Hacking the Performance Business: Part 7 – Lifestyle
Touring is a lifestyle. Performers dedicated to touring should take a long-term view of what it means to spend years of one’s life on the road.
Your ability to live the touring lifestyle is what separates the lifelong performer from the homebound musician. Don’t underestimate the impact of the lifestyle on your ability to create value around your music. It is a huge choice to spend the prime of your life traveling, but it can be immensely rewarding to connect with so many people while seeing the world.
There is a lot of sacrifice in touring. Foremost, you sacrifice time with your friends and family. After a week or so on tour, it becomes hard to remember what home life was like. But you sacrifice more than personal relationships. It’s hard to have any sort of backup job, hard to pay rent on a place you never stay at… you get the picture.
So why do people tour?
Touring can be an immensely satisfying and singular way to spend your life. You are the usually coolest person in the room. That’s something a lot of people can get used to. It’s a total adventure, no two days are the same, and you will meet more people than you thought possible. You’ll have friends all across the country, people will invite you into their lives and homes… you get the picture.
In a lot of ways, touring is about extremes: extreme sacrifices, and extreme rewards. Because fans are where the value is, those rewards aren’t just intangible experiences, they can be real dollars — if you can hang on.
Becoming a Touring Animal
Here are some hacks to acclimate your lifestyle to touring, thus putting you as a musician and businessperson in the best state to make the most value around your music:
• Make Friends – Touring musicians are social creatures. They give everyone the benefit of the doubt when it comes to being friends because they are visitors. At the same time, touring musicians are often the coolest people in the room, and in a great position to make friends anywhere they go. If you’re dressed the part, people will come up to you throughout tour and ask if you’re in a band. You can make fans without playing a single show, just by driving around the country, fashionably dressed. The touring animal is a social animal, collecting Facebook likes, phone numbers, email addresses… whatever it takes to keep people in orbit, swirling in a critical mass of value. Even the most brooding musician will have highly attuned social skills by the end of tour.
• Build Scenes – Think beyond your band. You’re not just building a following for your music, you’re building a scene for music like yours. If your peers think the same way, suddenly you’re collaborating on building an audience of a greater magnitude than any of you would have been able to do on your own. Build scenes and circuits with the most supportive venues and audiences serving as the waypoints to anchor tours.
• Know Thyself – This is a big umbrella topic that encompasses your well-being and the well-being of those you are sandwiched like sardines in a can with. You must know what pisses you off so you can avoid it, you must know your weaknesses so you can guard them. Tour makes everyone vulnerable. At the same time, know the spark that you bring to the situation, and light it bright.
• Start a Family – We’ve touched on the huge lifestyle shift a touring musician chooses to make. Only the riches musicians can afford to take their families on tour, most don’t have families. These people spend all their time with their fellow musicians and their touring team, on the road. Any group of people that have been out for a few weeks or months begin to form bonds that closely resemble a tribe or family. You should always strive to work with, not against, your tourmates. This can be the entire difference between a great tour and a lousy one.
Turn the Page
Talk about touring and all the cliches come up — sex, drugs and rock and roll. The thing is, there is a certain amount of self-medication when it comes to living with extremes. Many grow out of it, many succumb to it. Again, it comes down to being conscious of your strengths and weaknesses. Whatever you’re like at home, whatever small flaws or Achilles heels you have in “normal” life will be amplified tenfold on tour. You spend most of your day with the other people on tour, locked in a small box traveling down the highway. It’s all going to come out. Revel in the camaraderie and support each other by being honest and watching out for each others’ weaknesses. It’s a very sailor-like mentality, or you can think of it like an astronaut. You’re cohabiting the same space, under intense pressures, and every day has an element of survival. Don’t learn to survive by taking big risks, learn to survive by avoiding them. Tour will throw enough chaos at you. It’s not necessary to introduce your own.
La Vida Loca
It’s not like touring musicians have an expiration date, but very few tour for more than a decade or two. If you don’t plan on starting a family, then you can continue the performing life for a long time. Otherwise, adjustments will be made.
The point is this: While you can make music at any point in your life, there is a prime time in your life to tour, and that is from your late teens into your early thirties, with the sweet spot being your early twenties. That period of time at which you learn to control your strengths and weaknesses, while at the same time have the fewest responsibilities, will generally come and go. Much like women worry about the “biological clock” of having a baby, bands should be aware of the sociological clock that favors touring bands in their 20s.
The reason why making the most of this time is so important is that the fans you make during these “prime” years will pay off for the rest of your life. Going back to our crude business thinking, let’s say each fan is worth, for example, $30/year for the first two years, then $5 for two years, then $1 for 10 years. If you make 1,000 fans on tour and then have to stop touring, you still stand to make $80,000 from the whole affair, even while off the road.
Tour de Force
This is admittedly only scratching the surface of touring. It is the grandest of all musical pursuits. Your experience will not only shape your strategy, it will change your life permanently.
In our upcoming final segment in our look at creating value around performance, we look at trends emerging in telepresence, and what the near future might hold for monetizing performances delivered digitally and experienced in the home.