There are two different ways you are going to come about a tour routing. Your tour is either going to be self-booked, or it is going to be booked by someone else, typically a booking agent. Being able to look at a tour routing and understand what it’s going to take, along with identifying trouble spots is going to go a long way in helping the tour to succeed. An experienced tour manager is able to be able to offer expertise and suggestions on situations that have the potential to derail a tour.
There is nothing worse than watching a band get worked too hard while on the road. Rest is important. Remember that. Rest is important. Watching a band get chewed up on the road because they have shoddy tour routing, and an impossible press schedule is one of the most frustrating things in the world. Not getting enough sleep, and pushing it too hard on the road quickly leads to fatigue and sickness. Ultimately the live performance is impacted, and in the worst case scenario, performances are sometimes cancelled.
I am not saying to be lazy and turn down press events. Press is an integral part of growing a band, and sometimes it’s simply going to be difficult with scheduling. You mean, being in a band isn’t all glitz and glamour?! What I am saying is that if you have seven shows in a row, and on that 7th day, you are going to have to drive overnight to make three more press events on the 8th show day in a row (and this is the first week of a 6 week tour), maybe that isn’t the best approach for the long haul? It’s good to understand tour routing and scheduling so you know when it might be time to say no to something.
The first thing I do when I receive a tour routing is create a spreadsheet* with all of the dates, cities, clubs, drive time, mileage, timezones, show number, and overall number of days on tour. This is a document I typically keep open and readily available when advancing a tour. This helps me to conceptualize the tour as a whole, and begin to see where the tour pushes and pulls. How many shows in a row are there? Are there some crazy drives? Do we have days off? Where are the days off? Do certain cities have notoriously bad traffic? Are there timezones to think about? Are there any major holidays? Do we need to drive after show on any of the dates (on a van tour)? You are asking all of these questions because you have to keep the bigger picture and the health of the tour in mind.
Having the drive times in front of you will help with updating shared online calendars. It’s a good habit to list departure and arrival times into a city well in advance, along with how long the drive actually is. This is helpful for the entire touring organization. It also helps to save time in flipping back and forth between emails, or a Google Maps tab. It’s important to remember that certain elements and timings will not be available until closer until the show date. Sometimes this could come in the form of a set time at a festival.
*If you need a spreadsheet software, I recommend Open Office.
In my experience, I’ve found that any drive over 6 hour on a show day begins to noticeably affect a band and crew. On a van tour you’re typically going to be loading in around 3:00pm. For a 6 hour drive, it’s good to build in 2 hours for stops and traffic. That means for a 3:00p load you are leaving at 7:00a to make it to the next city. Assuming you got to the hotel at 1:00 – 2:00a the night prior, you can quickly begin to see how a few consecutive nights of 5 hours of sleep begin to negatively affect everyone. If you are support on a bus tour, and are chasing buses, 6 hours is likely on the lower end of the drive time spectrum.
On a van tour it’s important to share driving duties if at all possible. Obviously a number of factors come into play here. Maybe someone isn’t a good driver, and it’s better for the sake of everyone’s anxiety to avoid putting them behind the driver’s seat. Maybe you are touring with an international band, and they don’t have the proper license to help split the driving duties. Unless you have a dedicated driver, having someone drive for the duration of an entire tour is going to leave them utterly exhausted and unable to perform their other duties while on the road (or at least at an extreme disadvantage).
It’s also important to remember to allow yourself enough time for stops. As I stated earlier, sleep is important, and it’s important not to run everyone ragged as there is definitely some leeway in how you build in time for stops. With that said, having enough time to comfortably stop and get lunch will go a long way to increase morale on the road. There is nothing worse than having not built in enough time, and sitting in traffic outside of Los Angeles as your scheduled load in ticks away. It goes without saying, but if you run into any kind of transportation issues, make sure to communicate that to where you are headed. It’s a professional courtesy, and I assure you that people appreciate receiving a heads up much more than radio silence.
Days off and Fun Stuff
One of my favorite parts of a tour is figuring out some extracurricular options for the touring party. This could come in the form of a National Park, booking a hotel in a walkable area, oddball roadside attractions, a sporting event, you name it. Go ahead and take a look at your days off and see if you’re going to have to drive on them or not. Or, if you do have to drive on them, since you will have some more time off, look at the potential route you are going to take, and see if there are options along the way. Even something as simple as having a nice sit down meal with everyone can go a long way in adding some variety to your day-to-day. If you’re on tour in the USA, I suggest taking a gander at Road Side America. With all of that said, if the band and crew need to rest, please give them the option to rest!