How To Prepare For A Concert Tour
Congratulations! You’ve taken one of the most important steps in experiencing a successful concert tour: MAKING THE DECISION TO GO! The rest will fall into place now, right? Once you’ve made the commitment to tour, you might find yourself caught up in a swirl of activities and in a myriad of demanding details. The following things to consider—from a general timeline to suggestions regarding meetings, committees, fundraising, and promotional tools—will help you put first things first, launch your tour with great excitement, keep your plan energized, and solicit the help you’ll need (so you can better concentrate on really important things, like the music!).
Create a timeline with milestones, deadlines, and activities. This is key to keeping your concert tour on track. Consider this general timeline which is easily adaptable to your own program and time frame:
18-24 months prior: Determine possible destinations, approximate dates of tour, length of tour, approximate budget and get appropriate approval if necessary. Contact prospective tour operators to gather information.
12 months prior: Pin down decisions regarding destination, tour dates, and budget. Choose a tour operator (or begin making arrangements on your own). Finalize the itinerary and your musical program. Hold your first meeting and organize a team of helpers including committee chairpersons to oversee fundraising, finances, chaperones, publicity and promotion (newsletters/communiqués, etc.), and other aspects of tour preparation.
6-9 months prior: Deposits for participants should be paid. Obtain passports if required. Continue promoting your tour in newsletters, social networks, and meetings. Begin preparing participants for the tour by providing them with checklists, brochures, etc.
4 months prior: Continue promoting tour in newsletters, social networks, and meetings. Determine the final number of participants and obtain all deposits.
3 months prior: Final payments are due from participants who have paid deposits. Pin down all logistics of the tour, including roommate preferences.
1 month prior: Conduct final meeting to confirm all performance tour details. Obtain all emergency and medical information for each participant. Make sure that all parties involved have all pertinent concert tour information.
Your first meeting, the springboard or launching pad to a successful tour, is extremely important. You might prepare for this meeting by first organizing committees/project leaders (see “The Team” below) so they can introduce themselves at the first meeting, provide support, help field questions, and play a part in involving/inviting community support, boosters, board members and administrative officials (if appropriate). You might also ask for questions or concerns in advance of the first meeting (as well as for subsequent meeting) so you can be prepared to address them adequately and confidently. Keep control of the meeting by not letting “nit-picky” questions or negative comments derail your purpose or detract from a positive presentation.
You’ll want to accomplish the following at the first meeting:
• Enthusiastically distribute detailed information regarding the performance tour, including suggested itinerary, costs and cost inclusions, specific tour dates, payment schedule, travel insurance information and ideas for fundraising.
• Take careful attendance and obtain all contact information.
• Discuss fundraising in a positive manner (see “Fundraising” below). Brainstorm! Mention success stories!
• Touch on the timeline.
• Talk up the tour by emphasizing the life-changing benefits of a musical tour and possibly inviting past participants to share their positive experiences.
• Make the meeting fun by providing theme-related refreshments and perhaps even decorations.
• Keep lines of communication open.
• Hold subsequent meetings as needed (see “General Timeline” for suggestions), and, if working with a student group, make sure to address tour behavior expectations/rules and consequences for breaking those rules early in the process.
Enlisting a committee of helpers is key in making the process more manageable and much more enjoyable and will allow you to concentrate more on the musical and performance aspects of your tour.
A good chaperone:
• Enjoys, has experience working with people (including parents and young people if chaperoning a student group);
• Is willing to help plan and facilitate items on the itinerary;
• Is able to attend pre-tour meetings;
• Is able to assist with documentation requirements such as obtaining passports/visas and making copies of the same;
• Is able to maintain an updated binder with all pertinent information including special requirements/needs of participants (to be taken on tour for reference);
• Is prepared to spend money on items not covered in tour;
• Is able and willing to chaperone small groups if transportation is split; and
• Will comply with all tour guidelines.
It is a good idea to assign one chaperone to be the head chaperone. During your tour, your chaperones also have the following responsibilities:
At departure points: arrive early at the departure points to make sure group gets through check-in and security, and assist with logistics of travel as necessary.
While on Tour: be responsible for small groups throughout the tour; assist with discipline if needed; help to facilitate curfews and nightly room checks; stay behind if a participant should become too ill to participate on any particular day; make sure participants wake up at the appropriate time and are prepared for the day’s activities; monitor free time (if appropriate), accompany participants on free time excursions (if appropriate); generally help the director by caring for physical, medical and emotional needs of the participants; make sure to maintain passports and current information regarding the medical/special needs of each participant in your group.
Know that good chaperones can make all the difference!
Sometimes the responsibility of a performance tour, especially regarding finances and fundraising, can seem a bit overwhelming. But with careful planning, consistent effort and an enthusiastic team, you might be surprised how easily this part of your tour preparation will fall into place. And the resourcefulness and generosity of your supporters might well amaze you. Please visit our fundraising page for more information and suggestions.
Promotional Tools/General Information
Your ensemble members and their families always appreciate receiving all the information you are able to provide regarding their upcoming concert tour. The ongoing promotion and dissemination of information regarding your concert tour not only serves to keep energy and enthusiasm high among the ranks but it can also serve as a sparkplug for fundraising.
Look to your tour operator to supply the following information:
• Costs and Inclusions;
• Insurance/Travel Protection Information;
• Terms & Conditions;
• Reservation Application; and
• Maps and pictures (if appropriate);
Additionally, there are many easy, cost-efficient and effective ways to promote your concert tour such as:
• Sending out frequent promotional letters, notes, emails, and other communiqués (including via the internet such as on Facebook) to maintain excitement and interest, and to keep all parties organized and informed.
• Issuing a press release for your own organization as well as for local media outlets such as newspapers, television and radio stations.
• Creating one-page flyers/ads summarizing your tour and/or reporting on the progress of your plans and preparations in a graphically pleasing way;
• Distributing stories/articles highlighting your destination and/or touching on the great rewards of music and performance tours.
• Establishing a dedicated website page about your program, concert tour plans, fundraising events, etc, to include photographs (of a fundraising event, for example) and ongoing information about the performance tour.
The preparation period for a successful concert tour can sometimes last for months, and there’s no doubt that managing the concerns, questions, and retention of participants for such a project requires effort. It is important to respect the concerns of your ensemble/support team and to communicate frequently and effectively about issues related to your tour. It goes without saying that you care deeply about the members of your group and that you and your team want to make sure that all responsibilities related to a concert tour are honorably and adequately met, from the large ones like safety and finances, to the smaller concerns like venues, meals and day-to-day tour activities. Your tour operator should always be willing and able to help in addressing such concerns, in ‘overcoming objections,’ and maintaining ‘happy anticipation’ regarding your concert tour.
Further, consider the following:
•Cost Objections (see also “With WHOM (Considerations in Choosing a Tour Operator)”: Why are there discrepancies in pricing between various tour operators? As already mentioned, be sure to compare apples with apples. Non-music tour operators do not have the resources or contacts to affordably meet the unique needs of music performance groups at their desired level of quality. Also many tour operators do not, or are unable to, provide the services and goods you require. Consider costs include venue rental, promotion (posters, handbills, internet advertising, insertion in local papers and tourist offices, etc.), ASCAP fees, and payment to personnel to help with publicity distribution. Additionally, costs can include a variety of items, such as fully escorted tours that include sightseeing, entrance fees, tour managers, local guides and meals (breakfasts and dinners), private tours to accommodate transfers to and from concerts (flexibility with transportation is essential in a concert tour), and exclusive group activities rather than providing a ‘seat-in-product’—meaning your group would share motorcoaches with others. Also, consider significant insurance coverage and full liability coverage – are these included? Although keeping participants’ costs down is an important priority, the old adage: “You get what you pay for” is still true. When you are fielding concerns about costs and cost comparisons between tour companies, be sure to consider all inclusions.
• Fundraising Woes (see also “How to Prepare for Your Concert Tour: Fundraising”): What to do if fundraising/finances stall? Fatigue can be a factor in fundraising, as in tired helpers and/or tired ideas—so it certainly helps to keep plenty on hand (helpers and ideas!), and to periodically rejuvenate, reinvigorate, and reinvent(!) your finance/fundraising committee(s) with new blood and new ‘schemes for your dreams.’ Do a little networking and ask other organizations/programs/directors what has worked for them. Get on the internet and research some new areas and ideas. Re-issue another press release to solicit additional community support, have a special meeting to address the challenges (enlarge your invitation list), and never underestimate the power of brainstorming (consider: cash lottery, auction, garage sale, flea market, bazaar, services, work concessions, ask local businesses for opportunities: (“Hire the Choir!”), beg a local (or national!) celebrity to help, provide musical entertainment (dinner show, comedy club, formal dance, disco party, artist showcase, open mike night, exchange concert, musical revue), sponsor a music festival, clinic, community/booster performing group (limit to a season, combine with your ensemble and watch your support base grow), host a sing-along/play-along, and don’t forget seasonal events… Does any of this help?!). It might also help to remember that “where there’s a will, there’s a way” and that “fundraising really is only limited by imagination!”
• Negative News from Travel Industry or about Travel Destination: When necessary, acknowledge bad news from the travel industry or travel destination; further, acknowledge any anxiety expressed by participants and their families. Suggest that “this too shall pass” and reaffirm your commitment to going on tour. Reviewing the safety precautions regularly integrated into concert tours and reiterating benefits of touring can also help put minds at ease.
• Number of participants is dropping: How to reach out, register and retain! One key here is in keeping constantly connected. If you learn of group members deciding not to participate in a tour, seek out each individual to find out what can be done and how you can help. Include each participant in every step of preparation. Be vigilant in holding frequent meetings, distributing flyers and newsletters (or maintaining your website and other forms of communication) and in making every effort to keep ‘steam in the engine.’ Keep in mind that sometimes there is nothing you can do regarding circumstances beyond your control.