You’ve heard the glory stories of surviving on tour: nightly pizza and fried food, crashing in run-down motels or the van, waking up to do it all over again. As fun and spontaneous as touring sounds when reminiscing, if you’ve ever been out on the road, you probably also know how much time is spent organizing logistics and keeping your band on track to make it to the next show.
Managing the business end of your tour well can make you successful both financially and in terms of networking and building a fanbase. On the flip side, a completely spontaneous tour can waste valuable playing time and potentially burn a pretty sizable hole in your wallet. Needless to say, it’s well worth your time to get organized and plan your tour out in advance to help bring in all the connections and cash you can!
Now you could go the old school route and do all your scheduling, booking, and bookkeeping with pen and paper — itemizing everything, adding, crossing things out, and littering the highway with your day sheets that you forgot to put back into a folder. But not to fear — we have some free and cheap online tools to help you make planning efficient, accurate, and easy, and help your music sound better than ever!
Here are a few critical apps that will help professionalize the business end of touring and allow you to sound great, without needing to bring every piece of gear you own.
1. Master Tour
Master Tour is where the office meets the road. Musicians turn to this app for schedule management, booking, and logistics. The desktop program and mobile app come complete with the local time, weather, hotels, venues, and interactive maps to get you acclimated to the area. There’s even a guest listing feature that lets you send your guest list straight to box offices.
Take on a professional management system for your band with printable finance and scheduling templates and push notifications for your crew and band members.
Price: Monthly subscription — Professional @ $49.99/month or a free mobile level
2. Expensify & Hurdlr
When it comes to expense tracking, there are literally hundreds of apps to choose from, which is why we’re here to talk about a couple at once. Let’s start with Expensify, and a few things really make Expensify stand out as a touring-specific expense tracker. It’s got all the standard features you’d hope for — enter expenses by photographing or screenshoting receipts, organize expenses by category, tag, event, and day — but beyond that, there are special travel features built in. Use the app to keep track of flight bookings and statuses, track the distance you’ve traveled (particularly useful if you’re using a U-Haul and want to be able to estimate the final cost), and you can even invoice venues or promoters, directly from the app.
Secondly, there’s Hurdlr — also excellent for tracking business and band expenses, but Hurdlr is a bit more fine-tuned to the needs of independent entrepreneurs, such as musicians and artists.
Secondly, Hurdlr’s innovative Artificial Intelligence engine automatically learns your spending habits and categorizes them for you, which saves you time to focus more on music, and… finding a place to crash on an off-night! The app also has automatic mileage tracking, to save you even more time.
3. Bandsintown Manager
Bandsintown Manager lets you seamlessly and simply manage and promote your gigs on a huge number of platforms, all within a single app. Create and update Facebook events, and post to Twitter, Google+, and even your own website (if you use their widget). If your fans are active Bandsintown users, you’ll be able to send them push reminders about your shows, and gain useful demographic info about your fans and their behavior. You can also keep tabs on photos and videos your fans post online, and repost your favorites to Facebook and Instagram.
4. Hotel Tonight
This gem is a clear go-to for last minute booking wherever you are. You can book for tonight, tomorrow, or even next week right from your smartphone.
Hotel Tonight is perfect if you still want to maintain that spontaneous, on-the-road vibe for your tour. Plus, the bookings come at great deals since the app is based on filling unsold rooms. It’s the ideal solution for when accommodations fall through last minute, or those moments when the thought of one more night in the van with your bandmates has you contemplating murder.
Catch some off-the-beaten-path destinations that are right on your way with Roadtrippers’ multiple search filters. Just input your route (point A to point B), and Roadtrippers will help you find hotels, campsites, restaurants, gas, sports games, or even a quick hike, all without having to leave a 10 minute radius of your planned route!
(It’s worth noting that Google Maps just added an “on the way” feature that lets you search gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores, or coffee shops along your route, but we still love that Roadtrippers gives you all kinds of sites and activities that let you stretch your legs without going out of your way.)
Since its release in 2009, Tempo has been among the top 100 apps in the Music category. The five modes available allow you to manage your gig practice and prep with “Basic,” “Preset,” “Setlist,” “Practice,” and “Gig.”
It has a user-friendly interface and an unbeatably accurate metronome. (If you’re looking to take your timing to the next level during gigs, check out our free course Live Clicks and Backing Tracks for Ableton Live!)
Cleartune is a chromatic instrument tuner and pitch pipe that will make you say goodbye to old visual and analog tuners. The interface is a note wheel tuner that helps you quickly find your pitch and tune.
It can help you tune acoustic or electric guitars, bass, bowed strings, woodwinds, brass, piano, timpani, tablas, and really any instrument that can sustain a tone.
Fun fact: It was even used in the making of “The Fall” by the Gorillaz.
This app definitely gets your hands into making music. It gets its value from being an easy to use, portable music making program. You can tweak your own tracks and share them with others in the Allihoopa community through the app.
Figure gives you drums, bass, and synth leads, and was created with collaboration in mind. The app helps you get going making music, and makes you sound great in just seconds.
At last, here is the loop-based music sequencer you’ve always wanted. LP-5 lets you seamlessly mix and arrange in real-time. It is just as helpful in studio sessions as it is in live performances. It even synchronizes the tempo for you without jeopardizing pitch.
Audio-import, inter-app audio, MIDI features, and the ability to play in time with Ableton Link give you all of the tools you need to mix and perform a really killer, sonically advanced set.
Use TouchOSC to send and receive Open Sound Control and MIDI messages. Remote control and send feedback, and even send Accelerometer data. Customize your layouts and touch controls, or just use the example layouts to get you going with your own MIDI controller.
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