Guide to getting and playing better gigs


   

Touring

     
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So how does a band go about booking a national tour? Well no-one's saying it will be easy. For a start, if you've got full time jobs you're going to have to decide if you really want to have a crack at this or play it safe - you're going to be doing this a lot to get where you want to go. Your touring needs to count, as there will be moments when you're tired, hungry, loading a 4 x 12" into the back of a transit at 2 am. You need to know you're doing this stuff for a good reason. A tour is so much more substantial than a gig. You can call it something, it can have a reason for happening, and this in itself will generate press. So where do you find the right gigs and how do you convince the venues to book you? Finding gigs is easy - look in the back of NME. There's a well-worn circuit of small to medium pub and club venues that nearly every known band has progressed through.

It's not unusual for bands with hit records to be still on this circuit as there is a huge gulf between being able to sell out a club with 400 capacity and going into the city halls which hold 2,000 plus. These venues include Bath Moles Club, Edinburgh Venue, Hull Adelphi, The Barfly in London and Sheffield, King Tut's Wah Wah Hut Glasgow, Northampton Roadmender's, Brighton Zap Club etc, etc. You need to not only get some gigs but also to try to string them together in a sensible order geographically and earn enough in the process to cover your costs. It's a tall order and you might as well come to terms with the fact that your first few tours will be a hard, skint slog. Ring the venues and take anything you can get, including Monday nights third on the bill or whatever. It will probably take 20 calls to get one gig.

Don't give up - other bands will be packing it in all around you because it's too hard for them, clearing the way for those that mean business. Whatever you manage to cobble together then call it a 'tour' and concentrate on being so amazing that you will create a vibe wherever you go. Even if you're playing to three people you will be surprised how gigs can become legendary, and a buzz can snowball around a hot new band. Your early gig fees will be next to nothing or actually nothing. These will increase with your profile and pulling power. I'm talking about the door take, not members of the opposite sex, although more on that aspect of touring later... To save money you may have to forget about B&Bs and crash at a relative or friend's place. If there are five of you in a band then one of you will almost certainly know someone in most areas of the country. There are usually enthusiastic fans of the band who are willing to put you up, feed you (and sometimes sleep with you!).

The one aspect of the tour expenditure that you should try not to cut corners on is food. Eating out twice or even once a day can put serious holes in your budget, but it's amazing how quickly musicians can get ill on the road without proper nutrition or sleep. Colds turn into flu, singers lose their voices, gigs get cancelled and everyone gets grumpy. Just one night sleeping in the back of the van can take a week to get over. There are real health risks to touring: drugs of all kinds, sex, booze and partying potential are freely available even at the lowest level. For the punters it's their one night out of the week and so they want to make the most of it - for you every night is party night, and it can get out of hand.

Touring should be fun, and when else do you get to play every night in front of an audience? This is how bands get to be amazing live - it just doesn't happen by accident. Those of you who saw Ocean Colour Scene at the Birmingham Music Live Show witnessed a great live band with thousands of gigs under their belts.

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