Pursuing country music as a career isn’t easy. Especially as an independent, it takes a great deal of work, running both the business and creative side of things. Heading out for your first time on a road tour can feel overwhelming. Making money from gigs isn’t always a breeze, but taking the time to do some careful planning and preparation will make everything run more smoothly from start to finish. It may sound boring to look up all the postcodes for your venues and sleeping accommodations, make your guest lists, and send out countless emails. But, by sticking to it, you’ll be hitting the road on your first headlining tour in no time.
Before You Get Behind The Wheel
Long before you pack up the car and set out, building a fan base (even if it’s small) in your hometown is very important. Play gigs where you live. Make public appearances to work on your stage presence. Make sure you build a website that includes links to your music, has a detailed bio, lots of visuals, tour dates, targets the country music community, and includes a mailing list sign up page. Get together with other local musicians, and groups, to help enhance and improve your talents.
In addition to preparing for the road specifically, developing an engaging social presence is essential for establishing a fan base that can reach far beyond the city where you live. Streaming and playlisting across platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud, is also an invaluable way to reach hundreds of millions of people all over the world. It’s good for both growing awareness and earning some royalties.
Time And Transportation
Unless you live in a big city, such as NY or LA, it could be in your best interest to avoid them in the beginning. Before you have a substantial following. Heavy competition for attention and loyalties in the big ones can make it unnecessarily difficult to get your name out there, and to get people to shows. Cities like Nashville, which are country music centric, however, might be worth a visit, albeit at smaller venues. When it comes to booking venues, its beneficial to allow yourself plenty of time between the booking process and your first actual show.
If your plan is to visit cities you haven’t been to before, start the process a few months out, and try to get shows booked a month or two ahead of time, holding space and time to self promote. Expect flexibility with regard to your route, it won’t be perfect. Occasional backtracking will be a thing, as not every venue will have a schedule that aligns with yours. When it comes to transportation, try to keep it simple. If you’re road tripping solo, awesome – one car will do. If you’re traveling as a group, consider renting a van or an RV, or even caravaning. The cost of an actual tour bus averages between $1,500 and $3,000 a day, and most of us don’t have that kind of money to spend our first time out there.
One of the most important things to remember is that this takes patience, some salesmanship, and a lot of follow through. Playing often, and being consistent will help you build relationships which makes it progressively easier. Hang in there!