Are you thinking of taking the show on the road? Booking a concert tour is a top notch way to expand your audience, but there are a lot of things to consider before you strike out in the van. If you are booking your own tour, you don't have a handy, dandy agent helping you avoid the common touring pitfalls. You can definitely book a tour yourself, but to get the most out of your tour - and so you don't have to relocate to the poor house when it is over - keep these considerations in mind. Note that this advice is for small, indie tours. Bigger budget tours function a little differently.
This Is Going to Be More Expensive Than You Think
How much do you think your tour will cost? It is going to cost more than that. Although you can't finalize a tour budget until you have all of your dates booked, know from the outset what you are getting yourself into. If you are heading to towns where you are relatively (or completely) unknown, you're looking at low (or no) guarantees. You are going to have to cut corners to save a buck in every way possible, and frankly, not everyone is cut out for two weeks of sleeping in a van, eating Taco Bell and gas station snacks and washing up in club bathrooms. Be sure you are ready to do all of that AND put on great shows
You Will Be Starting from Scratch
On the small indie/DIY level, when you head out on your first tour, you are going back to stage one. If you have handily conquered your local scene, the experience can feel a little bit like going backwards - even if this tour is all about expanding your audience. If you haven't had much press or radio play and your profile is essentially zero outside of your area, a gig swap can go a long way towards making your shows worthwhile. Hook up with musicians who have conquered their local scene as you have done yours, bask in their built-in audience and hopefully make some fans who will come out to see the next time.
Speaking of Next Time and Making This Worthwhile...
As touring costs a pretty penny, getting the most bang for your buck is critical. One of the best ways to get value for money is choosing your touring destinations wisely. Unless you have an anchor date you are building around, pick cities you can afford to go back to in the near future. If your tour is a super grassroots effort to expand your audience, then you need to foster that audience. That means means repeat visits every few months. If you can afford to go cross country or internationally in that window - great. If not, a six hour van ride is significantly more budget friendly.
Budget, Budget, Budget
The tricky part of creating a tour budget for your first tour, or very small indie tours, is that you're likely dealing with a lot of door split deals and otherwise vague notions of what you *might* walk away with from a given show. This lack of info can make true budgeting difficult - but do what you can. Not only will working through a budget help you figure out how much money touring will cost you (and where you might be able to save a few bucks), it will also help you flag things that you have skipped in you planning. "Oh, we have no place to stay on day four" and such will become clear as you write the budget.
Write an Itinerary
Much like a budget, a tour itinerary not only keeps you on track while you're actually on the road, but it also helps you identify potential problems. At a minimum, an itinerary should include the dates and times of your shows (including load-in, soundcheck, etc), where you are staying every day, how long each drive should take you, and contact info for all of the promoters and/or other bands you are playing with. Essentially, your itinerary should be your go-to guide for EVERYTHING you need to know about your tour. Starting writing it as soon as you start booking and keep updating it as you plan.