Guitar Zen: Touring Overseas

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For many years, bands from the U.S. have been told that the key to big time success requires making it big in Europe and Asia, then coming back to the States and building off of that success. In many ways this formula can work, but for a young band with a meager budget, touring overseas is no easy feat! After recently completing my first ever European tour, I felt compelled to share a few insights with the Share My Guitar audience in hopes of shedding a little light on both the possibilities and difficulties of touring abroad.

Getting The Gigs

Obviously the first step is getting the bookings. There are often independent club owners and show promoters who will want to book your band (many just off the fact that you are an American band), however it’s important to book enough gigs to make the trip feasible. That means that you will have to work out a budget and factor in all the expenses versus the dollars being brought in per gig. Don’t be afraid to ask the club or promoter if they can recommend other venues in neighboring cities or countries, as many promoters know each and work together, so they may find ways to cross promote events.

Promotion Is Key

Once you have lined up a dozen gigs over seas, it’s then time to hammer out a promo strategy. If you have a label or PR firm handling business, stay on them and make sure that they are getting the materials needed to each venue. If you are doing it yourself, then get on the internet and pound the virtual pavement! The internet is a huge means of communication and promotion in other countries (more so than in the U.S) and by attacking fan forums, Facebooks, etc., with quality info about your gigs, you can spread the word pretty quickly.


Then there is the issue of gear. In most cases, shipping your full stacks, indoor pyrotechnics, and the quadruple bass drum kit is just not cost effective and can ruin your chance of breaking even or making a profit. With that in mind, requesting backline be provided is the way to go. Since the power and voltages are different in other countries, you also need power transformers for things like pedal boards, laptops etc., so ask for those as well. Keep in mind that you may not get everything you request but you can usually substitute a Mesa Boogie for that Bogner and dial in a pretty similar tone to back home. In a nutshell, only take what you absolutely need to get the job done and keep it light because it all costs money to ship.

Travel & Currency Exchange

The main thing to consider when looking into touring outside of the U.S. is travel and all the little things that come with it. Many countries are close together, making it easy to take a train or rent a van (and a driver too) which in the end is MUCH cheaper than flying everywhere. The other thing to consider that may be a hassle from time to time is getting the currency for each place you visit. It’s kind of like driving from LA to San Diego, and all of a sudden the money and the language is different. Doing a little research ahead of time can save you a great deal of hassle and aggravation when you are standing at McDonald’s wanting to buy a cheesburger for 5 Euros when all you have is 20 Kroners!

At any rate, touring abroad can be a great experience and an awesome way to build a whole new fanbase. The main thing to do is  make sure that you have all the peices of the puzzle in place before you go.

Happy Trails!

Scott “SVH” Von Heldt is a staff writer for SMG. Scott is currently the lead guitarist for Brian “Head” Welch (ex-Korn) and has worked with members of White Zombie, Cirque Du Soliel and many others. In late 2008 he released the first book of his Mystic Art of Self-Discovery series entitled Mind Over Metal: The Musician’s Guide to Mental Mastery.


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