I know that when Carley and I get on the road, I’ll be writing a lot about the experience. I’ve never done a tour; I’ve never lived on a bus; I’ve never spent three months in the square footage of an industrial freezer with another person. I’ve found myself prepping for this by writing down fake tour updates in my idea journal. I thought you might like to see what I could see us getting into as we travel together.
Completely Fake Update from the Road: Day 27
The clerk we flag down at Wal-Mart stares at us for a long moment. “What did you say you needed?”
“Dry shampoo,” I say.
“Patchouli oil,” Carley adds. One of her dreads comes loose from its tie with impeccable timing. The sales associate—in the grandmotherly uniform of jeans and a bright red sweatshirt topped with close-cropped gray curls—watches the dread swing.
“I don’t know if we carry either of those things, but the dry shampoo would be near the other shampoos, I would think. That oil…”
“Patchouli oil,” Carley repeats.
“Yes,” the associate says. Her nametag has a ten-year sticker on it. Her name is Jane. “You’d probably have to try a specialty store.”
“Is there one nearby?” Carley asks.
Jane thinks for a second. “There’s a natural food store in the next town. It’s right on the main drag. They may have it.”
“Which direction?” I ask. “We’re heading east.”
“It’s east.” Jane looks me over, glances at Carley, and continues to look slightly shocked we’re standing in front of her at the same time. I’m in head-to-toe Old Navy: peach V-neck shirt, blue jeans, and hot pink Ked knock offs. My hair’s pinned off my face, and I’m wearing small silver earrings and my glasses. Carley’s wearing a red hair tie I’d crocheted for her the week before during a long stretch of nothing on the highway, a layered skirt made of bedsheets, and a worn, pain-spattered t-shirt. She’s got a chunky turquoise bracelet on one wrist and a necklace to match, and she’s wearing bright yellow flip flops. Jane is probably wondering what I’m doing with some strange woman who hopes to find Patchouli oil in a small town Wal-Mart. She’s happened to meet us on a day when Carley got tired of wearing pants, and I grabbed the first clean shirt I could find. Jane has no idea how close she came to meeting us three days into the same shirts, nearly a month on the road making us lazy about pulling on fresh clothes if we didn’t have a gig at the end of the night. This stopover is a brief respite, then it’s another three hours on the road before our meet and greet with the manager at the indie bookstore we’re headed to next.
“Shampoo is next to the pharmacy,” Jane says. “Do you ladies need anything else?’
“That’s it,” I say. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcme,” she says, and she walks away. I catch her glance over her shoulder as Carley and I head towards the pharmacy.
“I think we broke her,” I tell Carley.
“She was nice,” Carley says.
“She was,” I agree. We find dry shampoo and a dozen different perfumes, but no patchouli oil.
“Next town?” Carley asks.
I check the time and nod. “Plenty of time. Let’s go.”
It’s Tour Update Tuesday! It’s also my 101st post! To celebrate, let’s discuss Tour Planning 101.
What do you need to know to plan a tour? What are the essentials? As I’ve been considering what Carley and I need (besides, of course, the album, the book, and the bus, I’ve been building a list of what we’ll need to actually pull this thing off. Here’s what I have so far:
1. The album, the book, and the bus.
I know I just mentioned it, but it bears as much repeating as will get Carley and I writing. The bus is a will or won’t, and we can work around that, but the album and the book are absolutely necessary.
2. A network.
Carley and I can compose and write to our hearts’ contents, but it’s nothing without a network of people who want to help us out. We’re building that already. I’m hoping those of you who read me here and read my work will want to help when the time gets nearer to really start the planning and booking parts of the trip. Carley, hard-working indie musician that she is, has a fanbase not just in the Northwest, but in the Midwest as well. She goes back to Wisconsin every year for a few months to play shows at her old haunts and see family and friends, and I”m not going to pretend like I’m not going to use that to every advantage. It gives us a place to start in terms of mapping out our route, and it will be invaluable.
3. Publicity and Marketing.
They’re different. Marketing is what you do to sell your work. Publicity is what happens after its been sold. We’ll need a media kit, maybe more than one, and we’ll definitely need as much word-of-mouth as possible. I’m planning a couple of giveaways already–books, posters, albums, and the like–and I’m sure as we get closer, we’ll have more ideas of what to use to promote ourselves to the best advantage.
4. Money and more money.
Carley’s an indie musician and my book will be (unless a minor miracle occurs) a self-published endeavor. There will be no advance to get us on our feet. The tour will have to be financed out of hard work and requests for donations. We’re planning a big tour, from Portland, OR to Yellville, AR, and that means money for gas, food, and emergencies for probably a couple of months. We’ll have the bus, but we’ll probably need to pay for campsites now and again. You might be looking at this list and thinking Money is pretty far down on the list of what we need, but before we start requesting money and selling what we can to make it ourselves, we need the book and album that we’ll market to our network, which will get us publicity, which will get us money. It’s a very important part of the process, but it’s not the first thing we need.
If we’re going on tour, we need places to play and read. As I mentioned above, Carley has a network for us to start with, but we’ll be going to lots of places neither of us have been before. Right now, we’re considering libraries and indie bookstores and indie record shops. The list will likely get longer and more diverse as we finalize the themes and such for our individual projects.
So, there you go. For post 101, some Tour Planning 101. What’d I miss?