So in case anyone didn’t notice, I’ve been on the road, but I’m fairly certain anyone reading this post would have known that already. If not, hello, my name is Alaster, how are you doing this fine morning/afternoon/evening?
So far this has been a great experience. I’ve been exposed to so many things it’s hard to even form a summary- but it all got me thinking on the general perspective or view of how the touring band works that I’m sure many have.
You see, most people fail to realize how much work and absolute dedication goes into everything- and I mean every. last. little. detail. It’s not as simple as showing up and playing.
From the top, there is of course finding musicians. People you can work with- and hopefully- get along with. There is writing, adapting, finding time to play, learn, rehearse. Then there is booking. Booking with agents, venues, agents of agents- finding people willing to work with your band(s), finding venues willing to have your band(s), being able to book cities in order that make sense to actually drive to- most often you become entirely reliant on promoters to do their job correctly, and when they don’t, it can have bad consequences to your fan base (which is basically the driving force that keeps you afloat during all of this.)
Then there is finding transportation for you, other musicians, and hardest of all- gear. This means a trailer or any other similar device must be rented. The more indie you are, the more everything falls onto you to sort out. We’ve experienced plenty of technical issues our trailer already, which means that’s also on you to solve- which can (and often) means more money.
Then there’s gas. Gas is money. Trailers are heavy, they eat gas. More gear? More gas. More money.
You begin to realize somewhere in here that you also have to eat- and promoters? They don’t always feed you and your crew. And oh shit, you’re going to have to sleep too. So on the road, you have to book hotels, and hotels are not cheap things- if you’re lucky, you have friends’ places to crash, or you are able to sustain the tour enough to always be able to book a hotel.
Let’s skip ahead a bit- so you arrive at your first venue. Now you don’t what the staff is going to be like here- is there even a sound engineer, or is he just a bartender? Wait a minute, is that a 12-channel mackie? Well piss, I sure hope we can fit all our sources in there. These bands and musicians have to be very adaptive, the game changes every day- different staff, different equipment, different stage, different crowd.
And crowds are where your money comes from. Merchandise pays for gas, food, hotels. Playing a show doesn’t always get you mentionable pay- and sometimes any pay at all. CD sales, shirt sales, posters- they are where the money from the tour comes from. They make the difference between losing money and barely losing money. They also unite a fan base more, they are tangible objects to prove the show existed, the band exists, the music exists.
So… you did get those shirts printed, right? Did you find room for them in the trailer? Well, I guess the roadie’s lap will suffice for now. Get on selling those shirts, merch girl.
But while you’re worrying about all of this- did we talk about the show at all? You have to be fresh, ready, into it. You have to try to get the crowd moving, dancing, moshing, or at least standing (lord help you if there are chairs in the venue.) You have to be able to find enjoyment in it to- why else are you doing this?
Really, it’s amazing the work and dedication that goes into this. You can wind up with days without sleep, but you keep going. You have fans to play for, fans to make. You have to be doing this for a reason, your own reason, a reason you hold on to with all of your might to make it worth anything.
It’s simply staggering- the depth and work that goes into everything from public relations to traveling to playing to even waking up after 4 hours of sleep (if you’ve found such luck). People that think bands and musicians don’t work are blind. It’s a struggle, a constantly uphill struggle, and in the end most musicians are just fighting for what they believe in and what they know. The amount of hours and work that go into even one show can pay less than working the same amount of hours for minimal wage. Music is relevant, and has been for all of the known history of man.
That isn’t to put it all in a negative light, only a realistic one. I am very happy to be on this tour and to experience all of this, it’s crazy and fun and chaotic and stressful and impressive and tiring. I’ve made friends of out musicians I have respected and made friends of out people I’ve never met before. But for every good thing to come out of this, there has been work to accompany it. It is, as they say, living.
That’s the way the cookie crumbles, -Alaster