February 19, 2015 | by Jonathan Diener

International touring is not only an awesome experience for a band, but an extremely crucial tool in one’s growth. Sure, you get to impress your graduating class on Facebook by posting exotic pictures with the caption, “Another day at the office.” but there’s much more to it. 

Pack your bags, grab your passport and let’s get on a plane.

When your band is established enough and has even the slightest bit of drawing power overseas (thanks to the internet), that is the perfect time to travel. Try to contact labels in other territories to put out your record and raise awareness, as well as booking agents who can get you paid to perform. That’s right, as a musician you can actually get paid to play music in other countries. Don’t have your bandmates each chip in $1,000 to fly to Puerto Rico just to say you played there. You know what’s more impressive? You get on a decent-sized UK tour and all of your plane tickets are paid off just from guarantees and merch sales alone. Sure, it’s fun, but this is also your career if you want it to be. At the very least try to break even unless you know the big picture investment is worth it for the growth of your band.

Playing overseas is an insurance policy for bands. The perfect example is when someone jokingly says a band is “big in Japan.” The whole concept is that a fledgling band from the U.S. can somehow hit it big across the sea and be a huge success. The band Zebrahead did relatively well in the States for a bit, but when they go to Japan they’re making a living. I’m talking arenas and an obscene amount of money. Thousands of people still come out to see them and even though that doesn’t happen back in our country, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Fast punk rock bands from the ‘90s still do incredibly well on European festivals and may only draw a few hundred back home. The idea is that if you get enough of a following somewhere, it means you get to travel there more often and re-establish your priorities. If you notice attendance for your shows and the overall amount of money your band is generating is starting to decrease, maybe it’s time for a new home base. You don’t want to tour the U.S. twelve months out of the year, so go make some money while you can.

Over-saturating a market is a very harmful thing to the longevity of a band. You shouldn’t play your hometown more than once a month, and you shouldn’t tour the country every other month. More of the same gives people the option to skip the upcoming event and see you next time. Some of the hardest working bands are constantly on the road, but the smart ones are making international trips and capitalizing on new markets. If you can establish a following in major territories like the UK, mainland Europe and Australia you’re set for a solid year of touring at a time. If given the opportunity, make sure you take chances and travel to exotic places like South America and Asia. We were fortunate enough to go to Singapore, Indonesia and China with Paramore and had the craziest experience of our lives. Not only was it worth it financially, but we just expanded our following to places people wouldn’t even be able to vacation to on a normal basis, let alone play music.

If you play your cards right you have the chance to take a paid vacation for the rest of your life. That is not an exaggeration. I was able to take a picture next to almost every major tourist attraction because my goofy band wrote some songs that some people liked enough. If you continue to travel back to those places you can dig deeper into the culture instead of the touristy areas and experience what a lot of people wish they could. Even in places like Los Angeles, I developed a solid group of friends who showed me things that I would have never imagined existed there. When we traveled to Asia, I was able to hang out with wild monkeys at a temple and I saw 25-foot waves on the beaches in Singapore. Shock value aside, I didn’t realize how much the difference in culture would affect me on a personal level. It made me realize I took a lot of things for granted back home. I also wished I could experience something that dates back hundreds of years on a regular basis. It made me look at life and music from a new perspective which has helped me out immensely. I feel my songwriting improved based on the crazy experiences and lyrically, I feel like I could write a book on the culture alone.

When you travel to different countries you have the ability to soak in everything, including the music, and bring it back home to create something completely new. You can be the band that takes risks and incorporates some new influence that challenges people and has potential to blow up. The Clash incorporated the sounds of Africa and world music to create a whole new blend of politically aware punk. Why not put little pieces of the rest of the world in your music? Earth doesn’t start and stop with the United States and neither should your band. Travel, experience and get paid to do it. If anything, imagine the stories you can tell your kids one day.

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