Booking a tour isn't much different from gig - you're just doing it on a larger scale. Find out how to book a gig without breaking a sweat, whether you're a budding agent or a musician holding the reins yourself.
Figure Out Your Budget
Touring is expensive. Really, really expensive. Even if you go on a bare bones, sleeping in a van, the entire band living off a single bag of pretzels for a week kind of tour, it's expensive. If you're hitting the road in hopes of building up a name for yourself, then you're not likely to making much money at all from your shows, so this is going to be a mostly out of pocket adventure. Your budget will need to shape every stage of the planning. Know exactly how much you can afford to spend before you go any further.
Pick Your Touring Area:
First things first - where do you want to play? If you've been picking up good press in a particular area, going there is a no-brainer. If this tour is more about getting your music to a new audience and/or promoting a new release, then consider places that are budget friendly, that have a concentration of music press/industry, that you have a personal connection to or that are known to be a center for your style of music. You may not be able to tick all of these boxes, but balancing these considerations will help you focus in on a good area for your tour.
Pick Your Touring Window:
Now that you know where you go, you need to decide when you want to be there. There are two mini steps involved here:
Pick a window of dates that you can be on the road.
Within that window, select a smaller window of dates for each city in which you hope to play. When you try to book shows in each city, having this smaller window in mind will help you end up with a tour that isn't too all over the map. This will also help you keep the costs down as it will reduce the amount of traveling you need to do.
Check Out Your Options:
In some cities, you may know exactly where you want to play, because there's a well known venue that most musicians pass through or because you have some fellow musician friends who have clued you in to your best bets. In other cities, you may not have a clue. Do a little research into the venues in these places. One of the best ways to do this is to find gig listing guides for those towns. Where does it look like musicians of your level are playing? Make a short list of places to approach, not forgetting to include venues where you might make a good support band.
Book the Shows:
The process of booking a show out of town is essentially the same as booking a show in town. Keep in mind, however, that on your home court, you likely have an audience in place, while out of town, you likely don't. You're going to have to make the argument to the venue/promoter that you can get people through the door. If you've been getting some press/radio play, then you've got a strong case. If you haven't, try taking that tact of saying you'd like to be on the bill with some local acts that are a good draw. Also, let them know what promotional support you'll provide (website, mailing list, etc).
Re-evaluate Your Budget:
Once your shows are booked and you know how much money (if any) you'll be getting for each one, double check your budget. Have you been realistic? Running out of money on the side of the road far from home - not very fun.
Reach Out To Other Musicians:
When you're trying to get a show in a town that you've never played before, swapping a gig with other musicians in the area might be your best bet. Learn more:
Learn How Promoters Pick Venues:
A surefire way to make tour booking way more difficult than it needs to be is to overshoot when you're approaching promoters and venues. Don't sell yourself short, but it's better to play to a packed house than an empty room any day. Plus, you're hopefully building a relationship with promoters and venues out of town with this tour, so working together to build the best show possible instead of misleading them about your draw is important. Learn more about choosing venues: