Thought I'd share a bit of the process behind the scenes, as I'm currently booking a tour at the moment, and thought it might be of interest to some of you, especially those of you in bands. Personally speaking, I tend to hire venues and promote each show on a tour myself - not ideal, as it's a lot of work, but smaller, DIY promoters aren't always available or musically fitted, so I tend to just avoid that altogether and go it alone where I can.
OK, so first off, you have to have an idea about the general level of the band. For me, this means I can't really approach any venue over 100 capacity, as the demand for tickets past that point just won't be there, which means I'll lose money, the venue won't be very pleased with me (and that will effect any future events I try and organise with them), and I'll end up playing to a half empty venue. Which sucks. So I lean on my knowledge of playing small venues for 15+ years now and pick the ones I think I can probably afford to hire without having a shit time. This is a lot of trial and error, sadly.
Once you've located one of these venues in cities you think you'll have a good time in (trial and error again) you have to pick a week or so in a month where you think you can maximise the availability of your fans. Bank holidays, easter, summer, and general large swathes of the year for no apparent reason, are still sort of no-go's. Satan did a few dates a little too close to Halloween a few years back, and they were dire. About 6 months down the line, we did the same venues just not around any kind of holiday, and they were packed. Lesson learned.
Always at the back of your mind, you'll be thinking 'why do I have to do this? Can't someone else do all this for me?' and the answer, sadly, is no. Without a booking agent (that's a whole other thing), you'll have to work independently. Smaller promoters do exist, and it's always worth saying hello to as many as you can in your particular genre, as they're worth their weight in gold at the moment. The bigger promoters in your city of choice will pretty much only work with bands and artists on rosters of booking agents.
Back in the early days of satan, we'd have a huge database of these DIY guys, and we'd tap them up whenever we wanted to hit the road, to add to gigs we could easily just do ourselves at little sweatbox venues. It's a whole different world these days of course, and my list of familiar faces in the biz gets smaller every year, but it's still worth keeping them close if you can.
Once you've sorted all that out, and paid to hire venues, you need to think about what your night is going to look like. You'll need some posters for example, just so the venue can stick em up and remind everyone you're coming to town soon. Online stuff is great, don't get me wrong, but there's also a lot to be said for just putting a fucking poster up. So you'll need someone to design a poster if you don't want to do it yourself. Plus, you'll need a support act (or two?), so you'll need to think about who's making your type of music in the area, who's good, and who actually plays live. Sounds obvious, but trust me - you'll soon build a community as people who tick all those boxes tend to be few and far between. Anyway, you'll need to rope them in as soon as you can, so you can start to build the night. Make sure to pay em as well, as there's nothing (and I mean *nothing*) worse than doing free shows for people you don't know.
Also, here's one for you - does the venue you like have a soundsystem? Sounds silly, but the amount of times I've turned up and there either isn't one, or it's falling to pieces or has integral bits missing (here's looking at you, sub woofer that's almost always never there), it doesn't bear thinking about. So that's another thing on your tick list: who rents out a PA? and does that come with a sound tech to help out on the night? Otherwise it'll be you pushing up faders and assembling monitor cables. Which is not ideal, trust me. For those nights satan used to do in a church in Leeds way back when, we'd have to hire a PA, sound guy, and the venue all seperately. Not fun.
Then there's all the other irritating stuff: who's going to be sat on the door all night? Have you got a float for the door entry money? Who's sat on the merch desk? Who does the sound tech need to speak to? Chances are it'll be you to all of those. Trust me, I know how that goes from very personal experience. If you're not comfortable doing any of it though, it's more favours you have to call in, or money you have to pay to people.
So there you go, once you've got all that sorted, you only need to worry about rehearsal, transport, budgets, parking, merch, promotion... the list is always growing. Oh, and obviously you have to do this for each show on the tour. For satan, that meant doing all this madness roughly 5 nights on the bounce every time we decided to tour. And it looks like I'll have to do it all again this time round too.
In short, it's a lot of work. But work that's also really rewarding if all goes to plan. Nothing ever does, 100% anyway, so there are a lot of bumps in the road. For every gig you do for no money in Oxford (6+ hour round trip on a school night), there'll be one at the Scala supporting Apparat. Just remember to keep the faith.