Everything You Need to Know About Booking Your Own Tour

by | Jul 14, 2016 | Booking Gigs & Touring

Hey! I’m Mike Montali and this summer my band, Hollis Brown, will be embarking on an incredible headlining tour. Since our band’s formation in 2009, we have been nonstop writing, producing, and performing. This year our tour takes us through 60 shows, 7 different countries, and two continents over the span of just a few months. Needless to say we will be on the road quite a bit.

How to Book Your Own Tour

Over the span of my career, I have been frequently asked how to set up a tour and about the “tour experience.” It’s not for everyone, and sometimes it’s not even for me. Any musician will explain touring as a love/hate relationship.

Here’s the Breakdown.

Before you can go on tour, you need to book your dates. As an emerging artist without a manager, label, or publicist, you have to do the groundwork yourself. A band must start with cold calling venues, looking at maps, and waiting for responses that often never come. After hearing the word “no” a lot, you might be able to snag a few shows for door deals.

USA highway map

Starting With Door Deals & Getting an Agent

In this case, an artist receives a percentage of ticket sales rather than having a set fee for performing. These door deals lead to an experience of painfully long drives to play shows with no audience. It’s truly important to understand that committing to yourself and your band is because of the love, not the money.

[RELATED: Is pay-to-play even legal?]

After grinding these types of tours for a few years, you might be lucky enough to land a booking agent. Unfortunately, most artists quit or fade out by the time booking agents take an interest in their careers. The booking agent ultimately takes on the responsibility of booking shows and locking down better guarantees to make your life easier. If you manage to reach this stage, you have really done something.

Transportation & Lodging

Next, you need a mode of transportation. I recommend buying a van if your guarantees aren’t too high. Not only will this save more money than using a rental, but also it will be more comfortable, clean, and reliable.

Disclaimer: having your own van does require insurance and the possibility of costly breakdowns.

[RELATED: don’t overlook these tour van essentials!]

Once transportation is organized look into places to stay before you leave.  Saving money means booking hotels/motels in advance and mapping out family, friends, and whoever is willing to open their home to you. As much as you can do in advance, the more comfortable you will be. In my own experience, I have made every mistake possible when it comes to touring— it’s never perfect and a headache to set up properly.

Inside the VW bus

Inside the VW bus

Hitting the Road

Now you are FINALLY ready to hit the road. Get in the van, drive your asses off, play your asses off, get laid, smoke weed, get drunk, get rowdy, and do whatever you want. Most importantly the two golden rules are:

  1. Don’t be an asshole to your band mates who may want to sleep after a long show.
  2. Don’t be a burden on your team because you’re an alcoholic disaster onstage.

[RELATED: How to Stay Healthy on Tour]

Touring for months at a time is challenging. A typical tour day is 18 hours long with driving to the destination, arriving at a hotel, loading into a venue, sound checking, playing the gig, hanging out, loading out, and checking out. This cycle repeats endlessly for months. Be prepared to play Red Rocks on Wednesday and to the bartender and bouncer in West Bumblefuck on Thursday. You are going to come home broke and in a few months you’ll sign back up to do it again.

Parting Shots

Clearly, we’re all fucking crazy, but because of touring I have seen the world and had the best times of my life. Even with the difficulties of being on the road, just a few months at home gives me an itch that needs to be scratched. Soon enough, I’m out there again with the band playing music night after night and meeting all types of phenomenal people. Be open to love and hate, try to have a good time, and remember yes you are crazy for wanting to do this more than once!

See you out there!!!


July 14 – Jams on the Sand (w/ Wild Adriatic) – Asbury Park, NJ

July 19 – Ace of Cups – Columbus, OH

July 20 – The Grog Shop – Cleveland, OH (w/ The Whiskey Hollow)

July 21 – Beat Kitchen – Chicago, IL

July 22 – The New Vintage – Louisville, KY

August 3 – The Garage – Winston-Salem, NC

August 4 – The Grey Eagle – Asheville, NC

August 5 – Motorco (Indoor) – Durham, NC

August 6 – Exit/In (w/ Steppin Stones and Them Vibes) – Nashville, TN

August 8 – Georgia Theatre Rooftop (w/ The Welfare Liners)- Athens, GA

August 9 – Eddie’s Attic – Decatur, GA

August 10 – Backbooth- Orlando, FL

August 11 – The Blue Rooster (w/ Great Peacock) – Sarasota, FL

August 12 – Skipper’s Smokehouse (w/ Great Peacock) – Tampa, FL

August 13 – Home Team BBQ – Sullivan’s Island, SC

August 14 – Jack Rabbits – Jacksonville, FL

August 18 – Gasa Gasa (w/ Great Peacock) – New Orleans, LA

August 19 – Aloft New Orleans Downtown – New Orleans, LA

August 19 – The Merry Widow w/ Great Peacock –  Mobile, A

August 21-  Reggie’s 42nd Street Tavern – Wilmington, NC

August 23 – Capital Ale House – Richmond, VA

August 24 – Metropolitan Kitchen and Lounge (w/ Kit Whitacre and the Chardonnay Boys) – Annapolis, MD

August 25 – 90.5 The Night’s Songwriters Series – Belmar, NJ

August 27 – Helsinki Hudson – Hudson, NY

Americana Fest- Nashville—   Confirmed- TBA

European Dates

October 19 – Vanslag – Borger, Netherlands

October 20 – Wunderbar – Eppstein, Germany

October 21 – V11 – Rotterdam, Netherlands

October 22 – Ramblin’ Roots Festival – Utrecht, Netherlands

October 25 – Q-Bus – Leiden, Netherlands

October 26 – Hedon – Zwolle, Netherlands

October 27 – Nieuwe Nor – Heerlen, Netherlands

October 28 – N9 – Eeklo, Belgium

November 2 – Dog House (w/ Jama Trio) – Grosseto, Italy

November 4 – Spazio Teatro 89 (w/ Jama Trio) – Milan, Italy

November 5 – Teatro Comunale (w/ Jama Trio) – Dozza, Italy

November 8 – MusicStar – Norderstedt, Germany

November 10 – Tivoli – Kristianstad, Sweden

November 11 – Grand – Falkenberg, Sweden

November 12-  Bryggerhuset – Halden, Norway

November 13 – Akkurat – Stockholm, Sweden

Explore more helpful articles on booking and touring in our archives.