How to Rock n' Roll on the road
Jacqui Walter, Stage and Screen’s Melbourne-based Business Development Manager, has been in a successful band, Bluehouse, for 20 years.
Here she combines her experience on the road with her comprehensive travel biz knowledge in 15 top tips for performers to surviving on tour.
- Become a member of APRA AMCOS, the Australian body representing music creators and ensuring they’re paid for their work. This means you’ll get paid royalties for performing your own songs live.
- On that note, write songs first – before you start the tour. It will be hard to find the time once your touring schedule goes crazy!
- Get good at what you do first, before you hit the road. Practice, practice! We work with two-time Grammy nominee guitarist Tommy Emmanuel, who’s an Australian music legend – but he never stops playing. You’re never too good to stop practicing.
- Build in quiet time on the road. We always have, and I can testify that three hours of peace in the car can save the friendship. Plus, share the driving.
- Think about how to organise sleeping arrangements best, as you'll all be together 24/7. Who will share rooms or beds? Who snores? Believe me, it’s important!
- Let the people in your band do what they’re best at. Democracy in sharing all jobs scrupulously doesn’t always work. If you’re the one good at maths, then look after the finances. If you’re putting together your own tour itinerary, who would do that best? It’s complex, so the band member who is good at research or puzzles would be the pick.
- Address finances early, and establish these systems before you tour. Open a band account and get a great entertainment accountant, because no matter how famous you become, you will still have to do your taxes! Agree on how you will structure payment. Some bands neglect to pay themselves at all during the formative years, but I always say pay yourselves first, but less. Then bank an agreed percentage of your gig money. It may add up to enough for a marketing budget for the next tour.
- Know when the time is right to outsource help and engage a tour manager, agent or manager. Music conference showcases will bring them out of the woodwork if you’re good. And, if you are spending more than $50K a year on travel, an entertainment travel company like Stage and Screen will be invaluable and ultimately save you time and money and let you get on with the business of creating.
- Know simple travel hacks; for example, it's cheaper to rent a car away from the airport. Grab a cab to the rental office in town. It will save you up to 30 percent.
- In Bluehouse, we’ve discovered that some great songs come from soundchecks – always keep your phone on record when you're checking.
- If you’re staying with people on the road, try to find great ‘tour guides’ so you can experience places fully and see new sights. There is no better way to experience a country, and it’s actually way more fun than hotels.
- Get across government grants allowing you to claim rebates. The Export Market Development Grants Scheme (EMDG), for example, allows you a percentage for every dollar spent marketing yourself overseas, over a minimum requirement. Get savvy about all programmes that can boost return on your investment.
- Stay familiar with the ins and outs of working visas for artists. My go-to for US travel is artistsfromabroad.org. It’s always up to date, which is important as visa conditions change. Get informed and don't gig overseas without a visa. Not being able to tour a territory for five years or more can seriously affect your stellar career.
- Assemble a mastermind team around you; people that have paved the way in this business are usually willing to share how they got there.
- Be gracious and give back to your fans - they will be the ones you call on if you need to crowd fund your next recording! Thank them whenever you can with something free. Remember fans’ names. Performing regular charity gigs is also a great way to give back.
By Amy Cooper