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On The Road: What To Know When Touring

Picture of Liane Bonin Starr
2 minute read

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 an opportunity to travel and meet fans; it’s also a chance to bring in income. Taking care of business before you leave home can be the difference between earning a living and returning with little or nothing to show for all your hard work. Every experience is different — we get that — so here are 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. Another deal worth signing is insurance on your gear in case of theft, fire, or other disasters.

Discuss Payment

Checks can bounce, and other speed bumps can chip away at your cut. Make sure the promoter pays the tax for your deposit as well as the rest of what you're owed, because the IRS will be expecting you to pass that along; it doesn't matter if you forgot to collect it. Also, make sure you know the name and contact information of 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. 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. 

The rules can be different when touring internationally. Do your homework on the regulations for bringing 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 like we live in a world without borders these days, but there are some issues to keep in mind when traveling outside of the U.S. While your phone may work in Europe, you may also rack up roaming fees that tack hundreds onto 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 and 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. The process for registering a setlist is fairly simple and requirements can be found on your Performing Rights Organization's (PROs) or Collective Management Organization's (CMOs) website. You can use our Collection Society Database to find your society's information if you're unsure where to start. Once you've submitted your setlist, then it's onto the next gig.

As with most things, take the time to do your research beforehand to avoid 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 royalties globally, register for a Songtrust account today!


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