The Art of Planning a Tour: Which Regions Should You Hit and When?

Art of Planning a Tour

Originally posted on Sonic Bids

If you’ve been stuck in a Canadian snowstorm or an Austin heatwave on the road, you know these are not the kind of experiences you want to relive. Sure, they’re funny stories for a bit, but canceled shows mean you don’t get paid. Mother nature can be a homie to us most of the time, but she can really turn on us and wreak havoc when she so desires.

Since my company, Audio Blood, is based in Canada, we’ve learned to tough it out, but we’ve also learned to keep a good eye on when we can get the heck out of our chilly country, which is why it’s important to know the best and worst times to make the most out of your touring schedule. Now, for a bit of perspective, this is ideal for those bands in colder climates and seasonal opportunities, but the logic can be easily applied to anyone in North America.

So, let’s chat mapping out the ideal tour schedule – seasonally, at the very least. It goes without saying that depending on your genre, these targets may shift.

Fall (September to November)

What a time it is to hit the road! The fall brings with it all the fresh-faced students, orientions, and frosh events! I suggest sweeping across the US and hitting as many college markets as you possibly can before school is in session and boredom and busy schedules wreak havoc.

Later in the fall, you can watch the leaves turn in NYC while rocking CMJ, and perhaps plan a tasteful swoop to nearby cities in Canada to take advantage of some great conferences and festivals(Halifax Pop Explosion, M for Montreal, etc.). Come November, we suggest heading to the West Coast of the US, as it hasn’t even realized the seasons are changing and still welcomes a good outdoor concert. Europe is also as busy as ever in the fall. Head over and play your heart out, skipping through different countries each week with ease. Or you may decide to say “screw the warmer regions” and head to the coldest of them all, Iceland, for Iceland Airwaves. (Let’s face it, when you have an opportunity to go to Iceland, you always take it.)

The fall is also prime time for releases, so you’ll see lots of bigger-name artists take to the road. Scope out some key support opportunities and join the ranks of many bands who squish into one hotel room, rejoice at leftover rider goodies, and generally make zero money. The plus side is that you get to play in front of bucket loads of new fans each night! The fall is the time to grind it out. Build. Hustle. Get right into it!

Winter (December to February)

Winter! Such tortuous tour times, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: winter is time to call up your friends down under and book yourself a long-ass flight across the ocean, because guess what? It’s summer in Australia.

This means you could bypass winter entirely and hit all the Aussie summer festivals. No vans that don’t start in the cold, or wondering if you’re going to slide off the road in a paralyzing ditch for hours on end. The Aussies will welcome you with a big hug, as they always do, and if you play your cards right, there’s some great money to be made. Whether you play folk, jazz, hip-hop, metal, or indie rock, there are festivals you should be targeting in Australia this time of year like Soundwave Festival and the Australian Blues Music Festival. Basically, winter is about being smart and safe!

Spring (March to May)

Oh spring, what a fleeting but perfect touring season. In most markets, spring is pretty great. If you decide to head across the pond, you may find yourself wedged among a slew of great festival opps like the Great Escape or Liverpool Sound City. Stick it out in North America, and have yourself a lovely time! SXSW might leave you in a daze, but if there’s business to be done, you’ll perhaps find yourself in Toronto for Canadian Music Week.

Much like fall, spring is a great time to jump on support tours and pound the pavement. Cover as much ground as you can, ’cause there likely aren’t many weather ailments in your way. Spring is your time to shine!

Summer (June to August)

You would think summer is the best time to tour, but that isn’t necessarily so. Sometimes things are just not as they seem, my friends. You see, summer is wonky because all those hardcore music fans that packed your shows in the spring and fall are too busy at their parents’ cottage. But don’t worry, they may emerge from their dens to attend a summer festival like Newport Folk Festival or NXNE, and if you do your job in the fall and the spring, you may just land yourself on one of these lineups and build some great resume-boosting moments and sell a great amount of merch! The goal is to try to have a number of these festivals to keep gas in the tank and the band a-growin’! That’s tricky if you only have regional success, as most festival bookers have intense radius clauses to protect their perfectly crafted lineups.

Try to spend more time outside rather than inside dank clubs. You’ll find no one wants to be indoors. Don’t get down and out about your fleeting success; when you return to touring in the fall, all will go back to normal. Fear not. If you find yourself without gigs in August, at the end of summer, maybe write a record or work on your website. August is a great time to take a breather.

So there you go. A full year of international touring is achievable, and with the right planning, you can likely avoid deathly hail storms and blizzards. Sure, there will always be hiccups and sometimes an opportunity to tour with a sellout stadium band will happen in mid-January, but if you use this as a rough map in your planning or log it away in the back your mind, perhaps you may just find yourself in the right place at the right time. But hey, there’s sometimes great value in being in the wrong place at the wrong time, too. It could turn out to be one of those “so bad it’s good” situations, because the markets are undersaturated. So tour at your own risk, and pack a wide range of outfits!

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