This article is the sixth in a series of posts explaining how to bring your music on the road and get to travel with it. Read the series’ introduction , Post#1 , Post # 2 , Post #3 , Post #4 and Post #5
In my last post I concluded that vans are the ideal mean of transportation for a touring band: more comfortable, more professional and, at last, a possible place to sleep when everything else fails on the road. I would like to expand the topic and give you some useful suggestions to get yourself and your van ready for touring.
First of all, most probably you will not be able to afford the luxury to buy a van, especially in Europe: unlike in the USA, they are expensive and have high road taxes and insurance to pay every year. Therefore, unless you are playing shows every weekend or own a booking agency, you will most likely resort to rent one for your tours or shorter periods of time.
Speaking of rentals, generally a van would cost in between 80 to 100 Euros per day. This is definitely not that cheap, especially considering the extra cost of petrol. However, you have to budget rental fees into your daily expenses and make them work according to your shows’ guarantees. If it may sound easier, some booking agencies also offer full rental packages including a backline and a driver – very handy to cruise the narrow European lanes for first timers – for a few Euros a day more.
When choosing a van, consider that smaller vans would require you to take out the last row of seats in order to make room for backline and luggage. For this reason, it would probably be wiser and easier for maximal comfort to leave friends and girlfriends at home, and travel with your bandmates only. For example, in Europe vans can generally fit a maximum of nine passengers, and you would be left with six seats only when loading luggage. On average, three to four bandmates, a roadie and an extra helper – a tour manager, merchandise seller etc. – would already make for a crammed van.
I will not suggest a particular kind of van as it would be just impossible to individuate the “best of”. However, besides comfort, your vehicle should be safe and sound. This means you should choose a reputable rental company or make sure you have some sort of insurance: it is not uncommon to rent old vehicles, and have problems along the way. I may tell countless tales of friends who rented a van in southern Europe, and had to abandon it somewhere in the North with a melted engine, having to cancel several shows in the process. This would waste your time and your earnings, as a tour is generally a matter of a few weeks only. For this reason, be well aware of what you choose and the people you deal with, as the rock and roll business is thriving with shady entities.
Get yourself prepared to travel light and bring the essential backline only; make space for it in the trunk, or practically remove the last row of seats, as I suggested. Another practical tip would be to pack the drumset by removing the kick’s outer skin, and insert the other drums in it, like if mounting a Russian matrioska. Consider carrying one half-stack and one amp head per instrument, and you should be good to go. And of course, factor some space for your merchandise box, the best source of earnings while on the road.
Now, prepare your favorite soundtrack on an Mp3 player and get a cable to blast it trough the van’s sound system, and you should really be all geared up to go. And in case you do your own driving, if a GPS is too expensive to rent or buy, remember to print out your own directions. Trust me, I would have been stranded in the Dutch or German countryside countless times if I didn’t!!