Hitting the road in support of your latest songs can be an exciting experience. Even so, it's important to remember that touring isn't just a chance to travel and meet your fans, but also a chance to bring in income. Taking care of business before you leave home can be the difference between making money and returning with little or nothing to show for all your hard work. Every experience is different, we get that, so here are just a few things to keep in mind when you’re preparing to go on tour:
Make sure your contracts are signed. It sounds obvious, but no one wants to show up at a gig to discover they're not expected. Make sure you have a copy of your booking email in hand, as a verbal agreement is impossible to enforce. If you make sure the promoter or booking agent gives you a deposit before you play, you're also less likely to get a last-minute cancellation, too. Another deal worth signing is one for insurance on your gear in case of theft, fire, or other disasters.
Discuss payment. Checks can bounce, promoters can try to weasel out of paying taxes, and other speed bumps can chip away at your cut. Make sure that the promoter pays the tax for the deposit as well as the rest of what you're owed, because the IRS will be expecting you to pass that along – and it doesn't matter if you forgot to collect it. Also make sure you know the name and contact information for the person who will be paying you, so they know where to meet you after the gig.
Figure out your merch. Don't go on the road without it, as merch sales can cover your expenses even when you're not filling venues. It's a semi-free promotional tool, and by interacting with the crowd before the show you can not only collect email addresses for your newsletters and mailings, you can also boost sales. Try not to give a venue a cut of your merch sales if you can avoid it, but increasingly many locations demand up to a 25% cut and an additional fee if they have to provide someone to man the table. Push back where you can. Remember when touring internationally, the rules can be different. Do you homework on the regulations for bringing in goods into another country, and even the rules for selling those goods in that city. You wouldn’t want to unknowingly get yourself into trouble while abroad.
Be prepared for challenges abroad. We may feel we live in a world without borders these days, there are some issues to keep in mind when traveling outside of the US. While your phone may work in Europe, you may also rack up roaming fees that could tack on hundreds to your bill. Find out if there's a way to temporarily change your plan, rent a phone, or just limit your usage. Also, make sure you have everything you need to enter other countries, whether that's an updated passport, a work VISA, a gear manifest, a merch manifest, your tour dates, or all of the above. More than a few artists have been turned away at a border crossing, resulting in canceled show dates and lost revenue.
Remember to submit your setlists: Don't forget that you earn royalties for the songs you play in public, even if the audience doesn't speak your language. Given that different countries have different PROs (performing rights organizations), using a service like Songtrust means you can simply upload your setlist with information about the show and where it was. Then, it's on to the next gig.
As with most things, take the time to do your research beforehand to save you any headaches in the future. You won't be able to plan for every scenario, but you'll be able to do enough to keep yourself well-informed. Keep track of all your setlists and don't forget to submit them to continue collecting all your performance and mechanical royalties.
To make sure you're collecting all your performance and mechanical royalties globally, register for a Songtrust account today!
Maximize Songtrust for Your Songs and Business
We created this guide to answer a simple question: How do songwriters support themselves?
The answer is not as simple as we’d like, but our goal is to make it as clear, transparent and understandable as we possibly can.
Songtrust is more than just a rights management platform and publishing administrator - we’re a team of experts in the music community who strive to educate, support, and provide thought leadership to creators, representatives, and businesses across the music industry.
Our hope is that you’ll finish this guide with an better understanding of the business behind songwriting and have actionable resources to help you be successful. Included is an extensive glossary, too; if you see a term in bold in the text, you’ll find it in the glossary at the end.