Do you ever make a decision so good that you decide you want to write an entire article about it? Because I did. And I’m going to. Your touring band needs a trailer. Ours is named Dennis and I love it. The change that this has rendered on our entire touring experience has been beautiful. Every once in a while you need to realize that spending a little bit extra money is going to save your entire bands experience and ensure that you don’t break up and are able to keep doing cool stuff with your band for years to come, rather than getting frustrated and deciding to call it quits. Being in a band is hard and if you can do simple things, like renting a trailer, to boost group morale by leaps and bounds then you had better damn well do it. Remember – morale is something you do have to spend money on on tour, even if it often doesn’t feel that way and that means that morale is a resource, a resource that is so important that it justifies spending five hundred bucks on a trailer. I seriously love this thing.
Dennis is great because even though he is small he can store most of our stuff. While I’d like to get a bigger trailer for the next tour so that we can load more easily and have all four rows of seats rather than just three, it’s still a blast to have it on hand because it makes our lives so much easier and means that we have a ton of room to sit back and lie down during those long drives. It means that we can do those all night drives a lot more safely because the person driving next can get a solid four or five hours of sleep while it’s not his turn to drive and have the energy needed to drive through until five in the morning. Sure it’s sometimes hard to park with a trailer and learning how to drive with one can be a challenge, but in the end, that sort of stuff tends to work itself out. It’s just one example of where spending money can make your lives a little bit easier and make things on tour flow more efficiently.
You see stuff like this all the time on tour, like bands who get hotel rooms or decide to shell out for vehicles above and beyond your standard fifteen passenger van. I’m not saying this is always the greatest idea, you certainly need to balance out comfort and frugality, but it’s certainly worth it to some people. I get that a lot of the time it can be really hard to decide to spend money when you aren’t making that much, but you also need to realize that if you’re out for a month that’s a month of your life. Consider what your normal living expenses are and realize that you’re not totally entitled if you apply at least some of them to your voyages. I’m not saying you should use that to justify extended lunch breaks or long bathroom stops but you can certainly keep it in mind. It’s the little things that keep a tour going smoothly, be it anything from enough sleep to enough food, and if you can pay a little extra to make those things work for you then more power to ya.
Other, perhaps more realistic things it might make sense for a low level touring band to shell out on is stuff like proper boxes for merch, not just the cardboard that you get from your t shirt printer. One of the disadvantages of trailers is that stuff gets knocked around and this can wreak havoc on boxes. The bands who use proper plastic bins end up having a better time, largely because it means things stay started a little better and its not always a question of trying to find new boxes at venues when yours fall apart. Merch racks are another great bit to cash in on, they serve as an easy way to quickly showcase your merchandise, especially on days when you don’t have a ton of time to soundcheck and people are already coming in, curious to see what you have to sell. If you’re really committed to having a good time on tour then you need to be willing to absorb some up front costs, but in my experience it’s almost always worth it.
Initial investments manifest themselves a little more intangibly sometimes though. For example – just look at things like PR and radio play. These are things that drive every major tour and you need to be open to pay them if you want your tour to work at all. Tours with no PR basically are doomed to be unattended and will never get any real coverage. Radio play, while a little less important, can be a great driving factor for fans who have never previously heard your band. It can sometimes be tricky to balance these things out – you obviously don’t want your upfront costs to be too high if you’re not expecting to make too much money on tour, but the more money that you spend upfront the more comfort you are going to have on an extended run and that is almost always worth it – especially for the long runs when you find yourself getting a little bit too intimate with your peers in the band you are touring with.
As always, consult with your friends in more established bands, figure out the best way forward for you personally and grow from there. Just because you spend a ton of money doesn’t mean you will be comfortable, but if you spend a decent amount of money then the odds are you will have a little more freedom and be a little more comfortable on the road which can mean better performances and more fun. You need to analyze why you are doing music and embrace it for what it is. Realize that if you are in it for the money yo are probably going to hut, so instead just embrace the stupidity of it all and smile, if you’re not having a good time all the time then why even bother?