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I generally love going on tour and think that despite the general touring economy being broken, it's still entirely possible to tour at whatever scale and not lose money. Yes, everything is more expensive now, but it was all expensive and precarious to begin with. Unfortunately, touring sustainably just means thinking about annoying logistics and budgeting or else it's very easy to "it's cool it'll be fine, man" your way into a lot of band debt.
Here are some things that come up consistently when I'm talking tour-shop with friends that might seem slightly ridiculous. You might be thinking "I just want to play music, why would I have to think about this?" but I'm here to demonstrate that this really fun job is also wonderfully annoying! It's a huge privilege but also a lot of sarcastic "sure! that's fine! why would that not be happening?"
Here are ten typical/hypothetical things that are not really complaints so much as examples of "...but why?"
- Does this parking deck fit vans and/or trailers? Most don't fit vehicles over 6' tall so welcome to the world of Circling For Parking Forever.
- Will this be a decent Quality Inn in the middle of nowhere or is it one that was built in 1975, never remodeled, and is now filled with mold?
- What's the best van/bus rental company? Which one has good vehicles available? Will even the rental break down because it's old and new ones are really expensive now? Did I try buying my own van and it turned into a money pit? Yes, I did. Never again.
- This routing has us crisscrossing the midwest three times because everyone is on tour at the same time and no one can get the dates that make sense so we just spent a billion dollars on gas but make the same amount per show. FUN!
- Has anyone involved in the tour ever had a DUI? If so, no Canada for you!
- How much is the venue's merch cut going to be? That's right, a lot of venues take at least 10% of our merch sales! It's like the mob!
- Will the headliner make us price-match our merch as if we're competing with them? If you've ever wondered why a support band's shirts are suddenly $40, this is why.
- How do we order or ship merch for a tour in another country? How do we pay VAT tax or import things legally and how long will they hold it up in customs? I mean, if that's the case do we really even need merch?
- There are four bands on this tour and 90 minutes for everyone to soundcheck tonight. Someone thought this was fine!
- No, we can't hang out here after this show. Why? Because there's a gear theft ring operating in this city and we have to drive far away as soon as we're done loading out.
I list all of these things while also being excited to go back on tour again. It's an incredibly fun job, but one that I think should be given more credit for all of the other things that go into it besides just getting up on stage and playing music, which is also labor.
If you're short on time and want to know more about what's going on for touring acts these days, this is the best thread I've seen on it recently:
Speaking of supporting bands, here are a few who are doing things right now that I highly recommend!
Wild Pink just started a tour and released a new record today called ILYSM. I haven't listened to it yet (writing this on Thursday) but the song they released this summer is stellar. Go check them out and see a show if it feels safe for you to do so!
This album makes trans issues and politique accessible in a musical pop format. It is a guiding star for all of us to find deeper liberation. It's subversive and beautiful. It's a heart and belief in a better future in an earworm. This is agit pop.
"Single Girl" is one of my favorites on the album!
Dominic Angellela, who you might know from the band Lithuania or touring with Lucy Dacus, just released a new song called "Duckpin" and it's lovely. It's from his forthcoming album Silver Dreams Don't Move Me and it meditates on growing up and also an Alkaline Trio song. I love it. When we were all stuck inside, Dom helped me improve my guitar skills and for that I'm forever grateful!
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