Musicians tour tips | bandhacks

Published on January 31st, 2014 | by Dylan Lott

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11 Things You Need To Bring On Tour

So you’re going on tour. Time to dump your girlfriend, because there’s gonna be coke, girls, parties, beer, and did I mention the coke? But before you get to live your 80’s hair metal fantasy, you need to pack your bags with everything you’ll need for the trip.

I had to learn the importance of almost everything on this list the hard way, and I’d like to help you avoid the mistakes I’ve made if at all possible.

1. Smartphone

This one should be a no brainer. Nowadays, everyone has a smartphone, and for good reason. On tour, I rely on my smartphone every day. I use Gmail to contact promoters; Google Maps to find venues; Yelp to find restaurants; Spotify to listen to music; Netflix to watch shows. The uses are endless (I’ll be writing up another article on my “must have” apps). The major drawback to most smartphones though, is their battery life, which is why you also need…

samsung-galaxy-s4-vs-apple-iphone-5

2. External battery pack

Once you have one, you’ll wonder how you ever managed to survive without it. When you’re on a 10-hour drive to the next show, a dead phone can make the trip seem like an eternity, and with four other guys trying to charge their phones on the only car charger in the van, your odds of having a fully charged phone are slim to none. An external battery pack, like this one from Anker allows you to plug two phones in and recharge them 2-3 times each before needing to be recharged itself. Make charging this your first priority, and you’ll be set all tour. For $50, you can make your phone’s battery life almost infinite, which will help keep you occupied in the van or at the merch table while the opener plays another Chelsea Grin cover through their Line 6 combo amp!

There’s also a good option from Duracell but it only allows for about 1 full charge for a single device.

3. A 24 Hour Fitness Membership

If you’ve ever been on tour before, you know that showers are few and far between (if this is your first tour, you’ll find out soon enough), and your food options aren’t always the healthiest. A membership at 24 Hour Fitness solves both of these problems at the same time (while also providing a decent alternative to parking the van at Wal-Mart every night, because fuck Wal-Mart)! My last tour was a 10-week marketing tour, and my assistant manager and I would sleep in the back of our truck in a 24 Hour parking lot, wake up, work out, shower, and then go about our day. Daily exercise will put everyone in the band in a better mood, and keep you looking sharp for all the 15-year-olds who stole money from their mom’s purse to catch the bus to see your set! Plus, it only takes a few days of not showering to make you miserable, so for $40 a month, you can take unlimited showers (and use the pool/hot tub).

4. Double Up

Anything you can’t live without should have a backup. You’d be AMAZED at the number of musicians I’ve toured with that didn’t bring backup guitars, extra sticks, or even extra strings on month long tours. Some of the big ones (aside from your instrument, which should be obvious) are headphones, iPod/phone charging cables & shoes (This is something that gets overlooked ALL THE DAMN TIME! Change your shoes every day, because it doesn’t take long to make a good pair of shoes smell like shit.)

5. Air Mattress

On tour you will rely heavily on the kindness of strangers. I’ve slept on every surface you can think of, from concrete to carpet, and hardwood flooring to memory foam. Getting a good night’s rest is SUPER important, and a good air mattress allows you to do that anywhere. For $35, you can buy one with a built in pump like this one. The pump runs on four D batteries and folds up into a small log for easy storage after deflating.

wenzel stow and go twin

 

“This’ll make her sleep with me…”

6. Sleeping bag/pillow

This should be obvious, but I’ve seen people forget both. Don’t be that guy. If it’s the winter time, bring an extra blanket with your sleeping bag, too. It’ll come in real handy.

7. Backpack

This is to…put your stuff in. My band has a rule that every person is allowed to bring their backpack into the seating area of the van. When you get out, your backpack comes with you and anything that’s yours needs to be kept inside your backpack. Every day or two, we take every loose article of clothing or food that’s in the van and throw it outside. If no one claims it, it gets tossed. This one is pretty simple. Bring a backpack to carry your stuff.

the classic jansport

 

You can’t go wrong with a classic. 

8. Headphones / Ear Plugs

Nobody wants to hear your music or show in the back of the van; bring headphones or earbuds. You’re playing loud concerts every night; bring ear plugs. Protect your hearing, it doesn’t grow back.

11 things you should bring on tour

“But they were CHROME!” 

9. AAA Membership / Insurance

I’ve been on tour with multiple bands that drove without insurance. Not only is it illegal, but it’s a HUGE gamble. If you talk to your insurance agent, you can turn your insurance off when you’re not using the van, so there’s no excuse to not have it when you’re on the road.

AAA costs $69 a year. Buy it, even for yourself at home. Someone will leave the headlights on, you will pop a tire, and you’ll probably end up locking yourself out at some point. AAA will solve all of those problems.

10. Business cards, fliers, etc…

Of everything I’ve listed, this is the one that gets overlooked the most. THE ENTIRE REASON YOU’RE ON TOUR IS TO PROMOTE YOUR BAND! You should have ample marketing supplies with you AT ALL TIMES. This means having postcards, fliers and stickers in your backpack, business cards in your wallet, and your music on your phone and iPod to show any potential fans. Every person you talk to should be handed a business card, and every fan at each show should be handed a postcard or flier.

If some kid in Fresno saw you open for his buddy’s band and like your set, wouldn’t you want him to go straight home and follow you on Twitter/like you on Facebook? If he can’t remember your band’s name, then what was the point of playing the show?

11. Positive Attitude

Touring has allowed me to see parts of the country I would never have seen otherwise. I’ve shared some of the best times of my life on the road with my best friends, and it’s an experience I wish EVERYONE could have. The most important thing to bring on the road is a positive attitude. You’re doing what hundreds of thousands of people wish they could do. Have a great time and enjoy it!

 

Have other suggestions for what to bring on tour? Leave em’ in the comment box!

If you have an affinity for illicit substances and addiction like Daniel, make sure to check out his band Idols on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

He also plays for The Home Team and manages marketing tours for companies like Naked Juice.

 

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