Making the Most of a Tour: Tips for Indie Artists on the Road
Nothing beats the thrill of playing in front of a crowd for a musician. Seeing first hand how people respond to your music is a true adrenaline rush. For indie artists, going out on tour is as much a part of the business of music as recording in a studio. “There’s no better way to win over fans than through face to face contact and performances,” says Tanner Hendon, co-founder of Madison Records and member of The Stir. “When you’re out there performing live, they’re able to see your facial expressions, understand your vibe, and really feel your passion.”
Going on tour provides the obvious benefits of widening the reachable audience and boosting music sales. But there are other benefits of touring as well. Playing together night after night helps make the band tighter and gives you a chance to really hone your music and technique. It’s also great for improving confidence, as the more you play in front of people the more confident you become.
While it might seem glamorous to have your band’s name on promotional fliers and have adoring fans coming up asking for your autograph, being on the road has its challenges. We gathered some tips from two of Madison Records’ artists, Hannah Zale and Cheney Brannon of The Stir, to help other indie artists be prepared for the rigors of the road.
Hannah: Playing the shows is only a small part of the tour. You’re on the road traveling a lot of the time, so it’s good to be prepared with things to pass the time. I like to play improv games and word games. We also take turns “playing” DJ with the music. This is a great way to learn the taste of others in the band and talk about your influences, and maybe even fall in love with a new band!
It’s also important to be in good shape for the tour. I train four days a week with lots of cardio to keep up my stamina and breath control. We also start rehearsing for the tour weeks in advance, working on transitions and brainstorming what songs we think will work best in each market. Being disciplined, mentally and physically, is the best way to prepare and make the daily grind so much better.
Cheney: In my experience, it’s important to get a good night’s sleep and eat clean while on the road. I have a “tour bus breakfast” that consists of egg whites and cheese, toast with almond butter, and apples or blueberries on the side. Then a few hours before the show I eat a healthy meal of chicken or fish, a salad and a baked potato. Eating healthy is the best way to keep your energy levels up and keep from getting sluggish on the road.
The Promotion Factor: In addition to staying in shape and finding ways to stay entertained on the road, the biggest factor in the success of a tour is how much you promote yourself. Being an indie artist means a lot of the work of promotion falls on your shoulders. Make use of all social media avenues for promotion, as these provide great access to a broad fan base and are free. Make Facebook events to share, post pictures of the band on tour on Instagram, and livestream some concert dates to help build excitement.
Remember, promotion is more than just social media. Before your concert dates call the venues to work with the local promoter. They might have contacts with local radio stations to help set up call-in interviews on morning shows, or have access to other local forms of promotion.
Going on tour is a lot of hard work, but it can also be a great adventure. With careful planning, you can make your next tour a success not just in growing your fan base, but in growing the band’s experience as well.