A quick look at the different types, just to understand what kind of gig you may have accepted.
If you’ve never been on a real tour, it’s easy to think that they’re all like U2 or Alecia Keys, but their duration categorizes several different types. This excerpt from Handbook outlines the differences in each.
Tours can be divided into six general categories of duration; local shows, one-offs, fly dates, mini-tours, total times, and corporate gigs. Let’s look at each one.
The Local Show
Local shows are accessible. You get to sleep in your own bed, you probably have a good bit of the day (at least the morning) to attend to personal matters, and you get to play in a familiar venue in front of friends and family. You can’t call a local show part of a tour (unless you happen to be passing through town during a real tour), but these shows are frequently used as a warm-up before the tour starts.
It’s a good time to fine-tune the setlist, hone the production, and tighten the band. It’s a sweet gig, but there’s never enough of them, and they’re all too short. Fun, though.
The one-off is a single show where you return home after its completion. It can be relatively local or halfway around the world, but regardless of how long it takes you to get there, you’re still only playing a single show.
The typical one-off generally means that there’s at least some travel time involved (you might arbitrarily say a couple of hours), which means that your entire day is consumed leading up to the gig. If you can’t do much else in your day but travel, soundcheck, and play the show, you’ve experienced a one-off.
The Fly Date
The Fly-Date is the most desirable type of one-off that you can get and means that you’re flying on a plane out of town for the show, then directly returning either the same day or next (it might take a little longer if your gig happens to be in an exotic place). You may do a series of fly-dates, but you’re always returning to your home base after the gig.
Acts like Aerosmith and Madonna might only do fly-dates for an entire tour. Still, they have private jets that can take them exactly where they need to go and bring them back to their airport hub directly afterward without worrying about commercial aviation rigors. That’s not the case for the players in a touring band, who may have to fly commercially, although it may be in business or first class.
Anything that’s two dates to a week on the road is considered a mini-tour. This means that you’re away from home for that entire duration and don’t see your bed at home until you return. If a band from Boston books a show in New York and then returns directly home after the gig, that’s a one-off. If it books shows in Providence and New Haven on the way and doesn’t return home to Boston after either one, that’s a mini-tour. Read More AES Introduces Audio Product Education Institute and Voice Con Online Event.
Mini-tours are inefficient and difficult to make money on since there are few economies of scale with labor and rentals. The bus, bus driver, techs, and tour managers usually cost more since everyone would instead take a more extended gig for the job security, and a short gig might get in the way of that happening. Aside from the money, it is a desirable gig since you’re not away from home for very long.
The Full Tour
You’re on a full tour once you get past a week out on the road where you don’t return home. Tours can range from a week to a couple of years, in the case of a significant act with a hit album. If the album continues to sell, the tour will keep going to take advantage of the sales momentum, even returning to play the same city a second and third time.
Many touring musicians refuse to sleep at home even when a tour travels through their hometown, preferring to stay in the mood and rhythm of the tour. Even though it might feel good to sleep in your bed, it can be mentally disruptive, not to mention financially harmful, since the business manager might decide that you don’t need the per diem for the day since you’ve telegraphed that you didn’t use your hotel room. It’s OK to go home to do your laundry and check in on things.
The Corporate Gig
The corporate gig is a somewhat modern event where an artist or band plays what amounts to a private party for a corporate entity. Once upon a time, this type of gig was frowned upon and deemed a “sell-out,” but as the touring business has become more mature and financially aware, the corporate gig is now the industry’s cash cow. It’s become commonplace for a Fortune 500 company to hire superstar acts and pay them sums exceeding their average nightly take when on tour, but much smaller acts (including many that don’t have national visibility) benefit immensely.
Corporate gigs usually are one-offs and fly-dates since most are so lucrative that they’re worth playing even if the artist or band is not currently on tour.
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Bobby Owsinski is an author, producer, music industry veteran, and technical consultant who has written numerous books covering all aspects of audio recording. For more information, be sure to check out his Website and Blog here.