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A Word With Willie

Welcome to Willie Oteri's Blog about his life and lessons as a musician. From here you can browse the full articles on each topic covered in this series.

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How Do You Plan a Tour

Watch How Do You Plan a Tour?
In this video Willie Oteri is asked by visual artist KD Neeley, "How do you financially plan a tour?". 

KD, "How do you plan, financially plan a tour?"

Willie, "Financially planning a tour. That's a good one."

Willie: You have to think a year ahead, at least. Especially for Europe sometimes a year or two years ahead. Try to discover which venues and festivals will want you to perform. If you don't have much of a name you're gonna be doing it probably on your own ticket the first couple times around.

But you need to set up enough gigs around and figure out your itinerary of how you're gonna get to all those. In the United States you're gonna be traveling by car, which is expensive. You're gonna need a van with all your gear in it. -And that's an expense.

So you gotta figure how you're gonna make enough money -people are breaking even nowadays, or it's costing them. Not very many people out there are actually making it right now, it's too expensive in the States. I've been foregoing touring the States, and I just go to Europe. Because there you can make -if it costs you a thousand dollars to get over there and you have five or ten gigs you're gonna be alright. You'll make it. And people will take care of you while you're there.

But actually making money doing it is getting more and more difficult. So planning for it means having a booking agent again -a lot of these things I do myself. But, venues being willing to play some things for free, some pay well. And it's big gaps like -I've played festivals in Italy where I've gotten a thousand dollars, a thousand euros, and I hire the musicians out of that. I've played a film Festival in Padova, it's called The Portello Film Festival, I've done that three or four times.

The other thing you can do in Europe is if you use musicians from there, pickup artists, most of them already are established and know clubs to perform in. So they can get you -especially in Germany. So it's not hard to make money in Germany. It's hard for Italians to make money. Nobody gets -Italian bands don't get hired a lot, unless they're cover bands. The festivals in the summer are the best pay.

Another thing I've done in Italy was set up my own festivals. A friend of mine, Chris Boulet -who's lived in Italy for like sixteen or seventeen years now- he's originally from Milwaukee. He's been doing these shows for over ten years now where they're extended jam sessions with famous and non-famous musicians. The way he does those is once he finds a venue he goes to a bank and the banks find sponsors. And he goes, "Well, we need this much of a budget." I remember the time we did it with Tony Levin, bass player Tony Levin, and the bank gave us three thousand dollars to bring Tony over. So after we paid Tony's expenses, Tony kept the rest. And then I was paid another thousand dollars on top of that to help organize the show.

So, again it's mixing it up and organizing things yourself, doing a lot of work yourself.

I think there's a lot of musicians who still think, "Oh I'm really good so I don't have to anything except be a good musician."


You have to be a promoter, you have to be really into self-promotion -it's not shameless, it's really -you just have to do it. You have to be a good public relations person, booking agent, organizer and have to really juggle all those things and still somehow figure out how to get your mind removed from all of that when you perform, -so you can really perform. It's a juggle nowadays, it's juggling. Nobody's gonna make it if you don't work it yourself, you gotta really work it yourself.

Last modified onFriday, 11 December 2015 04:10
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Thanks to KD Neeley of ZiADiA for putting this series together!

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