8 Biggest Challenges You’ll Have On Tour

As much of an adventure as the tour will be, there are a few challenges to overcome. Here’s how to prepare…

by CHRIS ROBLEY of handyman musician

Touring and performing live can be amazing.

On big nights, when everything is going well, you feel the buzz of performing your songs in front of an audience that returns the energy.

Yes, great shows can bring in new fans, merchandise sales, more gigs, and good press.

But no matter how willing you are to do your best, there are always SOME aspects of the live game that are beyond your control. What if THESE things don’t go well?

Here Are 8 Challenges Most Touring Artists Will Face

1. Sound issues

Maybe the AP is down. Maybe you show up and realize you have to do the sound yourself. There are not enough entries. There is only one monitor. The microphones are missing. Or maybe the sound engineer is just calling her.

You will experience sound issues at some point during the tour. Can you get through and still put on a good show?

2. Problem with location

Surly staff. Hostile regulars. Shitty acoustics. No green room. The bar manager says “you can’t get your drink tickets until your set ends at 1am” (true story).

Every musician knows what it’s like to walk into a new room and immediately think, “Oh, that’s no good.” Can you play a great show anyway?

3. Fatigue and bad mood

The tours solicit the body and the spirit. Long driving days. Late nights with little sleep. Close quarters with the same fucking people every day for weeks at a time.

Can you figure out how to find space, rest, and maintain clear, healthy communication anyway?

4. Outdoor shows are…outdoors

Extreme heat or humidity. Freeze fingers. Computers and effects that don’t work. LEDs you can’t see. The listeners spread out in a park or square. Sound escaping into the void of open air.

Outdoor shows suck. Can you push through and NOT suck?

5. Generic Artists Featured

The other act could be click-y and critique. You might be intimidated if you want to impress them. All their fans could leave after the first set. The band might yell at each other on stage, berate the audience, then split up in the parking lot afterwards (true story).

Other acts can have a big impact on the overall mood of your show. Can you still deliver?

6. Broken gear

The click is not audible in your in-ear monitors. A favorite synth melts in the middle of the show. Your guitar string breaks during a solo.

Your equipment will break. Can you continue with the show?

7. Vehicle breakdown

It’s not just your instruments. Your car or van can also shit on you. Your plane or train could be delayed or cancelled. Anyone who has traveled enough will know, you can’t always make it on time from here to there. You will be further delayed if you break down in a small town on Sunday.

Can you keep calm and solve the problem as soon as possible?

8. The “scene” is not a scene

This is part of the room issues, of course, but warrants its own section. You show up and realize the stage is an 8×8 piece of plywood. The band can’t hold on. The performance area is half hidden behind a giant pillar. Or most alarmingly, there is no scene at all. You are installed in a corner of the room and you inevitably have a drunk who puts the microphone in your teeth.

Can you treat?

These are just a few of the things that can go wrong from time to time on tour. You can’t always “fix” these problems, but you should be prepared to work around them.

If you put on a great show, the audience will experience a great show. If you play like crap, the audience probably won’t blame the sound, location, or equipment. They will blame you for it.

Chris Robley is the editor of CD Baby’s DIY Musician blog. I write Beatles indie pop songs which have been praised by No Depression, KCRW, The LA Times and others. My poems have been published in Poetry Magazine, Prairie Schooner, The Poetry Review, etc. I live in Maine and love peanut butter chocolate chip cookies a little too much.

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