Planning a Tour – Where to Begin?

by Jason on January 9, 2010 · 7 comments

in Gigs, JPQ Tour

JPQ Tour Bus??

JPQ Tour Bus??

As I mentioned in this post, 2010 is the year The Jason Parker Quartet will finally tour. We have been playing together for almost 3 years now, have 3 CD’s to our name, and have played some out-of-town gigs around Washington State. But we’ve never crossed a border. With the release of our latest CD, “No More, No Less” (click the “play” button to your right to listen while you read this post), I figured now would be a good time to get the band on the road.

The economics of touring a jazz band are virtually impossible. My band is only 4 people, but I have to figure out a way to cover van rental, gas, lodging, food and find a way to pay my guys a decent wage. I’m hoping the tour will last about 10 days, and I estimate that it’ll cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $4000-5000. As I mentioned in the previous post, I was able to book a wedding in Palm Springs that will help finance some of the costs, but I’m still looking at quite a big budget I’ll have to cover.

The first task, however, is actually booking the gigs. I’ve compiled a pretty hefty spreadsheet of potential venues between Vancouver BC and San Diego and have begun to contact them. But it’s kind of like trying to put a puzzle together while someone keeps moving all the pieces around! I have mapped out a best-case-scenario route and plotted the days on which it would be good to be in certain cities, but until the venues say “yes” to a date it’s hard to know how it will all shake out.

I’ll keep you updated on my progress. In the meantime, I’d be interested to hear how you’ve handled the booking process on your tours. Did you ask venues for specific dates or give them a range to choose from? Did you try to lock in the big cities first and then fill in the holes along the way? Did you send requests to multiple venues in one city, or start with your first choice and only go down the list if they said “no”?

Any advice is greatly appreciated, and I’m sure will help not only me, but all of my readers who are hoping to tour their bands in 2010.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Ryshpan January 10, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Hey Jason,

Most bookers want to know if you can draw, so if you have anything in your corner in any city (contacts, other bands, etc) put those up front in your e-mail. Like, “Hi, I’m Jason Parker, I got your name from (musician they should know).”

When I’ve gone about booking strings of out-of-town gigs, I usually e-mail multiple venues per city (but only venues I actually really want to play or think suit our music), with a window of dates. Then, once things start to get booked, you whittle it down in further correspondence. The smaller towns along the way are often the hardest ones to book – they fill up much further in advance and often have restrictions as to when they have music. E.g. lots of clubs in small towns in Ontario only have music Thursday-Friday-Saturday, which makes it rough to juggle all the other days of the week.

Twitter: elizabethjazz
January 12, 2010 at 3:53 pm

There is a great book called “The Touring Musician,” by Hal Galper … I got some great ideas from there and he really lays out his thought process and budgeting techniques.

Zach January 13, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Just asking to be sure…do you need a work Visa for the Canadian shows?

Twitter: 1WorkinMusician
January 13, 2010 at 4:35 pm

David/Elizabeth – thanks for the tips! I’ll keep you posted on my progress, and I’m looking into the Galper book.

Zach – Yes, I believe if I want to do it right I will have to have some kind of permit. I toured with a band called Crooked Fingers a few years ago and I remember the band leader had to fill out lots of paper work, declare merch, etc…

David Valdez January 23, 2010 at 9:21 am

Hey, how about posting that hefty spreadsheet? :-0

Twitter: 1WorkinMusician
January 23, 2010 at 11:44 am

Hey David,

I’m happy to share my spreadsheet with you! Let me know if I’ve missed any cool venues along the way…

Jason’s Big West Coast Venue Database

Rob Michael February 15, 2010 at 12:57 am

That’s a pretty good looking spreadsheet and while that will get the job done, you might consider checking-out a full-on database designed specifically for working musicians. I like Indie Band Manager. It’s quite good. @charliecheney made/supports it.

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