Set your schedule
When planning how to go on tour, scheduling is one of the most difficult things to do. Lining up gigs at venues and chaining them along so that they run back to back smoothly (while also giving yourself ample amounts of travel time and rest) takes tact and time. Most tours for music acts starting out last around 2–3 weeks.
From experience on multiple 2–3 week tours with my band, I believe that it’s better to place more focus on slightly fewer tour dates than try and jam-pack as many dates as possible in a small period of time. If you’re driving to each venue (and depending on how far the venues are, some of these can be 3–4 hours a day of driving), playing gigs back to back every night for a long period of time can become stressful and tiring.
So a good rule of thumb is to give yourself a day or two between venues that you know are a bit far away from each other.
Know your rate
When preparing to tour it is important to know and when to demand compensation for your music, and more importantly, how much per hour of music. If you’re starting out, you might find it difficult to find venues in your area that pay for your music.
Generally, for solo artists, you’re hopefully looking to receive anywhere from $50–100 per hour for your craft. For any larger groups, the price range goes up to around $100–200 per hour.
These margins should set you in the right ballpark for most smaller venues or local commercial businesses hiring music acts.
If you’re looking to play at venues where compensation comes solely from tickets sold at the door, make sure you have a solid fan base in that area. You can end up losing money by owing the venue cash after the gig if you haven’t sold enough tickets. It’s good to aim high and try to book at larger venues, but keep this in mind and be realistic about how many people you can pull in on a certain night of the week (i.e. a Monday night is going to be hard to pull your friends/fanbase out to the local bar to see you or your band perform).
One of the most important parts of learning how to go on tour, and a helpful piece of career advice is how to negotiate pay. While touring on a smaller level when starting generally doesn’t generate tons of income, it’s important to emphasize your own professionalism when it comes to negotiating pay. Once a venue has agreed to host your act for a date you’ve both agreed upon, they might give you a rate upfront that they’re willing to pay. If so, you can assume that this fee is pretty standard for music acts that play at that venue, and it’s up to you to decide whether or not the pay and exposure are worth it.
If they don’t give you a rate, it’s up to you to bring up the topic of money. A good phrase to use is “but we are willing to negotiate the fee if this is unreasonable.” Start at the slightly higher end of your compensation range, and make your openness to negotiation known. Worst case scenario, you have to lower your rate a bit to meet their standards, but you’d be surprised how many venues will agree to an offer made upfront.