Tips for Producing Independent Tours
This post might be a bit lackluster if you are more of a "let the pictures tell the story" kind of reader. There are no photos here but only essential tips to producing an independent tour - in the United States. Everything written has been experienced first hand and mistakes have been made by us so that you can read this and learn from our challenges turned solutions.
Part of what we do as event professionals is bring entertainment to anyone who envisions it, no matter where they are located. We are based out of Las Vegas but our crew and performers have traveled to approximately 47 states...and counting. It is amazing how much people from other states want entertainers that are Vegas performers. And touring is one of our favorite things to do, because not only do we get to put on an impeccable production but we also get to see new places and experience new things. It is really beneficial for both sides.
It might seem to some as if most of the topics portrayed below are common sense, but you would be surprised what you can overlook. As event professionals, we know how important it is to plan, connect, organize, communicate and stay on track. We thrive off of to-do lists and production schedules. This is merely another to-do list for those professionals who wish to take their events "on tour."
We all know that planning is extremely important to our everyday lives both at home and in the office. Planning allows us to set clear goals that in turn are easier to achieve because of analysis, anticipation and expectation. When it comes to planning an independent tour, checklists will be your best friend. It really is helpful to create an excel doc or a shareable google sheet that is color coded and professionally organized.
This is an example of somewhat how our spreadsheet is laid out. We find it helpful to color code everything based on individual to-dos and then add date and location of each show to a singular vertical column down the left hand side.
A budget should also be made prior to every tour. Items such as per diem, food and beverage, gas, lodging, cast performance compensation, cost of goods sold, marketing, miscellaneous and of course, incidentals. These components about make up our budget bullet points but obviously these will change based on your own individual needs.
It is also beneficial to make a binder for every set of shows or tours you go on. We enjoy the process of booking out weekend dates or dates near the weekend in sets of three to five. There have been tour shorter and MUCH longer than this but we find this amount to be optimal when traveling. Each set becomes a tour and get's its very own binder which will keep a copy a everything essential to the tour. It would also be smart to make this binder both physical and electronic.
In our case, and in most cases, each show will have a contact/client at said designated venue. To begin, we can not stress enough how IMPORTANT it is to get the personal cellphone number of your contact and do not just use the venue number. It is even better if the contact is what we like to call a "texter," because then it makes it easier to correspond under more conditions and more efficiently. If you reference back to the spreadsheet pictured above, you'll see the columns for 6 week, 3 week and week of emails/calls. Make sure you are connected with your contact most in depth initially and then day of but also sporadically throughout the meantime.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us just how essential connections are. When planning tours during this time, we had to make sure to keep on top of the policies and procedures in place by not only our venues but the local and regional governments. While we are hopeful this will not always be the case, it is still a must to stay connected with your contact on their wants, needs, questions and concerns. It is a good idea to keep in mind sporadically engaging with your contact to check-in but do make sure you feel everything is planning well enough from the get-go. Developing a strong foundation with each contact right off the bat and then checking in along the way will allow for a smooth correspondence on show day. This will also aid in making sure everything is set before event day so that when doors open on each show night, the only concerns are ironing out any small wrinkles along the way.
We suggest you refer back to the first point and start by creating the tour binder to keep you organized. We would also like to highlight that this binder should be kept somewhere safe at all times as things tend to shift around just a bit during van travel. Remember everyone touring will likely be in a different bed each night so it is good to have a bag that you bring in and a bag that stays in the vehicle. If you are traveling by plane, pack light. You will be thankful you only packed the things absolutely necessary for you to do the tour because it is less to keep track of. Taking the tour binder out to check everything is in its place at the end of each night is also very helpful to keep stress down and stay organized along the way.
Creating a production schedule is also key. This schedule should display all logistical details of the tour in great detail. There are so many templates online that you can use for this and it is really just a matter of plugging in all of the information once everything has been planned and approved. Below is an example of how we might do a production schedule for a tour in Texas - compiled of and organized by dates, times, locations, and notes.
JUST BECAUSE IT IS AN INDEPENDENT TOUR DOES NOT MEAN YOU NEED TO DO EVERYTHING ON YOUR OWN! It is actually much more beneficial to delegate tasks before the tour to those touring and then following through with them. Thinking that you can do everything on your own will only cause stress. Even though you may be the person in charge of the tour, everyone is invested in the outcome of the shows. Small things like delegating the task of keeping all receipts to someone is great because this is vital to keeping on track with budgeting and business expenses, so taking this off your back may assist. Be clear with everyone touring and your contact/client on everything you need. Be sure to speak directly to the person on tour responsible for the task you've given them and/or go straight to you contact/client regarding any venue questions/concerns.