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Gigging is a great way to reach new fans and monetize your existing ones. This checklist was put together by Rob Lanterman of Hidden Home Records.

I’ve written about this before, so for the sake of not being too redundant, your first tour could very possibly be a disaster. Granted, all of those rough and smelly experiences will be looked back on hilariously later, and you’ll probably consider it to be the time of your life. Realistically, though, it’ll most likely be a mess, despite the fun you have. So to avoid the most collateral damage you possibly can, I’ve written you up a checklist to go through before you take off for your first show.

Note: This article includes affiliate links where the author may receive a commission.

1. Bring Enough Money to Not Make Any.

When you plan a vacation, you make sure you can afford it, right? Treat this first run as a vacation. You’ll make a little money off your shows and merch, but things happen: vans break down and get broken into, promoters flake, and shows get cancelled. Road misfortune costs money, and not to say all of the things I just listed will happen, but they are pretty common. If you are able to guarantee a payout (see below), that’s awesome, but sometimes the person promoting the show will screw you over for one reason or another. I know tour managers who have literally had to follow promoters to an ATM to ensure they get paid. The moral of the story is to be wary and bring enough.

2. Get a Van

Trying to shove 5 people, equipment, guitars, merch, and your suitcases into a car, even an SUV, is often impossible. So get a van! I’d recommend renting one or borrowing one for your first couple tours until you’re sure you’ll be travelling enough to justify buying one. I would add that, if you can help it, don’t spend more money on a trailer. However, that’s up to you and if your van isn’t big enough to hold all of you and your gear at least somewhat comfortably, then it is probably your best option. Just know that despite what TV and the internet tell you, it isn’t mandatory! And of course - this is huge - make sure your vehicle is road ready and up to the cut before you leave!

3. Have Payouts and a Place to Sleep Worked Out

There’s a really great article by Nick Woods from Direct Hit! about how you don’t need to lose money on tour. Granted, I know a lot of people who lose out on their first few tours, and I know I did. Still, one of the best pieces of advice Woods gives is to ask about money and a place to sleep everywhere you go. As someone who’s left for tour unsure of where he’s staying each night or if he’ll get paid enough for gas to the next city, I can’t vouch for this more. Planning ahead and making sure everyone working with you is aware of your needs (or preferred situation) is crucial for things to go smoothly.

4. Stock up on Merch

What I found on my first solo tour is that the more items you have on your table, the more you’ll sell. However, I do think that selling your friends’ work (for instance, I run a label and sold some of our releases) isn’t the best way to go. If people like one of your bands, they’ll be interested in your others - but maybe not your friends’. Two or more shirt designs with multiple releases and formats, as well as maybe some freebies they get with a purchase (free stickers/patches, or compilations you’re on) will make people more inclined to buy from you. And be a good salesman - have your square reader ready as well as your cash box. Obviously sell things at cost or higher, but if you’re able to average even $50 a night on merch, you’ll have extra to cover gas when that bad promoter screws you. God willing, though, you’ll be able to pay yourself back for cost.

5. Be Prepaired

It's quite possible that while on tour, you have medical issues, lose access to power, or fall into financial trouble. To combat these issues, pack things like booster cables, a generator, warm clothing, flashlight, extra credit cards, and an equipped first aid kit.

Have a problem with something I wrote? Have a relatable story? I’d love to hear it - reach out to me on Twitter.

Rob Lanterman is a writer and musician from Boise, ID. He also runs Hidden Home Records out of his bedroom. He graduated from the College of Idaho in 2014 and by April will have toured in over 20 states through various projects.

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