I think we’ve pretty firmly established on this blog that the main thing that allows for the romance of the road to occur is a bunch of boring stuff that will make you want to kill yourself. In today’s article I want to talk about another one of those boring things – scheduling. Being able to adhere to a strict schedule is vital for any band, and it stands as a greater metaphor for how your band should be conducting yourselves. The fact of the matter is that these things fall into line simultaneously, bands very quickly realize that there is no room for this kind of crap and so they tend to learn everything simultaneously. So if you can get your guys to be operating on a good schedule – then you know that everything else should start to organically come into place.
Scheduling of course takes place on both a macro and a micro level. Picking both apart is going to be crucial because understanding them both will help your band on a macro and micro level respectively. Ultimately, everything depends on the schedule, be it an album release where you need to start looking at release dates months out or simply a night at a show that you want to move with the minimum possible amount of stress. This is the kind of thing that people will nod and agree to when you bring it up at practice, but in most cases you are going to need these kinds of lessons (Sometimes literally) beaten into you by the brutality of the music industry.
Let’s look at scheduling first on a macro level – this is for things like tours and album releases. The further in advance you plan, the better obviously, and most writing cycles should start at least 9 months before release, sometimes more due to increasingly long vinyl production times than anything else. Remember , in this day and age you aren’t going to get a vinyl wait period below six or seven months. Factor in time to record and y’know, WRITE the album and you can see why these things take so goddamn long. Simultaneously, there is the question of press cycles which should probably start 3 months before release – that’s not including setup time etc. You want as long a lead as possible in order to make sure that your work can get covered in the physical magazines. Of course there is also the time that needs to be taken searching for a label if you don’t already have one – further delaying your album release. Suffice to say, I think it’s rapidly becoming clear why waiting a year between recording and release is so common.
As for tours you are going to want t be planning at least six months out, and start booking four or five months in advance, if not more. This might sound extreme, but it guarantees that you will have more availabilities and get a good hold on the venue. It also means that your routing will be a lot easier. The struggle of course comes when you don’t have a booking agent and venues don’t want to book you only to have you break up a few days before the show. This is part of why having a professional image is so important, it helps to guarantee that you will get to play the cool venues even without professional representation. What I’m trying to say is that scheduling for a macro event in your bands history is going to be the main focus of your bands career.
Now for the micro side of things. Having specific time schedules for even the small things can be incredibly helpful. It can help make sure you get down to business in an efficient manner and not dick around in practice. It can also help to make sure that on any given gig night you know that everyone can have a reasonable knowledge of where they need to be and when. Obviously things come up all the time when you are trying to play a show, but you should be looking to minimize these issues in any way possible. That’s what so much of doing this is about, not so much finding exciting solutions or changing the game forever, but rather being able to minimize issues and trust the professionalism of your peers.
With the bands I manage I tend to have them get there about an hour and a half before doors. This guarantees more than enough time to load in and if you’re lucky also time to sound check. It means that your merch guy isn’t going to be to stressed out and should hopefully give you a chance for some much needed rest. In other words, you want to maimize downtime and minimize stress time. It will allow you a chance to find you way forward and fight through the general trauma that comes through tour. An ime you can remove a stressful factor you know that you are helping move toward a happier band and tour experience.
So yeah, scheduling matters a lot and hopefully this article helped to give you no just a more concrete idea as to why, but also a way to move forward to implement it with your band. I know it’s not always fun and in fact can be a bit of a pain in the ass, but that’s how it has to be if you want to be able to move forward in a way that is beneficial to the collective. Realize that even though it sucks now, you are helping yourself out in a big way in the long run, and ultimately, figuring this out, and finding a sustainable path forward is going to be hard . No one likes the harsh parts of the industry, but it’s the nights we remember, not the nightmares.