What's the Right Way to Book a First Tour?
Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her -- confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.
As of late, I have had the pleasure of helping my friend's band book a tour, and as excruciatingly painful as it can be, I'm doing it because I'm an aspiring booking agent. Now, I'm not helping a band lucrative enough to even need an agent, nor am I the "CEO of Spanky Nuts Agency." I'm just someone helping his friends book a tour, and that consists of finding bands from other areas who would want to share a bill with them. I still have a whole lot to learn about it, as this is the first tour I am booking. My questions to you are the following: 1. Am I doing something wrong? 2. What all should I do as an aspiring agent? 3. When is the right time for a band to have an agent?
Heck no, Garrett! You are doing something all the way right! Perhaps you were concerned that you are impeding your friends career by helping them "too early" after last week's letter -- but don't sweat your technique. You and Your Friend's Band (YFB) are actually doing something I often suggest, and it sounds like you are doing it collaboratively, for mutual benefit. So A+ for teamwork.
Booking is one of those music industry jobs that you can really only learn by doing. It sounds like YFB has the tour routed and confirmed and you are doing some of the hustle, which is putting together support/headliners. This is crucial work if you want a successful tour and make the show promoters happy. Self-booking a tour can be a full time job, especially if you are a baby band, which is to say you'll be lucky to get a second hold on a Monday night at a downmarket wine bar in Fayetteville.
An unsigned local band at that level is not a usually hot prospect for an established booking agent, because most people are not interested in the Sisyphysian task of establishing a band's live career and making 15% of $20 for doing so. If you can't get on a tour with a more established or connected band, you have to book yourself, and wisely, YFB has outsourced some of the burden of this tour to you. And while you are a newbie, you are clearly energetic and eager and have an some stake in the outcomes here. Small bands write in every week about their inability to draw the attentions/help of someone bigger to help them access "the next level" -- when bands could be building a grassroots team, or at least temporarily employing an eager friend who wants the experience.