Running a tour, part 2: making plans

This is part two of our touring guidance: making plans. This part looks at the detail of planning; you have thought about what is possible and what members want and now it‘s time to get down to the nitty gritty of planning.

If you’d like some professional advice from a tour company then a good place to start is with our Premium Corporate Members; Rayburn ToursACFEA Tour Consultants and One Stage, and our Corporate Supporters, Club Europe.

Where will you go?

If you use a tour company then this question may be much easier to answer as you’ll be able to choose from a list of places they are experienced in running tours to. This means you can concentrate on weighing up the merits and costs of each destination with the wishes of your group. 

Although if you have a destination in mind but aren’t sure if the tour company offers it, it’s definitely worth discussing it with them. A good tour company will work with you on your chosen destination, rather than trying to fit your group to an off the peg solution. It is also often in the tour companies interests to broaden their range of tours and so might offer you a special price for acting as their ‘guinea pig’.

If you are organising a tour yourself then the question deserves a little more thought. Some things to consider are:

  • Performance venues
  • Accommodation
  • Travel options and costs – getting there and around
  • Equipment: What you will need to take with you? Think about safe storage, transportation and access to venue.
  • What language is spoken
  • What there is to do in the area

If you are not using a tour company then probably one of the most useful things to consider is where you have contacts of your own. Never underestimate the power of some well informed and understanding insider knowledge.

Venue choice and itinerary

Taking into account your travel plans and how many concerts you’d like to do on tour, you can start to look into concert venues and construct an itinerary.

It is worth thinking about what makes your ‘home’ venue work well and use that as a basis for finding tour venues. But be prepared to be flexible too. It may be difficult to find concert venues that are similar to what you are used to - don’t let that become a problem. Work out what you can’t do without in a venue and if there are any ways in which you can adapt how you run your performances to make them fit into unusual spaces. For each potential venue think about:

  • Costs
  • Logistics – access, setting-up
  • How communicative and welcoming the staff seem
  • Whether it’s a venue that regularly holds concerts or not

Twinned towns: does your local town have a twin town? Many British towns have multiple twin towns in European countries. They can be a great way to plan a tour, providing you with existing cultural links, willing contacts, opportunities to perform and potential funding. Most local councils will have details of twin towns and contacts to get you started.

Transport – getting there

Coach is probably the most common option but flying can work too and it will of course depend on your destination. For both options equipment/instrument transportation and storage are big considerations – more info is below and for instrument insurance information see the insurance section.

Flying: normally the quickest option and not always too expensive, flying can work. There are things to be aware of though. Large instruments can be difficult to transport and add extra cost. Putting instruments in the hold is always a worry due to their fragile nature and airlines are not always understanding of this. If you choose not to put instruments in the hold then taking them on board flights comes with other challenges, not least the extra hand luggage allowance you may need. We have also heard of music stands and small instruments being tricky things to get through airport security. It is worth investigating if any instruments (e.g. percussion) can be hired at venues.

If you do choose to fly, perhaps the key thing is to allow a lot of extra time to get through the airport. There’s really no way of predicting how long this will take especially when you are with a large group carrying unusual luggage!

In terms of flight booking it is often easiest to book in bulk so everyone is on the same flight. Although some groups let each member book their own flights and meet at the other end – this can work but takes a bit more coordination.

Coach: this is perhaps the most common option and for many destinations in Europe have quite manageable travel times. Instrument storage and transportation is generally easier although space can be an issue – again think about if any instruments can be hired at the destination, how you will pack and unpack the instruments safely and where they will be stored once you are on tour.

A coach can also add to the camaraderie of the tour – although there is flip side of this. Either way you will be spending a decent amount of time on the coach so it is worth doing some research to make sure it is a comfortable coach and good company, give some thought to pick up and drop off points, seating plans and coach etiquette too.

Transport - getting around

A coach is generally the best option for actually getting around once on tour. The public transport in a foreign country can be tricky at the best of times, throw in a large tour party and (maybe) instruments it can become very challenging.

If you have travelled by coach then you can of course carry on. If you choose to fly– hiring a coach once you have landed is an option – language barriers are something to consider here. Depending on numbers (and people being willing to drive) car/mini bus hire could be an option; it gives you a bit more freedom but can also increase costs.

Accommodation: it is important that all members of your group feel safe and comfortable in your accommodation. Different members may have different expectations too. A new student member might be fine with a dorm room but a longer standing member might want something more refined. It can be tempting to save cost with cheap options or by being out of town – but will this add travel costs or possibly affect morale? Instrument storage is another consideration.

Funding

The most common way to fund groups is self-funding, with members paying for themselves. It is important that you think about affordability and try not to exclude people based on price. Could you look at offering subsidies for those with financial difficulties? Or maybe offer some different payment options (instalments etc.).
It’s also worth investigating if there are any funding opportunities. Tours offer musical and cultural experiences and community cohesion and may be something funding is available for. There are different funding bodies operating in different areas so we cannot give you a simple answer of who to ask. A good place to start is Funding Central which will direct you towards potential funds based on the characteristics of your group and tour. Touring to twin towns can also offer cultural exchange funding opportunities – your local council will have details.

Publicity

One big advantage of using a tour company is that they often take care of all of your publicity. If you are not using a tour company then you will need to put a lot of work into attracting an audience. Consider where you are going and how much of a culture of concert going there is in that place. Try to get your publicity materials sorted early to maximise the time you have to get it out to your potential new audiences. Some good places to start are:

  • Your venues: they might have a regular audience who may be interested.
  • Local news and tourism resources
  • Everyone you are in contact with in the planning process – tell them about what you are doing.

Musical considerations

Think about how best to balance musical considerations with sensible logistics. It helps if both sides are working together from the start. Speak with your Music Director and members about what they want and expect musically from the tour. There are several different approaches, the most common are:

  • Perform your normal or existing repertoire music; it has the advantage of people being comfortable and makes rehearsal time easier
  • Perform a specific tour programme; this can be a really great thing to do – you can theme it round your locations and it can make the tour feel special as well as being a good way to add to your existing repertoire. You do need to think about how this will affect your group – if some people aren’t going on tour for example, and how pre-tour rehearsal time will fit in with your normal schedule
  • Partner with local groups; if you are visiting twin towns (or even if not) there may be groups local to the area who you could work with musically.

Insurance

Insurance for tours is a common area of concern. Think about how much insurance the members of your group already have; many people will have their own travel insurance and instrument insurance so there’s not necessarily a need for you as the group to be responsible for each group member’s individual insurance. Making Music’s insurance scheme for groups covers you for any musical activity which means the concerts and rehearsals within your tour are covered. Making Music also offers instrumental insurance to individuals – this covers instruments in the UK and Europe.

Communicating with members

It’s important you keep members informed of progress along the way. As the leave date approaches make sure everyone has the necessary information. What do they need to do? What should they bring? Where do they need to be, when? An itinerary for the trip and contact details to give to family members. A short pack is a good idea so everyone has all information they need in one place.

Part 1: getting started

Part 3: whilst you’re away


We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.