For the past two weeks, I have been writing about my first European Tour featuring concerts and masterclasses I did in Italy, Austria, Portugal and Spain. I organized this tour completely by myself and have written about the what, where, when, why and how of DIY Touring. Feel free to read through the two posts here and here.
This week I’d like to explain the realization of this tour: What happened and how did the tour go? What were some surprises? What were the best parts and worst parts? If I would do it again, would I change anything?
My itinerary for this tour included cities such as: Turin, Villach, Spittal an der Drau, Vienna, Lisbon, Porto and Valencia over the course of 13 days, excluding the connections in between. I had a performance or masterclass in each of these cities.
I think one of the most important lessons I learned about touring is that in order to reduce your transportation costs, you can play more concerts between two points (assuming you are respecting the radius clause, if there is one). For instance, if there are 4 hours between city A and city B, I suggest booking another concert in city C in your schedule. Keep in mind that this is assuming that your income from the concert exceeds your total costs. I, for instance did not schedule anything between Vienna and Lisbon, which is a long distance across the continent. Next time, I would for instance schedule a concert in Paris, which is roughly halfway.
It is very possible that you can play at the same city multiple nights, which is great especially when it is your first time at that town. Assuming that the venues are okay with this, playing the maximum amount of concerts in a given city is not only financially better, but it will also help to get your name out there. For me, this worked out great in the case of Porto, where I played 3 times in 2 days. I met a lot of people through these performances and so I plan to play there in the near future.
Another important lesson from touring is that social media is great to introduce yourself to new audiences but also to reconnect with people you might know who live in that city. During my concert in Vienna, a friend of mine from elementary school, whom I haven’t seen in 16 years came to the concert with a friend just because she saw the event on Facebook. The more people you know in a city, the more people are going to hear about your event. If you don’t know anyone in that town, it’s still possible, but with personal connections, just like every other aspect of life, having a good turnout is easier.
In terms of surprises, I was impressed with the amount of my merchandise sales during this tour. You’d be amazed how much people want to keep a souvenir or a memory from an event that they enjoyed. If you think about it, we all do in a way. That’s why we have those concert t-shirts or sports game memorabilia in the depths of our closets. They bring back good memories. I would definitely would expand my merchandise catalog on my future tours, as people love variety of options besides CDs and stickers.
There were also unpleasant surprises, such as those related to traveling with musical instruments. Over the years, no airline has ever rejected me to bring my guitar to the cabin. However this time I had my experience with the budget airlines in Europe. These budget airlines have specific extra prices to carry a musical instrument at the cabin, so be sure to check their fees before you get their super cheap tickets. If you have time, you could save so much more by using train or bus, as the lines in Europe are very well connected, efficient and affordable.
When you organize a tour remotely, it’s sometimes almost impossible to control certain aspects of the event in advance. I had an instance in Porto where the person who organized my concert at the venue did not inform the event production staff. So I showed up at the venue and the sound equipment was not set up with no one having a clue about what was going on. If I had someone on the ground who could go check out the venue beforehand, maybe this could be avoided as I did not have time to go there beforehand. Anyway, I learned my lesson and fortunately the venue was small, so I played acoustic and all was weIl.
One of the best experiences of this tour was teaching masterclasses. I taught a songwriting masterclass in a high school in Austria, in a town near the Italian border named Spittal an der Drau. About half of the students were writing their own songs and they all played an instrument at a pretty competent level. I shared them the best practices of writing a song, as well as some tips for producing and marketing their music, so it was a very interactive session. I also taught music production clinics at Yamaha Music School Valencia for two days, where for the first time I completely taught in Spanish for 3 hours each session. It is fair to say that my brain was a little mushed after that, but what matters is sharing your knowledge and meeting new musicians along the way while you’re touring. The people you interact in your masterclasses or workshops might appear again later in your life, so you’ll never know!
Touring is sometimes tiring and it’s not always as fun and easy as it looks, however it has a funny way of growing on you. It’s great to be home after a long tour, but you can’t also help but wonder when you will be on the road again. After all, we are social creatures and our work gain new contexts and meaning when they meet with real people. This interactive energy feeds back to your future work, and then you go back on the road to to it all over again.
Have you ever toured locally or internationally before? What were some of your positive and negative experiences? Feel free to comment below!
Alper Tuzcu is a Berklee College of Music and Denison University alumni, and a Boston based guitarist, songwriter and producer. His new EP ‘Lines’ was released on November 2017 and his debut eclectic album ‘Between 12 Waters’ featuring 8 different vocalists is available on Spotify. In addition to being a musician, he regularly teaches workshops and masterclasses internationally. You can follow him on Instagram or Twitter, and for more information you can visit his website www.alpertuzcu.com