During the summer of 2017, I connected with a tour manager and we planned out a series of weekend dates. From July 31 to December 9, I played fourteen shows in Indiana, Kentucky, Kansas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Arkansas. Yes, I have a day job and play locally around St. Louis too. I grew a beard. It has gray hairs. I met cool people and have some stories to tell. I’ll tell the highlights and give a little financial information. For a first tour, I spent more than I made but I got better by the end and learned an invaluable amount.
My songwriter friend, Nathan Andrew Jones, suggested I vlog the tour after I told him about the first trip. This play list captures most of October and has the November and December dates.
To begin, I headed to Indianapolis to 10 Johnson Street and played as a featured artist. The main goal of this tour was to get into different markets. Playing as a featured artist does just that–you get a bit of the spotlight and can network with local players. What I forgot about in Indy was that I was in a different time zone. My phone was correct but my car was not. I overpaid for a hotel room because it was later than I thought. First lesson learned–book your room in advance.
From Indy, I drove to Muncie, IN the next day. At Be Here Now, I was a featured performer again. Be Here Now has a college-artsy vibe and is a place you can just hang out. After Muncie, I had a couple weeks. My day job started back up then it was time to hit the road.
In mid-August, I performed as a duo with a friend of mine Scott Schuchmann. We played in the afternoon at Gerstle’s Place in Louisville, KY. We left early in the morning to play 11am-3pm. We arrived without a minute to spare, my fault in navigation, and the best chicken and biscuits ever. We shook the cook’s hand. It was that good. From there, I had a month from traveling and played locally.
The last Friday in September, my wife rode with me to Wichita, KS to play at The Pumphouse. This may have been the most attended show of the tour. There were many inside and I played outside at a very busy corner. Hundreds walked by and there were many that came inside. We had to return early the next morning for a local show.
This was the month that was packed. Well, packed at first. The first weekend, I drove to Louisville to play again at Gerstle’s. That was a fun crowd and maybe the second most attended show of the tour. The following day I drove to Nashville to play but when I arrived a sign hung in the door stating, “Closed. Private party.” I checked with the staff and the private party did not include me so I drove home. I did have a local Sunday show but that canceled as well. This was the first vlog so you can tell I’m finding my voice doing that.
The second weekend I drove to Wichita, KS to play Kirby’s Beer Store and on Saturday I went to Salina, KS to play Ad Astra Coffeehouse. Since I had the day to spend, I looked up music stores in Salina. That’s where I found my new guitar. Now, as a guitar player, I have enough guitars. Yeah, I’m an unusual dude. But, I’m good with my instruments. I tried a guitar and it didn’t feel right and this Fender Duo-Sonic was hanging just calling to me. I spent a couple hours playing it in the store. Finally, I understood retail therapy and really needed that. The guitar has now become my solo gigging guitar and my site now bares the surf green color scheme. After playing in Salina, I drove part way back and played locally for Sunday brunch.
The third week was an extended weekend. With my day job teaching, I get an extra day off for parent conferences and traveled to Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois that week. In Iowa City, I played Uptown Bill’s. This was a feature spot that was broadcast on public access tv. On this trip, my GPS started giving me drive times that were off by an hour. That was the only stressful part about the whole tour actually–getting somewhere on time. So, driving from Iowa City to Madison, WS, my drive time was unpredictable. The Madison stop was a date I booked myself. I did that before the tour manager could secure a date. The Fountain in Madison is tied in second for the most attended. The event was broadcast on local radio part of the time and there was a tremendous amount of foot traffic due to homecoming weekend for the university. The next day I went to the north burbs of Chicago–Glenview, IL to play at The Rock House. I drove home that night.
The fourth week, my wife rode with me to Milwaukee, WS. We left early enough so we could have dinner there and enjoy a little time. The show was at Art*Bar Riverwest. Though I’m a relatively smart person, I’m very bad with dates. I did not think about the last weekend being Halloween. One extra cool thing about Milwaukee was that I got to meet an online music friend who lives there.
I had three weeks before hitting the road again in November. Just to show how busy things were, I played six shows locally in those three weeks. No sleep for Kyle.
The week of Thanksgiving, I drove to Muncie, IN on Tuesday to return to Be Here Now. Now, I can say I had no gear failures nor did I lose anything–no cords, not even a guitar pick. But, the day before I was conferencing with my tour manager and he said to be wary of failures; they will happen. So, Tuesday eve, I plugged in and had limited sound. I had no time to check it out. I was disappointed for that reason but more so because the staff remembered me and we had a blast in August. The next day, I didn’t have any means to probe the problem and drove to Louisville, KY to play at Magnolia Bar. When there, I plugged in and the same thing. I drove home that night and the next day, woke up and saw in less than two minutes that a button was pushed in that should not have been. Despite that hickup, I could plan ahead and it didn’t effect my performance at the Magnolia Bar. I shared the stage with a couple local performers and I’m hoping to blog them soon.
The end of November was the first time I had off since September. So much happened in those couple months…way beyond the scope of music. But, December came around and I was ready. The second weekend, I drove to Eureka Springs, AR to play at Brews. Though I’ve just been giving a basic summary of everything here, I have been learning lessons along the way. My first night I didn’t book a room in advance and over paid, this time I had everything down and the only costs I had were gas and tipping staff. As a traveling musician, think ahead and make everything a situation from which you can learn. After playing, I drove to my parents near Springfield, MO. The next day I drove to Poplar Bluff, MO to play The Wine Rack and Java Stop Cafe. Both shows went well and I drove home Saturday night, slept a few hours and played a local brunch show. Then I came home and stared at nothing. For about five hours.
Goals and Finances
As mentioned before, the goal was to get into different markets. Also, for me, the goal was to increase my local value. Through working on those goals, I learned much inside information about how to communicate, what not to do (there’s more than you’d think), and how to present yourself. For future purposes, the goal of getting into different markets will be evaluated. There were two return bookings at venues and returns to the same market, so the fulfillment of that goal seems promising. For increasing local value, I’m getting into new local venues and staying booked up.
For the finances, many details fall into the non-disclosure disclosure area so, I’m generalizing here. I recouped 40% of what I spent. Meaning, if I spent $1000, I made back $400. What surprised me is I spent about the same amount for rooms as I did gas and travel fees. The breakdown was 42% gas, 42% rooms, 16% food. Since I have a day job, some of the expenses were not an issue and I enjoyed everything and took in local flavor as much as I could.
And Now For Something Completely The Same
I’ll do more dates like this in the future. I learned so much and enjoyed working with my tour manager and going through the process. With a new album coming in 2018, I’m looking at touring options over the summer and considering taking a chunk of time to tour as opposed to weekends.
I know I may have left some things out. I’m tired. It’s the Monday after as I typed this so I’ll likely read this many times and remember things I should have added. But, that is part of the experience too.