For most independent artists out there, or any artists who need to take care of their bookings themselves, it’s a huge pain to book an entire tour. To be honest, I actually kind of like the pain, which is why I wrote my first course for Soundfly on the subject, but that’s beside the point. It’s tough work, a lot of back and forth contact and, quite frankly, it can be emotionally draining. Correction: it is always emotionally draining.
So what I’m about to propose might be a hard pill to swallow. But stick with me here and you might find yourself agreeing with the fundamental perspectives I’m about to share.
For a couple years now, I’ve been experimenting with the idea of booking two tours at the same time. Not booking two tours occurring in the same time period. I mean doing all the booking at once for two separate tours at different times of the year. I’m not sure how or why I started working like this in the first place, it was certainly never recommended by any professionals, but there are a handful of reasons why this can actually be a really helpful process, including getting your merch organized, having the opportunity to practice newer material in front of live audiences before bigger shows, convenience, peace of mind, marketing, and more. And I’ve discovered that to some degree, it actually works!
But there are a few ways to go about it. So let’s get into it, and maybe, just maybe, I can prove to you that I’m not crazy.
What to Do
In my experience, there are two solid models for the Double Tour Booking method:
1) The “Practice Run” & the “Real Deal”
The general idea is to book one tour a short time away (3–5 months), and a second run of shows a bit further along in the calendar (6–9 months). The idea here is to use the first tour as somewhat of a secret, unpublicized opportunity to perform for smaller crowds, so you can rehearse newer material or experiment with different aspects of your set in an intimate environment. Simultaneously, book a larger tour further down the road, where you’ll be better prepared with your stage show and ready to go all out to market it.
To benefit the most from this model, I suggest you first focus most of your energy on the bigger, more important tour. It may be 6 to 9 months away, but getting an early start will help you book the best spaces for your band and work with the most in-demand promoters in each city. Remember that the further you plan in advance, the better your chance of getting the dates you want. Take that extra lead time to focus all marketing efforts on this bigger tour.
That first run of shows should be more intimate and low key, and focus on less competitive live music markets, like college towns and campuses, small cities, and alternative venues. This tour shouldn’t take a lot of advance booking, so 3–5 months is adequate for sending out first contact. The whole tour shouldn’t be more than a week or two max. The reason this tour is important, though, is that it gives your band a chance to try out some of the new songs and set lists in front of actual live audiences so you can hit the ground running when you get to the bigger tour. And whether or not you choose to promote this tour, just simply putting yourself out there will generate some attention and name recognition the next time you head out on the road!
2) The “Self-Anchored Route” & the “Event-Anchored Route”
Every tour needs a couple “anchor cities” — places you know you can count on for a bigger fanbase to fill the room, or a cushy guarantee to power you through the slower nights. Depending on your time frame, it’s also possible to book shows around specific “event anchors” like festival appearances, paid private gigs, and album launch parties. If you’re only planning one tour, you’ll want to make sure you’re hitting all those markets at once — planning a tour around the big events and around your fan bases, regardless of when and where they all are.
The beauty of booking two tours at once is that you won’t feel the pressure to hit every market at the same time, allowing you to separate event-based stops from more self-directed destinations so that you can build tours in a way that makes sense given the opportunities you have. So, let’s say you know in advance that your band will have festival appearances in Nashville and Chicago over the summer. You should book some shows around those “anchor dates” to fill out one tour. But if you know that most of your fans and friends live in California, you could save those “anchor cities” for another, more concentrated run later in the year.
Here are some of the reasons I’ve found it’s worthwhile to book tours in this fashion.
The killing two birds with one stone argument
This is the obvious, multi-tasky, reason for booking two tours at once. Simply, that you get it all done in less time. And if you really do dread booking, you might as well get it out of the way!
This is one of the biggest reasons. When you’re booking two tours, essentially you’re making yourself open to a number of date options with venues and cities, and that builds a positive, easy-to-work-with reputation and relationship with venues that increases your chances of booking the perfect gig on the perfect night in the perfect city. If one venue is booked up for April, try suggesting a date in July! Or if you weren’t able to secure a strong enough gig in Oakland this time around, there’s always the three extra months of planning you’ll get if you push Oakland to the second tour.
Being able to suggest flexible dates is an asset during the booking process, and can relieve a lot of headaches.
Being stage-ready and adaptable.
Regardless of which approach you take to booking, it’s always beneficial to use one shorter, earlier tour as a trial run and bigger, later tour to pull out all the stops. There’s nothing better than a band performing at the top of their game, comfortable on the stage and prepared with a bunch of different set list options. The more time you spend on stage, in different acoustic environments and playing for new audiences, the better your band will look and sound up there!
Are there any downsides?
Honestly, it’s a grind. Booking one tour is painful enough, so if you’d like to keep your sanity long enough to even make it to the first tour, perhaps this takes a stronger-than-average resolve and a willingness to burn that midnight oil for weeks on end. It is a lot of work and organization to keep up with, but it gets easier over time!
Another potential downside is if the timing of the two tours is too close, you run the risk of work or other personal conflicts getting in the way for some of your band members. Just make sure to clear all that before getting started on your wild, wacky booking journey!
Have you had success or difficulty booking multiple tours at once? Share your story in the comments below!