How to Survive as a Touring Artist

Learn how to survive the road as a touring artist. Find advice on how to plan your tour, take care of your health, and navigate the music industry.

Touring Artist DJing in Nightclub

5 Tips for Touring Artists

Touring can be a positive experience in the life of an artist. However, it’s a specific lifestyle much different than an aspiring artist may think. Working in the electronic music industry is often fast-paced and highly pressured. And the high demands of touring can affect your health, personal life, and music career.

Before you head out on your first string of out-of-town shows, consider the following touring artist tips.

1. Physical Health

DJ Sleeping on Mixer

Taking care of your physical health is vital while touring. It’s essential to have a healthy lifestyle while on the road to maintain a sustainable music career. However, wellness is especially difficult for artists on tour. Excessive partying, unhealthy eating, sleep deprivation, traveling, and grueling schedules can reap havoc on your health, career, and personal life.

These six tips will help you maintain your physical health while on tour:

Manage Your Diet

Unhealthy diets affect how we feel, both mentally and physically. For example, bad eating habits can increase stress and fatigue. Being mindful of your diet and eating habits is essential. Pack healthy snacks with needed nutrients such as fruits, vegetables, and protein. They will fuel a healthy metabolism, boost energy, and keep you full longer through late nights, long flights, and busy schedules. Also, consider taking a multivitamin to give your body essential nutrients.

Improve Your Sleep Habits

It’s hard to get sufficient sleep during a busy touring schedule. Plus, other factors can affect your sleep like time zone changes, jet lag, and adrenaline rush after playing a set. Lack of sleep can cause health issues, affect your performance, and more. Find time to rest and recharge. Also, be cautious of sleep aids; they can be habit-forming and have side effects.

Exercise More

Exercise is good for your body and mind. Physical activity can boost energy, improve your mood, relieve stress and anxiety, help you sleep better, improve memory, and alleviate mental health issues. Try finding time to exercise while on tour. Many hotels have fitness centers, and there are workouts you can do in your room. Also, consider activities like yoga, running, and stretching.

Stay Hydrated

Your body needs water to stay healthy. Try to drink at least two liters of water each day. Also, limit sugary drinks like soda and energy drinks. These beverages are not hydrating and will likely cause an energy crash.

Limit the Booze

When on tour, you may be thrust into situations where people drink and take drugs. As a touring artist, you may also get free alcohol on your rider. Plus, everyone around you in the crowd is drinking. To continue touring throughout your career, best to manage your partying from the start. Create a system for it. For example, alternate days between remaining sober and drinking. And drink with caution. Alcohol can cause health issues, affect your performance, damage your career, and lead to other problems when abused.

Avoid Drugs

Recreational drugs are common in the electronic music scene. However, drug abuse and addiction will lead to health issues, affect your performance, damage your career, and cause various other problems. It’s best to avoid drugs if you want to sustain a healthy and productive music career.

2. Mental Health

Girl with Depression
Photo by Sydney Sims

Another huge concern for many musicians on tour is mental health. This might not seem like a big deal because going on tour is the dream for so many artists. However, it’s a severe problem in the music industry. There’s even a growing movement within the industry raising awareness about mental health issues such as substance abuse, depression, and suicide.

Tour life can be lonely and put you under enormous pressure. Touring brings a relentless schedule, financial uncertainty, unsociable hours, isolation, anxiety, and extended periods away from family and friends. These situations create a drastic duality, which takes a toll on your mental state.

These five tips will help you maintain your mental health while on tour:

Reach out for Help

If you’re feeling unwell mentally, tell someone. Your manager, crew member, a promoter at the venue, someone. Take care of yourself, and don’t be afraid to miss a tour date. There are also programs that provide free or low-cost mental health care. For example, the Recording Academy’s MusiCares charity provides emergency financial assistance to the music community for a variety of medical expenses. The Tim Bergling Foundation raises money for several causes, including mental health and suicide prevention. There’s also a helpful guide full of mental health resources by the Association for Electronic Music (AFEM).

Manage a Healthy Lifestyle

Maintain a healthy diet, get adequate sleep, exercise, keep hydrated, and stay connected with supportive people in your life. Also, avoid alcohol and drugs if you’re feeling depressed or anxious. They will make matters worse!

Find Coping Strategies

Take time for yourself to cope with the emotional pressures of touring. Look for different coping strategies on the road. For example, prominent touring DJs have talked about coping mechanisms such as exercise, journaling, meditation, reading, and sightseeing.

Surround Yourself with Good People

Your team and friends must have your interests at heart. Make sure the people who support you have your wellness in mind. If they don’t, they’re the wrong people to have in your life.

Set Your Goals

Resilience in the music industry requires setting goals. Goal setting provides clarity that helps you stay focused and make the right decisions. They also give you direction when feeling overwhelmed. Moreover, goals are motivating and can give you a sense of satisfaction.

3. Proper Tour Planning

Touring DJ Backpack in City
Mono Classic FlyBy Backpack

Being a touring DJ or artist requires a good amount of planning when playing shows in other cities and countries. The best way to avoid unpleasant surprises is to practice proper planning. These tips will help make your travels go smoother:

  • Book in Advance: Book your flights, hotels, and transportation in advance. Organizing everything in advance will save you money, time, and stress.
  • Think Ahead: Simplify your trip by checking in at the airport on your phone, requesting an Uber before you leave the plane, etc.
  • Make a Tour Itinerary: A travel itinerary will keep you organized. Include the show schedule, venue names, addresses, contact numbers, email addresses, set times, gear list, and other essential information.
  • Travel Light: Excess baggage and equipment will slow you down. Pack the necessities and know what specific gear you must bring.
  • Know Your Budget: Touring is expensive. Estimate the costs of travel, hotels, food, and other expenses. Also, set aside extra money for emergencies.
  • Travel with a Backup: Consider bringing a backup USB drive loaded with your music. You can also store your music to a cloud-based service such as Dropbox for easy access. If you play vinyl, bring a set of needles as a backup.
  • Use Equipment Cases: When you’re on the go, the last thing you need on your mind is the safety of your gear. Use high-quality gear cases and bags to protect your controllers, mixers, turntables, etc.
  • Create a Contact List: You will deal with a variety of people in the music industry. Create a contact list so you can reach the right person if you have questions or something goes wrong.
  • Figure out Your Payments in Advance: Don’t get screwed by a venue or promoter. Establish a means of payment in advance to ensure you get paid!

Lastly, be realistic with your plans when organizing your travels. Balance out work days and rest days. Spread out workdays and take some time off between tour dates to get some downtime.

4. Present Yourself as a Professional Artist

Monochrome Photo of People Shaking Hands
Photo by Savvas Stavrinos

As a touring artist, you will develop relationships with managers, agents, promoters, and other music industry professionals. Maintaining a sustainable music career requires you to develop your brand, build relationships, and to take your career seriously. Here are some general tips to consider:

Take Your Music Career Seriously

Touring and performing is fun, but it’s also a job. It’s important to treat it as such and maintain a professional demeanor. Show up on time for your gig, flight, bus call, or other obligations. Also, don’t show up too drunk or high to play. Moreover, respect your industry peers and fans. Avoid situations that will damage your brand and reputation. It’s simple enough.

Building worldwide relationships is one of the greatest benefits of touring. If you establish your reputation as a professional, it will be much easier for you to continue touring. Promoters will have you back, venue owners will welcome you, booking agents will find you gigs, and your fans will show support.

Your Tour Crew Is Your Family

Many touring DJs travel alone while on the road. However, when you reach the level of ICON Alumni such as NGHTMRE, SLANDER, and JAUZ, you will tour with a production crew.

A tour crew can consist of a manager, booking agent, publicist, crew chief, lighting techs, effects techs, and other team members. They work hard building your brand, and ensuring every event is in order. You must show them your appreciation and understand how to treat people you will work with closely. Motivate them and thank them for their hard work. Also, show empathy because they make the same sacrifices as you in terms of constant travel. Make the tour as enjoyable for them as possible.

5. Traveling, but Not Really

Man Looking at Flight Schedules
Photo by Erik Odiin

Beyond the toll it takes on your body, traveling on tour is not what most people expect. While on tour, you may not have a moment to enjoy the places you’re visiting.

A tour stop often consists of landing in the new city, going to your hotel, having a few hours before the show, and then going straight to the venue. Later, you play the show, go back to the hotel, and catch a few hours of sleep before flying off to the next stop.

In reality, you may not have time to enjoy the destinations you visit while on tour. However, with proper planning, you may find time to immerse yourself in the culture and see the sights. However, the best way to enjoy traveling is by taking a vacation where you decide your schedule.

Conclusion

Your experience as a touring artist depends on your self-discipline. Enjoy yourself as long as you don’t harm your health and professional reputation. Keep your habits and professionalism in check, and you may tour for decades like the Rolling Stones. Plus, you will reap all the monetary, professional, and cultural benefits along the way.

Furthermore, don’t be afraid to admit that touring life is not for you. Even if you spent years as a young producer dreaming of touring, it’s ok to acknowledge it’s not what you expected.



About Icon Collective

ICON Collective is a Los Angeles and Online music production school that teaches you core technical skills while unlocking your unique creative process. Mentorships with industry professionals let you access real-world insights and help you personalize your music education. Check out our Music Production Programs.





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