Now that the dust has settled, the guitar has been bent back into place and the hangovers are just a distant memory, it’s time to look back the UK tour…
On my previous blog I mentioned how I’d orchestrated my September 2014 Southern UK tour into segments (take a look for a more detailed account) and I’d decided a similar approach here was going to work. Three long weekends of gigs in different corners of the UK. This time though, the final section was with a car which one of my tour buddies I had for a series of shows was able to drive for.
I’m starting off the way I’d finished the tour in France a couple of weeks before with my tour buddy from then for these gigs up in Scotland. Glasgow and Edinburgh. Pre-booked train tickets were the answer for these shows, £17.50 to Glasgow from Yorkshire and Edinburgh back down for £30. And an obligatory Megabus linking the cities for £1.25. I’d managed to cover myself a bit more with a second Edinburgh gig also. The gigs themselves had managed to pay for my travel between the venues and one venue was kind enough to make a meal for us which really does make a musician feel welcomed into the space. We’d stayed overnight at friends houses.
This section was a bit more relaxed, to start with. A couple of days free in Exeter which I travelled down via Megabus (£20) I managed to recover from the Scottish gigs. And the Fried Pizza in Glasgow. A show up in Somerset which I was driven there and given a meal (welcomed again!) there was no expense spared for that. However, the following day I’d have to make my way from Exeter to Brighton. 180 miles in a car isn’t too bad, but this section was partly public transport. I was driven by a friend who was luckily going to London from Exeter…Twickenham to be precise. The main bulk of the journey was easy enough. Twickenham to Brighton at Friday 5pm rush hour without a pre-booked ticket was enough to take the previous night’s money from the show. In Brighton for a day off with friends and a show the next day was enough to put me back into some profit for the tour. Though the pre-booked train from Brighton to London, the Megabus from London to Manchester’s show and the last train I almost missed back home on Sunday night soon ate into whatever was made on this second section. An 800 mile 4 day tour was never going to be the most fruitful.
I’d arranged to meet my tour buddy in Coventry. Equidistant from where she was coming from and Llangollen, the first show of section three. This is the section where we would be driving. On course to meet her band mate who lives near the Welsh town, we could eat before the venue and stay too which was a massive help. The next show would be in Lancaster, where accommodation wasn’t available by the pub, which we had to book elsewhere. It was one of those rare opportunities you can take on a tour to have a bit of a day of it in the Yorkshire dales before the drive down to Hebden Bridge and then back to my place and Wakefied’s show was done via a local train. There is no doubt that the car made a big difference.
Doing the final totting up of the shows, travel expenses against income, I’d somehow managed to make a profit. Though it didn’t feel like it at all. The bank balance wasn’t bursting at the seams and the pennies in my pocket were once notes. One night out in Edinburgh and a couple of drinks at the Brighton show wasn’t enough to do this damage, it was simply food costs.
I understand that not every venue wants to serve you 10 pints behind the bar and a slap-up meal from the chef in the back..but perhaps there could be a different approach. I’d worked out if I’d have toured every show for a blanket fee of as low as £40, perhaps even £30, I’d have come back in more profit…and the venue could have made more too. You can travel between major cities, distances of 2-300 miles for £5-20. Donations during the show can be generous and even if they aren’t, with a bar throwing in £20-30 and a crate of lager pre-bought for around £7 from a supermarket and creating something like a cheap stew for a performer, the venue wins as the performer will be more than happy to spread the message of the hospitality of the venue. If the show goes well, perhaps the owner can cut other deals along the same lines with the musicians for their next tour. Which hopefully in turn, the punters are more likely to support a venue with this kind of ethos. This financial system is NOT going to work in all cases, E.G. a five piece band bringing equipment, remote venues…it is simply a good approach for solo performers. Musicians more often than not, would put the hospitality of the venue, quality of crowd above £££.
As for the accommodation situation, I think the UK is a long way from having a place to stay for every touring performer. Though quality promoters are often musicians and understand what is needed for a touring performer. As the UK still has a very dominant pub & music culture, if you’re touring pubs, it really isn’t likely. They are not often ‘venues’. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve stayed in band flats at venues before in the UK, and there are a few around, but sadly they are not treated with much respect. Smashed TV’s in the corner, damaged beds from previous bands who sadly are playing up to the Rock ‘n’ Roll myths that have been perpetuated. In a DIY scene, this is simply unacceptable. It is MORE Punk to leave the place tidier than you left it. And always offer to put the kettle on for a brew for your host in the morning.