Ready to head off on your first international tour? Europe offers an incredible opportunity to independent musicians, with a welcoming live music culture, enthusiastic fans, and diverse markets. But planning a tour
can be a lot of work, especially when you’re doing it for the first time and handling all the details yourself. Here’s what you need to sort out before hopping on a plane:
Two words: festival season. Your best bet is to festival hop your way across the continent; organizers can usually be reached online. If you have international fans and a good social media presence, you can put the word out that you’re looking for venues and see what they bring you without ever going through a booking agent. Another approach is to identify regions you want to visit, then dive into Google for a list of popular venues and reach out with a request. Be prepared to do a lot of research and to send multiple requests. You need to apply for more venues than you can play since not every venue will have an opening or will work with your sound.
Put some thought into how you’re going to get around – and how your gear is going to be transported. Acoustic artists will have less to carry and can travel on public transport to most places if they don’t overbook themselves, however, they do have to worry about possible damage to instruments. Bands with lots of gear may want to rent a van to reduce the risk of damage. Either way, be sure to get proper flight cases to protect your instruments and equipment, invest in insurance against theft or damage, and allow extra time for crossing borders.
Make sure every band member has a current passport that isn’t near the expiry date and research visa or work permit needs for every location you’re visiting. Some regions and
countries within the EU have different requirements for live performers. Make digital copies of all legal documents in case of theft, loss, or damage. Get travel insurance for you and your instruments.
Cost of living varies widely across Europe, as does compensation. Save ahead of time, and plan to have a substantial emergency fund in case things don’t go as well as you’d hoped. A good tip is to use no or low-fee bank machines to withdraw moderate sums. For larger sums, check rates of international money transfers ahead of time and identify the best service to use so you’re prepared for any eventuality. Travel can be unpredictable, so prepare as much as possible so you’re able to roll with changes in the plan and enjoy the adventure.
Planning an indie tour of Europe is an incredible opportunity – and a big challenge. Lean into the details and do lots of research to fully prepare, put your geek hat on and learn everything you can about the nuts and bolts of travel and touring, and then kick back and enjoy the ride. Europe offers some of the best nightlife and live music culture in the world. Your fans are waiting.