Orange Goblin frontman Ben Ward knows a thing or two about touring. Not only have the doom rock quartet he fronts criss-crossed the globe, delivering the live goods since the mid-’90s, but Ward’s longtime day job has been as a booking agent at London office of United Talent Agency. There, he’s routed tours for the likes of Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar, Coven, Voivod and, of course, his own band Orange Goblin, who will began a short run of U.S. shows later this month (see dates below). With that in mind, we asked our man to provide five pro tips that every band who is booking their own tour should practice. Take it away, Ben!
Research the promoters in each town
Do a bit of a background check to see which bands they have worked with, which venues they put shows in and what their reputation is like for paying the bands and how they treat the bands they put on. This is very important, especially for bands that are on the road for long periods of time and music is their livelihood. No one wants to travel for hours to be met by a flakey promoter! Once you’ve agreed a deal and contracted the show, make sure you check in to see that they are indeed ‘promoting’ the show. This can include checking that they have created event pages, sponsored online ads, paid for national advertising or putting up posters all over town for the show or handing out flyers at similar shows in town prior to your arrival. I find it also pays to be respectful to promoters. At the end of the day they are trying to help you so don’t be a dick if you don’t get that ‘over the top’ hospitality rider you demanded. Try to help them out as much as they are helping you out by promoting your band and your livelihood.
Research the venues and request as much info about every aspect
Check out which bands have played there previously and always make sure they have the facilities to accommodate your band. This could mean making sure they have the right stage dimensions, technical spec, FOH soundboard, lighting rig etc. You should check that they have suitable parking at the venue, no one wants to be told you have to park half a mile away and carry your gear from there. If you’re travelling on a nightliner then check that they not only have suitable parking but also a power supply that can charge the bus whilst you’re parked there. You can also find out all the smaller details too like how easy the load-in will be, are there stairs involved, what is the green room like, where the merchandise area will be and what the merchandise concessions are likely to be, are there toilets and showers available for the traveling bands, etc. Do your homework if you don’t want any nasty surprises when you arrive.
Always get a signed, legally binding contract and where possible, try to get at least 50% of your fee in advance of the show
I’ve heard too many stories about bands that booked shows with flakey promoters and ended up not getting paid what they were due. Any decent, trustworthy promoter will be happy to pay you 50% of the fee up front, especially if ticket pre-sales for the show are going well.
Plan a sensible routing for your tour, especially if touring across the U.S.
This is very important to make touring financially possible and economically viable. Work out the distances and lengths of drives between shows so you can be 100% sure that the band can get some sleep and then still make it to the next show in plenty of time. There is nothing worse than having to jump in the van straight after your show for a 20 hour drive to the next town, especially when you know that the day after you have to come back on yourself to play a town that you already drove through. This not only takes time but costs you a lot more in fuel prices and in particular states or countries, it could possibly mean extra money spent on road tolls too. Be strategic and always research each country, state or territory that you are visiting. Another tip here is to check what each state/country charges with regards to taxes as a lot of bands don’t figure this into their initial budgeting and get hit hard later on, especially if the fees are pretty hefty.
Have fun and rock hard!
After all that planning, rehearsing and preparation for what can sometimes be a grueling time away from home and a lot of hard work, there will be a lack of sleep, lots of hangovers, disputes and fights with bandmates, vehicle break downs, illnesses, cancelled shows due to all sorts of ridiculous reasons and it will get you down, but you need to make the most of it. Not many people get to tour the world for a living or play music as a profession so when you get down, remember that it still beats working a shitty job for a twat of a boss in a factory somewhere.