustainable living. You can find her through her artist consulting project, Cultivators, or at www.joyike.com, Facebook, and Instagram.

1 Comment

  1. Gary Nelson on June 9, 2017 at 6:50 am

    Keep up the great work Joy Ike. You are inspiring to lots of people.

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