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Get your band out on the open road - By: Dave Cornner
When do you know it's time to take your act on the road? That's a question that has many different answers. You first must ask yourself what your long-term goals are. The number one step in succeeding as a professinal musician is treating the "band" as a business, and not just time to hang out with your buddies. This won't be the last time you hear that. Going on the road takes sacrifice and MONEY, and if you don't take it serious, it could be the demise of your group. Are you ready? Ok. Ask yourself these questions.

Have you saturated your local market? You can only play so much in your home -town and surrounding villages. If you live in a big city like NYC or Chicago, you could play locally for a while before expanding, but are you going to get a draw multiple times a week from the same crowd, week in and week out? Probably not.

Do you want to sell more CD's? One way to get notice from the industry is to sell, sell, sell. By getting out on the road you expose your music/show to that many more people.

Are you and your band mates able to get off work to travel for extended weekends? This is a must if you want to go on the road. If you are not a full time musician making 100 percent of your income from playing, get a job that will be flexible with any touring schedual.

Do you have pro gear that will take the abuse from being on the road? If you don't have gear that will take the abuse you need to get some. You don&Mac173;t want to end up in Petoskey MI, with a broken amp, three days of tour left and no shop to get it fixed.

Do you want the music industry to take you serious? If A and R hears that you are busting your butts, traveling around the U.S. trying to get the word out about your music they are going to take you serious. They see that you are willing to work hard and do what it takes to sell CD's, and half the time that's all they are concerned with.

If you answered yes to all of these questions, then chances are you are ready to take your act on the road. Where to start? Well, if you're not lucky enough to have a booking agent or two, then you're going to have to do it yourself. It's possible, but that just means you have to put in some time. First things first.:

Put together the best press kit you can. Include, your CD, 8x10 glossy Black and white, bio, list of members in your group and what you all play, testimonials{I use good reviews from}, any press you may have received, clippings from the paper showing where you have played, and anything else that makes your band look good. Throw in some stickers with your logo on it. Keep in mind though, that you don't want it to be boring. You want to look like any major touring indie group. You want the club/agent/talent buyer to read the whole thing, so put it together well! Next it&Mac173;s time to do some research. What area of the country is your style of music doing really well? Find states that have a nice pull for your genre. How do you find that out? There are a couple of ways. Go online. There are tons and tons of sites with club info on it. Or, what I really suggest is picking up the "Talent buyers guide" from Pollstar. This guide lists the major clubs as well as booking agents and buyers for all states. It is up to date and a must have for any band that is seriously considering going on the road. This book gives you everything you need. Bookers name, phone number, capacity, and genre. Once you have done your research and put together your press kit you're ready for your next step. Calling the people who book the club. To stay organized be sure to pick your state/region before making any calls. When booking your tour you want to make sure you set up routing to and from shows. You're most likely not going to book a show in Philly on Fri, and a show in Boulder, CO. Saturday. Now give the booking person a call. Tell them that you are calling on behalf of the band. Sometimes the clubs will be quicker to deal with you if you are NOT in the group. Just let them know you "represent" the band and you do the booking for them. Tell the club that you are going to be in the area and would like to be considered for an evening at their club. When they tell you it&Mac173;s cool to send out your press kit, get the address and let them know you&Mac173;ll call them in a week to see if they 1. got the package ok and 2. had a chance to listen to it. After you have made about 30 calls, it&Mac173;s time to mail the packages out. This will cost a little bit so make sure you send it to places you think you have a chance at getting in. Don't just send stuff out without calling first! You&Mac173;ll be wasting time and money. After a week or two has gone by, call your contacts. Have they listened to your CD? Be prepared for anything. Have some dates ready to set up, or be prepared for some constructive critisism. Don't be frustrated if 99.9 percent of them tell you, "Yeah I got it right here, call me back in a week and we'll talk." Then next week they say the same thing. Be persistent! Call them every week, even if it feels like your bugging them. You are, but that's what it takes if you want to get in before the other 250 bands that are waiting in line. When you got them on the phone, tell them how good you are, and how much they would enjoy the show. You gotta give them reasons why they should bring you all the way from East Jabib intstead of just hiring a band from there home town. When you finally narrow a date down with them, now comes the hard part. Money. You have to get paid when you go on the road. Think of the expenses it takes for your band to travel, and come up with the lowest absoulute amount that it takes for you play at the club. Shoot high and then come down if need be. Do you need a hotel room? See if the bar will cover it. If they don't, then tell them you might need more money to cover the expense. Are they going to feed you? All of these things you should find out when dealing with the clubs. When you have everything finalized ask them if they are going to send you out a contract. If they say no, tell them you will send out your own. You want to have a contract if you are traveling 500 miles to play. What happens if you get there and they cancel on you? The contract will make sure you get paid regardless. Now that you have one date set it's time to get more. You just booked a Saturday night in Cleveland. To make it worth the trip you want to set up a few more dates. Try to book a Friday night in Toledo, and maybe a Sunday in Columbus. All of these cities are within four hours of each other and would be perfect to round out a weekend.

It's just that easy! All it takes is time and persistence. If you get multiple people in your band doing this, you will be booked up in a matter of months! A few more things you might want to think about before you head off.

1.) Are you taking more than one car? Get a car that all of you fit in and put a trailer hitch on it and pull your gear. In the long run this will save you tons of money. Multiple cars equal lots of gas, and you might want to buy a trailer instead of renting. U-haul averages about 90 bucks a trip to rent. You can save money by buying a new trailer for about 1500 dollars. Use CD/merchandise money to cover the costs of trailer etc. until you get paid the big bucks from the clubs.

2.) Promote your band every chance you get. Pull into a town and go to work promoting the show. You want to get as many people their as possible. Remember, this is a business, so go work instead of spending all day on the beach. Time to party comes after the show.

3.) Treat the clubs great. Tip the bartenders big, show up on time, and do whatever they ask of you. If they like you guys then they will definitly have you back, and hopefully give you more money next time.

4.) Meet other bands with similar styles of music and offer to do show trades with them. Play a gig opening with them in their hometown and gig them a gig opening for you in your hometown.

5.) Remember, this is your business, but if you&Mac173;re not having a good time at it then it&Mac173;s not worth it. Make sure your whole group is in the same mind set as you are or you'll be wasting lots of time.

You don't have to be a major label band to tour. The Dave Matthews band was making over a Million dollars a year touring before they ever got signed. Now get out on the road and show the country what you got!

D. Conner is vice president of Horse-Drawn Productions Chicago and lead vocalist/guitar for the band Urban Funk Ordinance. He has worked with artists such as R. Kelly, P-Diddy, Kelly Price and more and is currently on tour with his band. For more info on D. go to

or e-mail him at

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