Tomorrow I fly home after nearly four weeks on the road in the US, Canada and Europe. Looking forward to that!
After my last post, I got an email from Dave Douglas asking me to put together a list: “top ten little things that a scruffy tour manager/band leader/bassist/travel agent needs to know to lead a band around Europe”. Scruffy? …guilty as charged.
Here’s what I came up with. Some obvious things like “hire musicians you get along with” and “don’t work for jerks” were omitted and I’ve left the bottom of the post open for comments so please feel free to add to the list.
So in no particular order, here is my non-exclusive, non-comprehensive list of things that a “scruffy tour manager/band leader/bassist/travel agent needs to know to lead a band around Europe”.
10-Make lists. Lots of them. Commit as much to memory as possible. Include: projected incomes and expenses, a complete tour itinerary, tour budget, contacts, travel days with estimated trip durations, days off, club/hotel addresses and travel documents. ***Make sure to carry hard copies with you, on your computer and also email them to yourself.
9-Invest in a GPS….and depending on the distance, add 1 or 2 hours to your travel time.
8-Get a contract. Be clear with club owners, promoters and your band about fees, dates, responsibilities, visas, riders, meals, pick up and departure times etc etc.
7-Rest is a weapon/food is a weapon. A good night’s sleep and eating properly will drastically increase your tolerance for any unforseen challenges on the road. (***This might be the most important tip I can offer!)
6-As the leader, be flexible. It’s your attitude that sets the tone for the tour. Be prepared to take a hit for the team. It shows you’ll do what you can to keep the band happy (and buying the band a nice meal every once in while can go a long way towards that too.).
5-Promote the gigs/tour to the best of your ability and don’t rely on clubs to do it for you. Be sure to send out posters and press releases to newspapers, magazines, journalists, fellow musicians and anyone else you can think of. Also, post bulletins on Myspace, Facebook, All About Jazz and every other source you can find.
4-Community. Use your contacts! Friends in other cities make all the difference. I often think that if I hadn’t taken part in the Banff Jazz Workshop, I would never have gotten any tour of the ground.
3-Personal space. Respect it as much as possible and always get individual hotel rooms…even on days off. Don’t underestimate this. If you need to do a homestay once in a while it’s ok but don’t push it. Also do what you can to have the hotel as close to the venue as possible. That way everyone in the band can choose what they want to do after the gig.
2-Book flights through a travel agent. It can save you HOURS-trust me because I know first hand. Also, travel agents can find tickets for the same price as most websites and often they can book flights that you can change for a fee. Sites like Expedia don’t often allow this and there can be real consequences as tours can change in the blink of an eye.
1-Think big picture. Remember that touring is an investment in the future. Keep in mind that everyone in this industry is somehow connected. I always work on the premise that I want to come back to play for the next 20 years. So make a good impression: Play your heart out every night, have good manners, thank the promoter, thank the audience, be kind, be honest, be patient, stand up for yourself when necessary but choose your battles.
…oh yes….and we all must remember number eleven:
the music is why we all do this…can’t forget that.