If you’re a developing artist in the music industry today, there’s no reason you should be going out on tour before you’re ready.
The key phrase: before you’re ready. If you aren’t ready, don’t have the songs yet, or aren’t comfortable with the stage, hold off. Wait. Take the time to get better and learn before you have to execute a live performance or book a tour which is becoming more expensive.
Many independent musicians make the mistake of jumping the gun on a regional or cross-country tour too early.
The truth is, unless you’re ready to pull the trigger and feel like you’re itching to do it, any type of tour like this is not only going to be a waste of your time but could hurt these markets for you in the future. When is a developing artist ready for a tour? When they are comfortable and fully formed as an artist. Also, tour only when it makes financial sense to do so.
It’s A Myth That An Independent Musician Must Tour
As a developing artist, there is a lot you need to think about long before you go out for a tour.
To begin with, there is a myth that has been established in the music industry for decades that in order to get big, an artist had to tour. This was true but long ago. Pre-Spotify. Pre-social media. Leading up through the late 1990s, touring was a major source of income for artists and had extremely high value.
Today, not so much.
The internet has made it so that an artist can release a single, and instantly send it across the globe in audio and image. Social media has made it so that you can build your brand as an artist and build that demand prior to heading out on tour.
This is where an artist’s attention should be. There is no sense in going out on tour if you do not have the audience to fill the venue. Build the demand and let the demand dictate when/if you tour. Touring is a financial risk otherwise.
Have A Product To Sell When You Tour So You Can Make Money
There is another point worth making in the sense that there is no purpose in touring with no product to sell.
Have songs posted online. Have a physical release to sell. Have merch available. Have ways to make money on tour while you’re on the road. This is becoming an essential element of breaking even on tour as a developing artist.
Every musician needs to take the time to develop their image, music, and what they represent on stage. These are the three keys to ensuring that you have a strong live performance when it comes time to share that live performance with the public.
Invest the time and effort to get the best songs you can get, the best-sounding recordings possible, and decide on what you want to represent visually in your stage show. It may take months or even years to get there. That’s okay if it means avoiding going on tour and incurring such extreme financial losses that you effectively end your career. This is a rare example but this has happened before to artists that went on tour too early.
The Risks Of Touring For A Musician Of Any Experience Level
There’s an argument that can be made as to whether a musician should even go out on tour.
More musicians are cancelling tours to protect their mental health, arguing that it’s too much to travel, be away from everyday comforts, and that it isn’t financially feasible anymore.
Regarding finances, touring for a musician is more expensive in the post-COVID pandemic era. Expenses like food and gas have increased, as have vehicle rentals and accommodations. To obtain visas to tour in some territories is another cost that has gone up.
Add to that the risk of COVID-related cancellations and associated costs of insurance as well as what missing a single date or week of touring can do to a tour’s financial viability, and touring doesn’t make a lot of sense for a lot of artists.
Even major touring artists are cancelling their tours due to costs, including Animal Collective, Sampa The Great, and Santigold.
If you’re an artist – developing or otherwise – these are two areas you will want to zero in on and be as prepared as possible for what’s to come.
How To Rehearse For A Tour As A Developing Artist
When you do start to tour, rehearse for at minimum a month. Get your performance as tight as you can get it and really get down everything you want to present in your stage show. Then, start small with local performances to get used to the stage setting. Begin in your city. Then your region.
There are probably dozens of potential venues around your city you can use to practice and fine-tune a performance until you have the demand and comfort level to take it out on the road. Remind yourself that it takes time to build your audience and it is far more important, especially at an early stage, that that audience is there.
If you’re just beginning your career in music or have long been a veteran of the business, the most effective use of your time is in developing high-quality sound recordings and your brand. Live touring will come in time.
When you are ready to tour, nothing will be more important than delivering your art in a live setting.
As a developing artist, find your own identity as an artist and take as much time as you need. If you go out too early and your presentation ends up being a mess, nothing else could be a bigger mistake for your career.