Touring... the most desirable word in the musicians dictionary... but...
I am talking here about the touring reality as a support band, playing for a crowd that really doesn't care about you.
Let's jump over that phase where you are in your garage, discussing the name of the band with your friends and what instrument each of you shall play. Let's assume that you already have a record out, that it has been released by a label and you even got a HUGE advance from them allowing you to buy 200 T-shirts to sell it on a tour.
Let's assume as well that you have a regular job, because making money even for a signed band is as hard as starting from scratch - with the only difference that someone else is trying to make money out of you.
Furthermore you have to take into consideration that unlikely the 80's where even a lousy demo-tape was at that time a huge achievement to any band. Nowadays having a fully produced album makes you no more special than Mr. Jingles (my cat).
Beside your friends parents nobody really cares if you have an album out. To make a difference, without putting all your cards on pure luck or, god forbid, talent! You will have to realize that the music business is made of personal relations in all levels. (Like that guy from the club that always let you in for free. You see, this goes on all levels and all doors).
There is much more work and much more people needed than you can imagine just to make a band look a bit professional. It will take some skillful marketing, planning and people taking a huge financial risk just to start things to happen. Even having all of that, the chance that all of this will never succeed is way lower than 1% just that you know.
So we learned until now that putting a band together and renting a van (because you have a day job to pay for it) does not qualify you as a touring artist. Not even a record deal does so!
If you are already a local headliner you might want to take the chance to go as a support for a bigger act. You might not get paid, maybe you will have even to contribute to share the nightliner, but in this way you have an absolute unique chance to understand and learn how a touring band works. Remember this is very hard to get so if you get this opportunity don't waste it by drinking yourself to death after your set, instead go and watch the headliner preparing and playing, they are doing this for a long time and there is always something useful you can learn. (I still learn a lot when I am on the road).
Many headliners are a bit hard to handle, in other words they are a bunch of douches. Don't ever take this personal. Think at that as a minor setback if compared to the big picture, at least you are on the road living the "dream" which not many people will ever have the chance to experience. Anyhow, if you land a support slot, use this in your favour, by taking photos and writing about that, on your social media profile (yes facebook and all that shit...) it will increase your "local" clout and that girl that never looked at you might spare a moment next time you meet.
Another very important detail that can help you in the future is to learn to listen to people in the business instead of trying to impress them, they have something that you need, knowledge and experience, so whenever you have time talk to the crew, they will continue to be crew even after your career is long gone! Bands come and go. Good crew guys have been touring for years with countless artists and they can teach you a lot more than a single artist and from my experience most of them are happy to share their stories.
Touring nowadays is the only way to make money for most artists not only for the fees but also for the merchandise sales. For a young band the cost to go as support may be high but it will always be better than headlining a bunch of gigs for no one. It can take quite a long time until that holy email in your mailbox pops up, and it will take a long time applying for support slots as well. If it happens rest assured that it will be hard but very rewarding as you will get to know the business, to meet relevant people and to get some decent media towards your music.
And if one day you shall grow to be a bigger artist remember that being nice to support bands will always prove to be a positive thing no matter what, because the world turns and the headliner today may be the support from tomorrow.
Take care and may the holy email reach thy mortal mailbox!
Tommy Morriello (Crash Bang Management) is business and tour manager of Onslaught, Gama Bomb, Exumer, M-Pire Of Evil, Girlschool, Torture Squad and Musica Diablo.