Preventing Band Conflicts on Tour

Touring is the best of times and worst of times for musicians. On the upside, you get to play your music for fans, win new fans, travel, get tons of practice, improve your stage presence – the list goes on and on. On the flipside, you’re away from home, money can be tight, you’re living out of a suitcase, and you have to spend day in and day out with the same group of people, often in very tight quarters in high-stress situations. The good news is that you can keep the conflict to a minimum with a little bit of preparation and some attention to detail. These steps may not prevent every issue that arises on the road, but they will keep some at bay and at least help you cope when trouble does strike. Take a look at some common conflicts and what you can do to ease them. 

1
Money

Money
Money. Michael Trujillo / EyeEm Getty Images

Money is almost always a problem on tour. Lack of money, poor money management, stress over collecting money that is due to you…there is a lot to juggle. One way to deal with money on the road is to have a tour manager who is ​in charge of handling all of the finances for the musicians, so there is a neutral party outside of the band who is responsible for making sure nothing slips through the cracks.

However, many bands aren’t in a position to have a tour manager when they first start out, and that’s OK. Nominate ONE person in the band to be in charge of the money. This person should hold on to the money you have for paying for hotels, gas, and such, and he or she should be the person to collect money from the venues and merch sales at the end of the night. This person should also track income and expenses on a spreadsheet or even in a notebook and keep all receipts. Needless to say, this is a lot of responsibility, so the person in charge of this should be the person who is most up to the task.

Before you go on the road, decide how you will deal with things like personal expenses for food, drinks, and miscellaneous stuff. You can decide to distribute a per diem, or p.d., each day to each person to cover these things, or you can decide everyone is on their own. On larger tours, per diems are the done thing, but they don’t have to be for your group.

Before you hit the road, you should also do a budget for the tour, so you know how much you will be spending and how much you expect to make. If there is going to be a shortfall, decide how you will deal with it, and if you’re using credit cards or one person is fronting ​the extra money, how everyone will be compensated.

In a nutshell, plan and track and plan and track, and plan and track some more before the finances of the road turn into a fight.  More

2
Lifestyle

Band Members
Band Members. Hinterhaus Productions Getty

The differences in the lifestyles of band members at home will only be exacerbated on the road. If one person loves to socialize and stay up all night, while another is an early-to-bed, early-to-rise type, this can lead to serious conflicts. On the road, these issues turn into things like someone is always late for the bus or interviews, while someone else feels like they are carrying the burden of babysitting the band.

Avoid hashing out these differences on the road by setting some ground rules before you leave. One thing that helps is creating a tour schedule that is distributed to all band members that lists important times, like interview times, load-ins, soundchecks, stage times, and departure times. This lets everyone know where they have to be and when so there is no confusion. Some musicians also find it helpful to have curfews, though that doesn’t work for everyone. If everyone understands the expectations in advance, it will be easier to hold people accountable once the tour begins.

There’s no surprise that alcohol and drugs are widely available when you’re on tour, and this is a bigger problem for some musicians than others. If someone in your band has a substance abuse issue, consider banning drugs and alcohol backstage and on your tour bus. 

Although the easiest way to make sure you don't have lifestyle clashes on the road is to lay out some basic parameters and let everyone do their own thing within the bounds of the rules, there are things that everyone should stick to make life easier. Try to get a decent amount of sleep. Try to choose healthy foods. Try to get some exercise when you can. When you feel good, you're less likely to flip out over minor issues - plus, you'll play better.  More

3
Distance

Woman looking in distance
Woman looking in distance. Burçin Esin Getty Images

Being away from home is not always as easy as you may think, even if you've been craving a tour. For some people in your band, it can be downright overwhelming. This is especially true for band members who have families that they are leaving behind to go on the road, and it can lead to some resentment. 

Start by being realistic about how long everyone can stay out on the road - not just financially, but also personally. If someone can't be away from home for more than 2 weeks because of family obligations - or even just personal preferences - make some decisions about how you will handle things before you start booking dates. You may all agree to limit the length of your jaunts, or the person in question may decide it is time for them to back out of the group. 

Keep in mind that distance can breed tension in some cases, and that tension can spill over into the work you're doing on the road. Give everyone personal time to connect with the important people back home and stay out of each other's relationship and family issues as much as possible. 

One way some bands try to deal with distance is bringing along significant others/families. This CAN work, but be careful. Of course, extra people means extra expenses, so make sure everyone is on the same page as to how that will be handled. Even more important, chaotic relationships stay chaotic on the road, and that can impact everyone. If you do bring along a significant other or kids, be sure there are some ground rules in place that everyone adheres to, such as boyfriends/girlfriends don't weigh in on band decisions and what behavior is OK in front of the kids.  More

Communication Is the Name of the Game

Festering resentments lead to massive blowups in tight quarters on tours. Communicate, communicate, communicate - before, during, and after your tour.