Catch 22 or the circularity of concert touring

How do musicians book a concert tour? Do you wait until you get a concert before you book your flights or do you book your flights and hope that you’ll get concerts to cover the airfare?


How do musicians book a concert tour?

I should have asked the American singer/songwriter/pianist Rich Wyman when he was touring the Netherlands this past summer. I should have asked the South African composer/guitarist Derek Gripper when he toured Europe last autumn.

I recall agreeing to organise a concert for Derek Gripper a year before the event. Does it really require planning a year in advance?

Derek was invited to perform in a music festival in Denmark. The airfare was covered, so he stretched the tour date to cover various house concerts in the Netherlands. I think that was how he did it.

We don’t have the luxury of any music festival or anybody covering our transatlantic fare to the USA. We just had to assume or trust that we’d get enough concerts to eventually cover the airfare. Instead of thinking big and ahead, we thought piecemeal. Each concert would cover some aspect of our touring. The small ones would cover the car rental. The big ones would cover the airfares between cities.

Actually that’s not how it began.

We simply hoped to get one concert to fix the destination. And then we asked if the concert organiser knew anybody else who could help us get another concert.

It’s “catch 22” because we can’t determine if we should book the tickets first or wait to get a concert booked.  If we wait for a concert, airfares will rise and become unaffordable (with respect to concert revenue). If we book our air tickets, we might not get enough concerts or any.

Right now, we know we have a big house concert in the heart of San Francisco on Saturday 20th November.  We are crossing our fingers for a concert in Houston on 13th November. In between, we could be giving concerts in the outskirts of Houston or even drive up to Austin, the music capital of America. With so much uncertainty, how can we possibly book a ticket to fly from Houston to San Francisco?  Which date?

A few days ago, I was asking the same question about leaving Phoenix. How long should we stay in Phoenix? The answer came in the form of a concert booking in Houston.

Author: BLOGmaiden

As one of the earliest bloggers (since 1999), I enjoy meeting people who embrace "out-of-the-box" thinking and fear not the unknown. I believe in collaboration for sustainability because it increases stakeholder value.

3 thoughts on “Catch 22 or the circularity of concert touring”

  1. Dearest Anne
    I HEAR you! It IS a dilemma!
    Unless you are working with an agent, overseas touring is a form of gambling. It has better consequences, and allows you to share your music. Airlines make it even harder by having fluctuating priced which reflects the fact that air tickets are “fixed” – not priced at “value.”
    I say if you want to go somewhere, make sure you have a few gigs booked to cover the cost of air travel, decide how long you want to be away for and then book the ticket. Then try fill the gaps. It is always possible that you may suddenly get a GREAT gig outside of your ticket, so make sure you have a ticket that accepts at least one date change. OTHERWISE book a holiday somewhere you really want to go and then see if you get gigs (they’re just a bonus then – maybe you end up with a free trip, or even some pocket money!)
    If you have one good concert that can make the rest worthwhile.
    I have stopped this form of gambling for the present, partly because I am ethically opposed to air travel at present. I am trying to foster a local appreciation of music, and a market for it. The world is such a big place. Why sell oranges to the US and by mandarins back?
    But I may feel I have something to share with the larger world sometime soon, and that it is worth all that fuss and petrol (just MAYBE)…then back in the passport queue I go…
    love to all…D

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