Martin Clive Atkins is an English drummer and session musician, best known for his work in post-punk and industrial groups including Public Image Ltd, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Pigface, and Killing Joke. I had a chance to look over a book he wrote which was very impressive and felt the need to share this. Atkins had some great advice from his recent book “Tour: Smart” and decided to give you the best of it. For more info on the book and on Atkins, click here.
“You have an album or two under your belt, a group of fans that come to all of your shows, your creative thought processes have combined, and the stars are all in alignment.
Don’t forget- there’s still a long road ahead of you. You are just one band out of a million other bands. If you want your band and music to stand out from the crowd and make a lasting impression in peoples’ minds, there are a few do’s and do nots of the music industry to understand and follow. These industry practices and tidbits of advice come directly from some of the masters/experts in the field. They had to learn these lessons the hard way, but at least they learned! With that being said, here is our top-ten list for taking it to the next level if your band decides to tour.”
Learn Excel and make a budget
This is a no brainer. If you don’t, you might be finding part time work in the city your stranded in just to get home. Atkins stressed the importance of budgeting over and over in Tour: Smart. If you get serious about making your band a profit, I highly suggest investing in this book and reading up on Atkins’ formulas to calculate daily expenses and income. Once you know the formulas, excel does most of the work for you. If you don’t like those tables, here is a great website to get you started.
Don’t rush to get a bus
Buses are expensive! Your band wants a vehicle that is safe, reliable, and still cost-effective. Unless you plan on selling all your merch and maxing out every venue, any money you make will go toward a tour bus. Atkins calculated that the cost of a tour bus averages $1,000.27 per day- meaning that cost of a bus today could average $2,500- $3,000 per day!
Don’t be in a hurry to play to no one
It is great to be excited to play shows, but sometimes bands will jump at the opportunity to play without determining whether a particular show is worth the effort. When you play a show at a certain venue in a certain city, you are helping people to associate your band with other bands and venues. Research the venues that you’ll be playing at and determine whether they are a good fit for your band/music, and make sure that people are actually going to show up to see you play.
Get a street team, and respect them
A good street team can work miracles for a band. Not only can a street team spread the word about your music, they can help out with small things that you may need while on the road. Your street team can be a pool of resources, but you need to communicate with them as to what you need. Keep in mind, they are people and want to be respected. Tell them you appreciate their help, and reach out to them once in awhile, even when you don’t need their help. This will help your band build a stronger, better relationship with your street team which will only help you along the way. Or make your reputation a nightmare.
Avoid big cities
There is way too much competition for peoples’ attention and loyalty in places like New York City and LA. Unless you actually live in these cities and are already playing there, your best bet is to build a strong following in your city and the surrounding cities. Once you have a sizable following, gradually start to expand your playing field to larger cities.
Protect your equipment
When loading/unloading equipment, setting up, or leaving your vehicle, there are certain things you can do to protect your gear and vehicle from being stolen. First and foremost, lock the doors! All the time! Make sure that all band members have a copy of the van key. If possible, back your vehicle against the wall of a building in a way that prevents someone from opening the main door and getting to your equipment.
Make sure your merchandise booth is located in an optimal place at venues
This is the area every band makes money. Merchandise sales are one of the biggest ways to make revenue for your band. People will almost always pass up a merch booth that is hidden in the furthest, darkest corner of a venue – they are not going to see it! Your merch booth needs to be located in a traffic stream that is well-lit and close to the venue’s entrance. It should be easy to find.
Hire a merch person that you can TRUST
This goes without saying much. Handling merchandise is not the most glamorous of jobs, but it is one of the more important jobs for any band who wants to make a profit. The merch person needs to be organized, able to count change, and have a working understanding of inventory, or they can BREAK YOU FINANCIALLY. Make sure they are nice too. No one wants to work with crabby people. In order to give the merch person some incentive to do his/her best job, give him/her a percentage of what you make for the night.
Give a good interview
If someone in the media shows interest in your band, that’s a great opportunity for you to spread the word about your music and upcoming shows or projects. Research your interviewer and his/her organization so you can customize your interview so that it appeals to their following. ALWAYS have a purpose when interviewing. Do not rant and stay positive. Also, use landlines for phone interviews to avoid dropped calls. Video conferencing is also a plus. People like face to face interactions.
Practice for catastrophe, and you will always triumph
“If you and your band always prepare yourselves for the best possible scenario, you will always struggle. It doesn’t make sense to prepare to play in the best venue, in the best city, in front of the best crowd. Instead, practice for the worst-case scenario, and you will always be prepared. Devise plans for things like power surges, alternate ways to get paid if you don’t get money from ticket sales, etc. The music industry is about improvisation- use that skill to prepare yourselves for anything this world may throw at you, and you will succeed.“
I will be putting more tips for musicians later to keep up with our segments regarding traveling musicians and how to stay up during those times. Be sure to visit us at Ant Hill Music soon for more mayhem.