Rules of the Road

Expert Advice: Rules Of The Road

In my 40 years of touring as a musician, tour manager and record label rep, I’ve devised a great number of rules based on the unruly actions of others and the somewhat predictable results. Here are five to consider before your next foray into the hinterlands of America.

Rule of the Road #1
Assume nothing. Always call ahead. Everything changes. Double check––twice! You will never be sorry you did.

Don’t fall into some sort of false confidence that everything you’ve painstakingly planned down to the last detail will go off without a hitch. When the people you call get irritated at your insistence on double-checking, you should calmly suggest a few ways in which their lives could be improved by the addition of this rule.

Rule of the Road #2
Eat whenever you can. But avoid all local cuisine. Eat the same food for every meal. 

That’s something I learned while out on tour with the Ramones. They had found that it was better to eat only one kind of food while on tour so as not to produce any gastro-intestinal problems that inevitably occurred on overnight bus trips when one samples the varieties of regional foods encountered on cross-country tours. 

In determining which one food should be consumed at all meals, here were the Ramones’ criteria: Something that’s the same all over America, that can be ordered (and delivered) 24/7/365, and that keeps its taste and consistency for hours (even overnight) without any refrigeration.

That food, of course, was pizza. That’s primarily what they ate on tour. Think about it. It’s food for thought. Sorry.

Rule of the Road #3
Sleep whenever you can––there may not be a chance to later. Try the “Coffee Nap.” Here’s how it works: First drink a cup of strong coffee. Then take a 20-minute nap. Finally, wake up feeling refreshed and energetic.

In order to accept this plan of action, you have to understand how caffeine affects you. After caffeine passes into your bloodstream, it crosses into your brain. There, it fits into receptors to do its job, UNLESS those receptors are already filled with adenosine. Adenosine is a byproduct of too much brain activity. It plugs into these receptors and makes you feel tired, blocking the receptors from the caffeine.

So here’s how the Coffee Nap works: it’s all a matter of timing. (Isn’t everything?). Sleeping naturally clears adenosine from the receptors. Experts agree that a 20-minute nap is ideal. And, coincidentally, it takes around 20 minutes for the caffeine to get through your bloodstream to your brain. 

So, drink some strong coffee before your 20-minute nap. That nap will reduce your levels of adenosine, opening up the receptors in 20 minutes, just in time for the caffeine to kick in. The caffeine will have fewer adenosine molecules to compete with, and will therefore make you alert. (Admit it: you’ve never tried it. Try it.)

Rule of the Road #4
Always get a receipt. It doesn’t matter what you actually do on tour as long as you get a printed receipt for reimbursement or tax purposes.

Start practicing this habit now. First, get a receipt for everything you do, even if you don’t believe that it has anything to do with your career. Try and devise an unconscious habit of placing all receipts in a wallet or purse or something that you always carry with you that closes securely. Avoid sticking receipts in your pockets or leaving them in bags or on the floor, trunk or glove compartment of your car.  

Each evening, pull out each receipt, circle the date and the amount and try and come up with a reason why it relates to your career. Put them in a monthly envelope and forget about them until tax time. Then you and your tax person can go through them and determine which ones are viable deductible items. 

You will NEVER regret making this a habit because it’s all about the money.

Rule of the Road #5
Nothing is definite until after it happens. Even then, it might still be open to interpretation, but at least it’ll be over. Here are a few examples of the idle promises you’ll be handed on tour. Memorize them and recoil instantly when someone says them to you.

• It’s a small guarantee, but everyone goes into percentages.

• You will be listed in the club ad and on their website.

• There’s always plenty of parking on the street and they don’t tow.

• You’ll have lots of time for a soundcheck.

• It’ll sound great once the people get in here.

• The catering is on its way.

• We’ll do a good walk-up.

• All of this mess will be cleaned off the stage by the time you go on.

• Tables will be reserved for all of the names on your guest list plus one.

• That noisy ventilation fan will be shut off before you go on stage.

• Your stuff will be safe in the dressing room.

• The club will have someone to sell your merch for you.

• We enforce a no-talking rule while the performers are on stage.

• You’ll have loads of time to pack up after the show.

• We’ve never had any problems with the fire marshal.

• I’ll have the cash for you by the end of the evening.

• This check is good.

All of these idle promises were made by people who knew that if they didn’t actually happen as promised, it would be too late for anyone to do anything about it.

These are only five of the many rules that I’ve devised for the road. The others cannot be listed in a family publication due to common decency and libel laws. Some of them appear in my book The Singer/Songwriter Rule Book: 101 Ways To Help You Improve Your Chances Of Success, available at Amazon in digital and print.

LARRY BUTLER is a 40-year veteran of the music business. He currently consults as a live performance music coach based in Nashville. His recent book, The Singer/Songwriter Rule Book: 101 Ways To Help You Improve Your Chances Of Success, is available at Amazon in both digital and print configurations (amzn.to/2Hk7it4). Butler also runs one of 365 insightful quotes from famous rock and pop stars every day on his Twitter feed @larryfromohio. He can be reached through his website, diditmusic.com.