If you were ever curious as to what it looks like to be an independent musician on the road, here’s a quick day-in-the-life on tour. You’re the driver, the manager and the artist. You are your own small business.
Welcome to our world!
10:00AM – Wake Up
If you’re staying in a motel you typically have to be out by 11, which means up at 10 for two people to shower, brush, dress, pack and get out. After about day 10 you can pretty much do the exact same thing in 15 minutes, which will allow you an extra 45 minutes of precious sleep. If you don’t need to leave early, you can usually flirt with the staff and get a later checkout.
11:00AM – Maybe Breakfast
If you did okay at the gig last night, maybe you can afford a $12 breakfast at a Waffle House. If not, it’s a quick cup of coffee and an apple. As a general rule, Sit Kitty Sit will always break for Dunkin’ Donuts. Your travel mug will become so important to you that you feel a little weird if it’s not always in your line of sight.
12:00NOON – On the Road/Office Time
One of you drives, the other is on the computer. The work is never ending. Outreach, booking, show promotion, social media, press, marketing, sales, fun with the fans. Blogs, lyric development, brainstorming and business development. With a show tonight, the longest you’ll drive is 7 hours. Pending traffic, you should arrive just in time for load-in. You’ll be eating your meals in the van today out of the cooler.
7:00PM – Arrive at the club/Load In
“Load-In” is the phrase for what time you are to arrive at the venue, meet with the staff and bring all of your gear inside. You just drove 7 hours. You get a quick stretch, a quick yawn, and then it’s on with the heavy lifting. Gear is hauled up or down stairs. ID’s are checked, hands are stamped, wrist bands and drink tickets distributed. The payment deal is reviewed with the club manager. Gear is set. If you’re lucky you get a sound check. Now – this time before the doors open? This is your time to get to know the staff. The head bartender. The manager. The booker if they’re there. It’s also your time to meet and really get to chat with the other bands. Make friends. Tell stories. Exchange social media information. You need to be “on” from the minute you walk in that door. You are delightful and charming. You are not exhausted.
8:00PM – Doors
Doors open to the public. If you haven’t already finished changing into your nice clothes or getting your hair and makeup done, then you better get a move on. The venue doesn’t have a dressing room, so you’re getting ready in the van. With all of the gear out, it’s like a little apartment in there, so despite the fact that you have to be aware of who’s outside the windows when you’re changing your clothes, it’s pretty nice in there. By day 15 you don’t even care if someone sees you changing. Who’s got energy for that?
9:00PM – Opening Band
As the consummate professional, you will watch every band perform tonight. You will then go up and shake all their hands or hug them and tell them what a great job they did. You will meet their fans, be open and friendly and make excellent impressions on everyone you meet. You are courteous and happy and fun to be around.
11:00PM – Perform
You have now been awake for 13 hours and “on” for 4, but none of that matters. Now you need to channel pure raw power, get up on that stage and perform like your whole life depends on it. You will show us your soul, you will have near flawless technique, and a warm and inviting stage presence while still being sexy and powerful. You will give these people exactly what they have come to see and they will beg you for more. You will give them everything you have left. You will hit the wall. You will play an encore anyway.
12:30AM – Merch Table/Socializing
This is the most important part of the night next to the actual performance. You inspired the audience, and now they want to connect to you one on one. You will man the merch table and while selling CD’s and t-shirts you will hug people and sign things and let them take as many pictures of you as they want. You will hear secrets from people that they are inspired to share. You will be moved and you will be overwhelmed. Connecting with people like this is something you didn’t know could happen. It is beautiful and awe-inspiring. You will hit the wall again. You will be shocked that there was a second wall to hit. You will keep smiling, because despite your exhaustion you love every one of them. These are your Fans. These are the people you cherish most.
2:00AM – Bar Time/Load Out
The last band has performed, last call came and went, and the venue is now closed. The bar total is added up, payment has been negotiated and distributed. You made enough to cover gas, but not breakfast. Time for more heavy lifting. You will load all your gear back into the van. You will wrap up your conversations with the other bands, set times to follow up with them to make future bookings, say your final thank you’s to the venue management and climb back in the van. The show tomorrow night is 8 hours away, which means you need to get at least an hour of driving in before you call it a night. It’s too dangerous to let one person stay awake by themselves at this point, so you crank the tunes and get some crazy-good conversation going to keep the driver alert.
3:45AM – Good Night
It’s not worth the money to stay in a motel for only a handful of hours, so you’re sleeping in the van tonight. Luckily the bed is crazy-comfortable. You will find a safe place that is near a bathroom, and hunker down for the night. The sun will most likely wake you up around 9AM. You just worked a 16 hour day. Tomorrow will be a 17 hour day. As will the day after that, and after that. Your next day off is in 4 days and you have a 10 hour drive that day. You are out there. You are doing it. You are your own boss. And whether you are a success or not is entirely up to you.
So, what do you think? Is it what you were expecting?