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Understanding Tour Routing and Drive Times

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.

Tour Routing

Understanding tour routing.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.

Drive Times

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!

Understanding a Day Sheet

A musician friend of mine recently reached out and asked if I had a template for a day sheet. After ten years of touring, one would think that I would have one in my arsenal. At one point in time, I definitely had one, but through the use of Master Tour, and other online formats, I have relied on them less and less. Perhaps some will think of a day sheet as antiquated, but I do believe there is virtue in posting hard copies, and I would argue that there is a large contingency of the touring community who would agree with me.

What is a day sheet?

A day sheet is a document that presents the day’s schedule. What information you include on it is going to vary based on the tour, who is reading it, and what your band and crew deems as important to their day. As the tour manager, you are the one who is responsible in making sure you are communicating this information in a timely manner. Remember advancing, and all of that information you collected? Well now it’s time to let some of that info see the light of day.

What do you include on a day sheet?

As stated above, this is going to vary, but here are some examples of timing to include: arrival, load in, line check, sound check, support arrival and sound check, any dark stage requirements, doors, support stage time and length, changeover, headliner set time and length, any hard or soft curfews that may apply, along with arguably the most important part… bus call! (Bus call is when you leave for the next city.) There are other elements you can include such as press, phone calls, travel schedule, flights, ground, meetings, hotel info, the list goes on, but sometimes you will want to omit certain items from a day sheet for reasons of privacy.

When do you post it?

Ideally, you should post these as early as possible. For some, this may come in the form of posting them on the bus the night prior. For the venue itself, these should be printed the night prior, and posted as early as possible, in key locations. Being the first one into the venue and doing a walk through with venue staff, is most definitely to your advantage as a tour manager. When your touring party begins to wake up, you are going to want to have those answers of location on the tip of your tongue.

Where do you post it?

Post day sheets in a high traffic areas of the backstage. This could dressing rooms, catering, entries and exits, you name it. The goal here is to get people to see them, and even better, to read them. Receiving less questions about the daily schedule means more time to spend on what the day actually requires.

Why omit certain items?

Say for example you have a principle artist. Their day is going to look considerably different from the the rest of the touring party. Certain core elements will overlap, such as soundcheck and set time, but a call into business management isn’t necessarily information that the rest of the touring party needs to be aware of. Going beyond this, sometimes it is necessary to keep hotel information or travel information discreet. Generally speaking, hotel staff and security are good about being discrete, but do yourself a favor, and don’t put yourself in that situation to begin with.

Other ways to share

Online calendars and touring systems are here to stay. Arguably, the most popular system is Master Tour. People can simply take their phone out of their pocket to see what the day’s schedule is. A beautiful thing! But, with that said, sometimes it is nice to NOT have to take your phone out of your pocket. Having information posted in the venue and on the bus solves this problem. I always post a copy inside and outside of my production office to quickly have this information available. If you don’t use Master Tour, or are on a smaller tour, email is a great way to communicate the daily schedule, or via a group text thread.

Other info you might want to include

In addition to the basic schedule, sometimes it is nice to include information such as venue staff phone numbers (General Manager, Box Office, Runner, FOH, LD, MON) for quick access. This is something I would probably keep in my production office. Some venues will post this on their own accord. I’ve always enjoyed this because it says to me, “Hey, we are here for you, let’s work together and make this the best show possible. Contact me any time.”

Timezone, hotel information, hotel amenities, production info, time it takes to get to the next city, security info, merchandise rates, the list goes on and on. Again this needs to be tailor to WHO will be reading it, and WHERE it will be posted. If there is a big event coming up later that week, go ahead and start including it early on as to avoid surprising anyone.

Additional Idea

Sometimes reading over droves and droves of daily schedules can be a bit mundane. For a bit of encouragement for your band and crew, try including a word of the day, or fun fact about the city you are in. When someone walks up to me, and tells me, “Hey, I really like that word curmudgeon,” I know that they’ve at least LOOKED at the day sheet. Half the battle is getting folks to look at it. Encourage these habits!

Day sheets come in many different forms. The main idea behind all of this is to effectively communicate information, so people know what’s going on. Treat other’s time as you would treat your own; don’t waste it.

A Year Spent in Motion: 2016.

As this whole passing of time thing continues its unfaltering march towards infinity, I figured why not take a minute to reflect on what all has happened this year. A little notch made on the metaphysical tree bark, if you will, that perhaps some future version of myself might one day find curious.January – Cadillac Ranch – Amarillo, TX – Fledgling memories with a new troop of troubadours.February – Rialto Beach – Forks, WA – If I was looking for powerful, I found it.

Continue Reading…

A brief reprieve.

I do not fully understand how my mind works when it comes to creative endeavors; specifically writing. In my professional life, I spend hours drafting messages, formulating responses, and delivering output in a rather timely fashion (generally speaking).

When it comes to writing for myself, in private, this too is done without hesitation. Whatever comes to me, comes to me. I scribble it down, and along life moves. For whatever reason, when the moment arrives to sit and share something publicly, the words clam up, and the flow desists. I’ve been told that the best way to combat this is to simply write. I suppose I’m making an effort at that now. Not thinking too much, and merrily scribbling along whatever comes to mind.

I find myself at home between tours, with a smidgen of time to dedicate to myself. I am privileged in the sense that I am paid to travel the world, in a role I enjoy, all the while being accompanied by some of the most badass people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. My role is full on when I am gone on a tour, and I am on 24/7. There isn’t really off time. It’s not something I’m upset about, but I do find it difficult to make time for personal projects.

It’s easy to use a busy schedule as a cop out. I tend to be hard on myself in this regard. I suppose that’s for the best, because when I feel that people are counting on me, the thought of letting them down eats at me. I am of the belief that this is a very healthy compulsion, but as of late, it has left me feeling a bit one-dimensional.

Reading, writing, and photography are some things I wish to spend more time with. I am not necessarily a withered leaf, as my life is rich in other ways, but I do feel myself craving these pursuits more so as of late. After a long day of being mentally engaged, sometimes it’s difficult to switch out of work mode, and delve into more of a playful, creative mood.

I believe both pursuits encourage and inhibit each other in ways that are perhaps imperceptible to the one trying to discern them. Finding a balance, or duality between the two is an ongoing challenge, but a necessary one.

Nashville Day Trip Ideas

In an effort to keep myself occupied while at home, I’ve compiled a list of a few day trips that are a bit more accessible while using Nashville as a jumping off point.

Kayak to the Islands of Percy Priest Lake

Luau Island, Percy Priest Lake.

Photo by Brandon Williams

I’ve been out to Percy Priest a number of times, but I’ve never been out on the water. Within sight from shore are a number of islands that in my mind would make for a great overnight trip. I’m curious what actual condition they are in given their accessibility and proximity to a major metropolitan area.

According to this website there are 38 islands located within Percy Priest. Doing a bit of research I learned that Percy Priest is a man made lake. The dam was completed in 1967 and the town of Old Jefferson got swallowed up when the reservoir began to fill. In some places the water is as deep as 100′ feet.

Kayaks are available to rent from Nashville Kayak Rental for $40 per day. Maybe there is an island out there similar to Isla de la Muñecas in Xochimilco. Thoughts of cliff jumping and pontoon boats also cloud my mind.

Bioluminescent Caves of Northern Alabama

Rumble Room in Rumbling Falls Cave.

Photo by Stephen Alvarez

It was brought to my attention that in New Zealand there are caves where a certain bioluminescent glow worm lives. Arguably not the easiest commute from Middle Tennessee, but upon talking with some friends I was informed that a distant cousin live in a cave located in Northern Alabama.

Dismal Canyon is where these buggers call home. Apparently the best time to view them is May – September. Moving beyond this, I’ve realized that there are a TON of caves to explore within a days drive of Nashville. I’ve never even considered exploring caves until recently. Something about the whole becoming trapped under the ground thing has been a turnoff. In typical fashion, I am actively deciding to look past spelunkings shortcomings and give it an ill-advised chance.

Rumble Room in Rumbling Falls Cave, Topless Dome in Tumbling Rock Cave, and Fantastic Pit in Ellison’s Cave are a few that peak my interest. Of course, I am grossly unqualified to attempt any of these, so perhaps I will endeavor to check out Mammoth Cave first.

Attend a Motorsporting Event

Bristol Motor Speedway

Photo by dpkimmel2001

On a recent flight, I watched the movie “The Last American Hero” starring Jeff Bridges. Junior Johnson got me thinking about the racetracks of the Southeast. I always remember watching NASCAR races with my Dad on Sunday, yet I have never actually been to a race, aside from a local dirt track close to where I grew up in North Carolina.

There would appear to be no shortage of racetracks one can access close to Nashville. There is the  Fairgrounds Speedway located in South Nashville, Music City Raceway in Goodlettsville, or Highland Rim in Greenbrier, TN. Not too far away are the big boys; Bristol Motor Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Outdoor Art Environments

Mindfield

Photo by John Guider

In keeping with my pursuit of experiencing large scale structures built by lone ranger characters, there are two sites that I’d really like to visit sooner rather than later. They are the Fortress of Faith in Greenback, TN and the Mindfield Cemetery outside of Memphis, TN. To get a better idea of what I’m talking about, I suggest a visit to Spaces Archive. Within town, I’d also like to see what the Frist Center for Visual Art has on exhibit.

Have a solid day trip? I want to hear about it!

 

Olympic National Park and Rialto Beach

I wasn’t sure if I should take this trip or not. I often feel that way before embarking on solo jaunts, but in hindsight I am always glad when I make the jump. I knew going into it that I was very likely going to be impeded by winter weather.  I didn’t exactly have the right gear with me, thus all of the hesitation. I decided to hell with it, booked my return ticket 3 days after the end of tour, and told myself to get in the rental car and figure it out.

Leaving out of Seattle I drove up to Port Angeles and had a weird little Valentines in a port city I had never been in. I hadn’t even thought of the influx of dinner reservations for Valentines Day. They tried their best to be accommodating, but the hodgepodge table-for-one set up on the foot path railing didn’t strike me as the right move.

I abandoned my quest for seafood and meandered over to a quaint Italian restaurant. Equally bogged down by lovers and their reservations, I found a seat at the bar and listened in to any conversation within earshot, in hopes of stumbling across any lead or gem for my wandering itinerary. I ended up having a nice chat with a couple from Alaska who were exploring the area themselves. They were coming from the opposite direction that I was attempting to head, so they were rich with suggestions.

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The Contents of a Year: 2015.

The contents of a year:

  • Ringing in 2015 with St. Paul and The Broken Bones in Nashville, TN.
  • Sailing the high seas aboard the Norwegian Pearl during Cayamo.
  • Visiting St. Barts and St. Croix.
  • A memorable performance by the guys on The Late Show with David Letterman.
  • Our bus catching on fire in Texas.
  • First European tour on a bus.
  • Falling in love.
  • A week spent in and around Prague.
  • Countless eating decisions determined by proximity.
  • A first visit to Coachella and exploring Lake Arrowhead.
  • Cancelled plans resulting in a trip to Joshua Tree and Salvation Mountain.
  • Newfound interests in photography and light.
  • Hours spent at Ugly Mugs doing advance work.
  • A return to Europe for no shortage of festivals and club shows.
  • Any number of flights, car rentals, and hotel rooms.
  • A cancelled trip to Colombia, leading me back to North Carolina.
  • Heartbreak.
  • More tour dates than I can properly recall.
  • Some really wonderful shared experiences.
  • Art, music, and movies that have imparted influence.
  • Running at Shelby Bottoms.
  • The loss of my father.
  • Opening for The Rolling Stones in Atlanta and Buffalo.
  • Time spent within Death Valley.
  • An effort at keeping a blog updated.
  • Preparing for 2016.

I’m so thankful for the people I shared this year with. Sending great love and juju across this tiny universe. I’m excited to meet you in 2016,

Billy Reed

The Balance of Endeavors

billy-head

I always return home with a certain glint in my eye. Finally! A moment to decompress and pursue the thing I’ve been wanting to pursue for however long. There it is, all the time in the world (kind of). Now what do I do with it?

Perhaps it’s a complex I have. A good complex in that I have to get my work done before I can play. If people are counting on me, I feel bad working on my own projects. That’s the way it should be, right? There is incentive at the end of the tunnel. Get this stack of things done, and then you can go and play.

Any time I try to sit down and dig into these personal projects I am weighted with the knowledge that there is something else I should be working on. I’ve battled with this for a while. Being on 24/7 is the nature of my role while I’m on tour. I’ve been conditioned. I am a workaholic. Coming off the road I find that I have to set boundaries for myself, or things start to feel icky. Actively deciding not to work, is just as important as deciding to work.

An outgrowth of prioritizing my work load lends fatigue to my brain when it does comes time to work on personal projects. My brain cells are slouching, haphazardly sitting on the curb looking up at me like, “Seriously, dude? You want us to do what right now? We’ve been working all day!

I am so used to having my days filled with structure. At home I try to organize myself with activities and environments that are conducive to productivity. With this being said, I don’t want to be busy for the sake of being busy. I want to occupy my time with things that I enjoy and make me better in some capacity. Free time often feels insurmountable, but I’ve reached a point where I am better able to control that feeling.

I’ve been enjoying working on my blog as of late. I came into this undertaking with the misguided notion that this would somehow be my golden ticket to supplementing my income while I’m off the road. I’ve since tossed that notion and am focusing on the act of writing and taking photos for my personal enjoyment. If that does not exist first, I am doomed from the onset. Things are still relatively new and fresh around here, so I am glad I’ve caught myself before getting too far along on that misguided path.

I have two areas of focus that I’d like to better explore here in the coming weeks and months:

  • Planning, documenting, and sharing my journey to Colombia.
  • Putting together a free online curriculum for those interested about different aspects of the touring industry.

To think of looking back a year from now, at a site filled with information and resources is something that encourages me, and makes me want to keep at it. Thanks for reading along.

Let the good juju flow.

WordPress: I have no idea what I’m doing

Ah, yes. The haphazard purchase of a WordPress theme. Well intentioned, yet a reminder that good things come to those who measure twice and cut once. Bludgeoning my way forward at the moment. Kind of exciting in a way, because no one is making me do this other than myself.

Fresh Start

Small victories. New host. WordPress installed. Completed BEFORE self-inflicted deadline of Monday, 6/22. Having done this while on tour, I’m quite happy with myself.

Now, to figure out a theme to use. I’m a big fan of clean, minimal set-ups, so something along those lines for certain. It’s going to take me another week to figure out angles, and what exactly I’m trying to accomplish.

At the core, I want to become a better writer and  photographer. The rest will come in time. I feel like I’m at the start of something new for myself.

If’n you happen across this and have any advice on starting a blog, I am happy to listen. A shortened learning curve is forever and always, greatly appreciated.

Empezar!

You can contact me at needforreed@gmail.com.