My first national tour
First off, let me apologize for the late release of this month’s article. I’ve been having the hardest time deciding what this issue was going to about. My first thought was to do it on how to book shows, then it was on getting press, then it was going to be about promotions; however, I decided against these because every one of the 12 million music industry books out there can tell you how to do any or all of these things. The purpose of Indie Hip Hop 101 is to give insight past the surface issues. So I mulled over it for a few weeks, but still came up with a blank. And then I talked to a young aspiring emcee who will remain nameless, and got slapped right in the face with it.
This cat was asking me about how I put together all of these tours with no money or radio play. So I told him a little of how I go about doing what I do. Even though I was putting in an effort to be careful not to overload or discourage him, I could tell by his facial expression that I was failing miserably. I pressed on though, because he needed to hear it. Then the youngster slides out, “How do you make your money?” I laughed and replied, “Very carefully.” In truth, that’s when the light bulb went on in my head.
The issue with the game today is that new artists have been brain washed by reality shows and fake “record deal” contests into thinking that it’s an easy feat to survive and succeed in this business. They think that the money’s fast and the fame lasts (that rhymes. I think I’m putting it in a song). So the next few months are going to deal with the realities of the business, or more specifically, the “how-to” behind the “how-to.”
My first national tour
The first time that I booked a national tour was with my band, First Team. I booked it out to Cali, up to Portland, and back to Atlanta. This was going to be monumental for a few reasons:
It accomplished all of that and more. I think we sold close 450 CD’s, which was about 28 CD’s/show. Also, we made a name for ourselves with a lot of promoters in a lot of cities. All in all it was perfect…not. The truth is, that with all of the good and great that came from the tour, there was a whole bunch of behind the scenes shit that made me want to pull out my hair.
For most independent artists, your first tour will be your hardest to book, it will take the most time to book, it will cost you a lot, and you will lose the most money. I can almost guarantee it. The silver lining, though, is that you have to do it any way. I know, not much of a silver lining. Okay, try this one. Everything begins with a step, and if you don’t take this first step, you will never have the opportunity to take a second. Hip hop is full of cats that never take a first step; just look around the scene of your hometown.
My first step took me almost 6 months at 4 hours/day to book 16 shows. All of this on top of already having a full time gig, a woman, and still booking and promoting all of our local and regional shows. Since this was before Myspace totally blew up the digital world, everything I did was by mail. Which meant that I sent out 6 months’ worth of press kits, which was about 275-300, at about $1.50 each. That’s not including the price of the ink it took to print the press kits and CD’s.
What it took to book the tour paled in comparison to what it took to actually leave: I had to get a rental that would fit all five of us and our equipment; the cost of CD manufacturing; gas. Plus, leaving money with my lady to cover rent, bills, and expenses.
Then, you have to somehow figure in that things won’t go as planned. Two months before the tour I reserved a minivan, but when I got to the rental place they were completely out and didn’t know when the next one would be in. So after bitching, a couple of curse words, and a where’s your supervisor, they gave me a week free on the rental; however, the largest thing that they had was a Durango. I don’t know if you know about a Durango, but it’s not an ideal vehicle for a band and their equipment. So somehow we had to fit our bags, the drums, our two amps, and two guitars in this. We did it, too; it just wasn’t very pretty or comfortable.
Once we were on the tour, there were a couple of things that we had to account for. In most places, we were given hotels, but there were a few places where we had to accommodate ourselves. Eating out killed us too. We ate at A&W, Burger King, McDonald’s, Whataburger, Jack In The Box, Taco Cabana, and everywhere else you can name. I spent at least $20/day on eating; however, none of this combined even came close to the price of gas. Also, we were touring with Dropbombs, and their van broke down somewhere in Kansas. So we had to find them, rent a trailer, and tow the van back to Atlanta. Truth be told, the only reason we sold 450 CD’s was because we needed to to get back home.
All in all, to leave Atlanta cost us about $1200/each, and we came back with $200/each, which I spent on the next bill that came through the door. However, by most standards, the tour was a flying success. After the band broke up, Evaready RAW and I continued to tour as solo artists. Two tours later we broke even. The next tour after that, I netted 3 months rent.
Soon after that, the economy tanked and those guarantees were either split in half or turned to door splits, and hotel rooms turned to crashing at the promoters crib. We still toured very successfully, but we revamped how we did so. I became smarter and more efficient with our money and time. Here’s some of the things that I learned:
Quanstar is an American underground hip hop artist, indie filmmaker, comic creator, and self published author from Atlanta.