“Wait! We gotta go back! I forgot my wooby!,” said no serious touring musician EVER. OK, that’s not completely true but it should be. Just getting to tour takes a lot of grunt work (see previous entries). In order to have a successful tour the band needs to run like a machine and that means a tour manager. This position can be separate and distinct from the band or a job assigned to one particular band member. Either way, there’s a ton to think about. So I talked with some of my touring musician friends and let them do the thinking for me:
HAVE A PLAN
With well over 100 out of town shows a year, touring musician, John Taglieri has things down to a sweet science. Touring is not a fun road trip with your buddies. It’s a business trip, only you’re not accountable to some home office, you have to live up to the standards you set. “Have a plan,” says Taglieri pictured below right. “Cover the basics, food, sleep, set up, play.”
Plan when to stop for gas – so the van doesn’t make that decision for you. Plan where to sleep and what to eat. The less surprises the better. “Make a driving schedule and make sure everyone sees it. That way you know when you can sleep it off and when you need to be alert.” Have the name, address, and contact information for the venues, hotels, promoters, etc. Have their websites and calendars bookmarked. And most importantly – know when load in and sound check are. “Load in can be your first impression on a venue. Don’t screw yourself by being late or disorganized.”
Aside from getting the gigs and having a plan to conquer the world if not a simple invasion of a handful of cities along the nearest major highway, there are some personal items a touring entertainer should not be without. Matt Santoro of Super Bob says, “I don’t go anywhere without a weapon or three.” With security taken care of, here are 5 things other touring entertainers found invaluable while on tour.
GET THERE (GPS): There are many GPS programs and apps. Some will get you there. Some will get you lost. Everyone thinks theirs is better than yours. Designate one everyone agrees to follow. It will avoid confusion and infighting. My own GPS is a British dominatrix I call Mistress. She says “When possible, make a U turn.” and I comply.
KEEP GOING (Have a really good car kit): Don’t wait around for someone to give you a jump. Mentalist Jonny Zavont suggests, “Get something to jump yourself (gigity). Make sure it has enough power to jump a huge truck and you’ll always be good.” Be sure the things in the kit are working and accessible. Indie musician Oren Barak (left) made sure his touring van, named Tiny Elvis, had a spare tire and a jack. Unfortunately, both were held securely under the Ford E150, needing a special hex key to free them up. A key they had lost.
“So there we were with a flat, a spare, a jack, and still waiting for roadside assistance.” Oh yeah, Get roadside assistance.
GO FORTH AND MULTIPLY (outlet/USB splitters): “Having outlet splitters helps anywhere that outlets are prime currency,” says Jonny Zavont, “It’s also a great way to make new friends (and fans).” Oren Barak says, “Have splitters for both regular outlets and car outlets. That way everyone can charge their stuff and no one complains.” Having outlet splitters means each band member won’t get a dozen calls from the drummer’s girlfriend because she can’t reach him because he ran his battery down collecting all Boba Fett jet packs in Angry Birds Star Wars.
When will car outlets just be USB ports? Or actual outlets for that matter?!
Not even smokers use that outlet for cigarette lighter!
SELF CATER (Hot Plate): Food can be the last thing on a budget but when blood sugar drops, tempers go up, bands fight, they have a bad show, get a poor reputation, never get booked there again, have to take a job as back up guitar player for the Wiggles, get fired on the road for still being grumpy, and have to hitchhike back home, doing unspeakable things to truckers to pay their way. This common scenario can be avoided by eating sensibly every day.
Matt Santoro (left) appears mostly shirtless for every show and his female fans thank him. But he can’t put on that show and not think about what he eats. “[Super Bob] grocery shops every day.” They stay in hotels so he’s able to cook for himself. John Taglieri says, “Avoid fast food. You feel like shit and if your job is to look good onstage, a double cheeseburger will do nothing but give you a double chin.” Oren Barak suggests having a few boxes of snack bars. “Hungry? Stuff a snack bar in their mouth and keep driving. Tiny Elvis stopped for no one but himself!”
PUT THE LID ON (bring a hat): Even when living in the touring vehicle, a touring entertainer often wakes up in unfamiliar surroundings. It’s easy to leave behind personal items, or waste travel time hunting for a St. Anthony necklace. While on a show choir tour in Europe, I once left behind a family item whose value would be apparent only to me. I didn’t realize it was missing until it was too late to go back. It was likely thrown out and I didn’t speak enough French to call and ask for their lost and found. I might still have it if I had a hat. Mentalist Jonny Zavont is never without a hat. “Put all your keys, sunglasses, phone, etc. inside it. That way you have it all in one place when you’re ready to get back on the road. You don’t have to hunt it all down. Just grab the hat and go.”
It’s not an exhaustive list. Its contents are not amaze-balls. But these items have been invaluable to the touring entertainers who’ve been there and back again. Help grow this list and share what you find to be invaluable while on the road at Q@QEntertainmentLaw.com.