Many DIY musicians romanticize with the thought of getting a bunch of tracks or even an album done on tour, seeing it as an almost sportive challenge to finish ongoing layouts, ideas and projects on the run, while stuff is happening left and right.
It’s great to see fun videos and snippets, showcasing the typical hotel-room production scheme, with people coming up with some pretty amazing stuff right there, on the fly.
If you ever tried out working on an ongoing project on tour while finding the headspace to actually finish something, you might know how difficult it can be to create a piece of music with depth and brainpower under these conditions. Something that you can get back to in the morning, continue to work on without having to deal with a fragmented, rushed collection of ideas.
So, in case you’re planning on finishing a vital record while on tour, i’ve collected some realities of writing music on the fly. You might want to think of these prior to setting up deadlines for an ongoing project.
Reality 1 – Free time is not necessarily free time
It’s true – a lot of time spent on tour is time waiting. Waiting on technicians, stagework, load-in, venue stuff. You might be inclined to plan that in as a fixed time-zone for creative work and writing.
Be aware though, that in most cases, this set-up time is really hard to calculate. Each venue and crew work differently, some are incredibly fast and some less so. Planning in advance – according to the timeframe on your itinerary – is therefore very close to a wild bet. In some cases you can be called to stage, working on the soundcheck ahead of time, due to technical factors, dinner plans etc.
Schedules shift constantly, and if you’re the person delaying the whole company because you’re out, working on other things beside the job at hand, you won’t gain a lot of sympathy from crew-members and band-members alike.
Reality 2 – Post-gig scenarios vary
Some concerts involve a lot of post-gig work, which means standing around, talking about current releases, selling merch, conversing with venue owners, promotional-staff, fans etc.
Planning on having enough time right after the gig to get your creative work done really limits your possibilities of making the most out of the job at hand. Working the
crowd after a concert or exchanging thoughts with professionals and team-members is just as much part of the job as standing on stage, delivering the live show.
Like with the last point – there are a lot of factors that you can’t really calculate that shape the outcome of a night. If you go into a concert situation with the fixed mindset that you are heading off right after the concert, you are limiting your own live experience AND job of being social with the people involved.
Rather, try setting yourself a timeframe to work with. Tell your band that you will skip the usual hotel lobby-beer, but try not to miss out on the important activities directly involved to the concert and its attendees.
Reality 3 – Bus work is like a game of chance
Even though you might be good at focussing on work while a lot of noise is going on,being able to effectively work on a bus is a whole different game.
There are two grave reasons why bus work is critical: 1) You completely isolate yourself from an important, social situation 2) You can’t asses the situation at hand, including distractions etc.
Even if it’s not your job to get the band from A-B, constantly pulling yourself out of this social interaction can harm your band vibes while making it really hard for you to concentrate on the creative process.
It’s also time for you to wind down, get some rest and prepare for stressful situations ahead. Not letting yourself engage in this moment can have a negative impact on later situations, with you being less relaxed and at ease due to your constant mental state of alertness.
Reality 4 – Get one job done right instead of two halfheartedly
Working on new music while on tour means you are constantly hovering between two different, very important facets of your musical endeavor.
Both are very demanding and encompass many large but also smaller activities that – if neglected – diminish the quality of the overall project.
Be aware, that being on tour involves a lot more than just being on stage, soundchecking and traveling from A-B. Try not to forget things like the creation of compelling social media content or just live promo in general. These are also areas that need your attention – and they are a hell of a task to get it right.
So, if you’re really inclined on getting creative work done on tour – try not to let the process drain the life from your live experience, by working on autopilot and letting
everything just roll by.
If you need more tips and insights on live music and DIY musicianship, check out the ForTunes Blog and leave some feedback & comments. We’ll get back to you asap!
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