In my time as a musician, I've met a good number of colleagues that talk about touring much like one talks about taxes: it's absolutely necessary, extremely draining and soul-sucking, and sometimes if you're very lucky, you'll get a decent return on it. It's so bad that some of my friends have gotten into drugs on the road that they never thought they'd do -- and not just for leisurely reasons -- actually self-medicating so they can play shows back-to-back, day-in day-out. They insist there's no other way. Then there are the friends of mine that have even given up touring altogether and just survive on licensing fees and ad placements alone. But why? Is touring doomed to be the bane of a musician's life, wreaking havoc on relationships and physical well-being wherever it shows its face?
While my experience touring has not been as extensive as many, I have done enough to know that, not surprisingly, who you tour for and where you tour will greatly influence your ability to keep touring healthily. A great songwriter and role model/mentor of ours, Mike Vial recently interviewed and blogged about touring musician Josh Harty, and I came across one quote from that interview that really sums up how important modesty is in planning and executing tours:
"Don’t start too big or grandiose. Concentric circles around your base and keep working outward. If you keep going where nobody knows you and playing shitty shows where no one cares, your touring days are numbered. You need to keep up morale in my opinion."
Touring is no different than any other product you offer your fans: you are trying to bring your music to them where they are. Start with the people who know you first, and build a community outward from there. Put that European tour on hold for another few years. Your heart and body, and your career, will thank you for it.
Check out a brand new song from Mike Vial below.