Thinking of touring Australia? Whether you’re a local Aussie band, or coming from abroad, here are some tips that may help you navigate your way across one of the most sparsely populated countries on the planet!
Australia is a mighty big place! It’s only a little bit smaller than the USA, but not nearly as densely populated, meaning that it could be hours between each stop of the tour. Bands touring Australia for the first time may find it hard to know where best to go and how to get there, even local bands.
There’s a number or avenues you can take and most of these will come down to the cost. We caught up with Blue Groove Vans’ Andrew Kimber to get some of his insights into touring across the Outback.
How to plan a tour for your band in Australia
Travelling between capital cities in Australia can be a lengthy process if travelling by car. Think Melbourne and Sydney are relatively close when looking at a map? That’s at least 10 hours if you don’t include traffic (which you should because it’s atrocious). Perth to Melbourne is a whopping 36-hour drive across one of the hottest stretches of road in Australia! Where temperatures can top 40°C (104°F) every day during summer, with temperatures reaching as high as 50°C (122°F).
Because of this, it’s advisable to fly between the capital cities if you’re not touring to regional areas of Australia. Many acts will also opt for only doing an East Coast tour to save on costs and travel times.
Some things to consider when flying…
Be mindful of and budget for the time it takes to travel to and from airports, including taxis, shuttle buses or Ubers. Some Australian airports have inexplicably terrible public transport systems (we’re looking at you Melbourne), so it's worth checking that out before your tour.
Allow extra time to check in your baggage and gear.
When possible try to get any fragile or expensive gear on board in your carry on. Especially any wind instruments!
For local acts, many airlines offer discounts/extra weight deals for musicians:
Contact Virgin to take advantage of 3 pieces of checked baggage at 32kg per artist on firstname.lastname@example.org with your APRA number
Contact Qantas to take advantage of 3 x 23kg pieces of checked baggage per artist on email@example.com with your APRA number
You can also use your AMIN member number to receive these discounts. Go to the AMIN site for further details and links to your local music body.
If you’re touring a specific state or are taking in some of the regional areas of Australia in between the capital cities, then driving might be the way to go. Bear in mind that unlike the US, regional towns are few and far between, with only a handful of them having the appropriate venues for touring bands.
Additionally, like the US, many of these towns may not be suitable to certain genres. There’s no point in taking your Metal band to the Country music capital of Australia, Tamworth.
Hiring vehicles from rental car companies bands should be mindful of…
There are often mileage limits, on average 100kms per day and $0.31 cents or more per km after that.
- Administration fees.
- Premium location fees.
- Collision Waiver fees.
- One Way Hire Fees.
- Additional driver fees.
Pick the right car for the job! A convertible probably won't cut it for your band.
Most vans are taller and longer than the standard car space/parking garage. Bands need to be mindful of being offered car spaces in inner cities by venues, or hotels/apartments, as most of these are around 2.1 metres high. Toyota, Ford, Renault and Mercedes vans are all taller than that, so be careful not to lose your roof in parking garages.
Bands taking their own vehicles…
- Multiple tanks of petrol.
- Multiple toll charges.
- Need for multiple car spaces/parking cost in major cities.
- More time needed to find multiple spaces.
- Allow for parking time to make sure you make the gig on time.
Risk of older cars breaking down, so it’s best to leave your beaten-up Kombi van at home.
Blue Groove Vans users should know that…
- It’s a flat fee
- Up to 12 seats
- Storage space, or towing for gear
- Tolls included
- USB charge points in each seat
- Darkest possible tinted windows keep bands comfortable and gear safe
Important: Make sure you check the vehicle’s mileage by checking the make and model of the car first. You want to see how many kilometres you will get per litre and find out the average fuel price in Australia. This will help you to budget appropriately before you embark.
Organising a backline for your band's tour
Hit up local support acts in advanced and where possible use as much of their backline as you can.
Take only what you need, an extra instrument for a single song may end up being more of a big hassle.
Sharing backlines across all acts on a bill helps facilitate smooth and fast change-overs and gives the sound engineer an easier night.
There are also plenty of hire options if you need. Simply do a Google search for backline hire and there may even be a pick up from one place and drop off in another service for an additional fee. It’s worth checking that out before committing to the hire.
There’s also a company called Everywhere Roadie that is worth a look. We caught up with them last year to find out how to share gear with other bands and musicians on the road.
If your first thought was, "what is a backline?", here's a standard list of backline items...
- Amplifiers - guitar, bass, synths etc.
- Drum kit - often if sharing a kit with other bands the drummers will bring their own symbols.
Finding accommodation on the road
It’s important that you are well-rested during your tour as you will likely be having late nights and early mornings. Artists always talk about being burnt out after a tour, so you want to ensure your band has a nice comfy bed to sleep in each night.
If using an AirBnB or Stayz, consider the logistics of picking up the keys, as sometimes it can be easier to use a chain hotel with 24-hour check in, especially if you are on a tight time frame arriving in town just in time for soundcheck.
If your band mates stay in different places consider the travel time getting everyone to and from the venue, and picking everybody up again in the morning.
If you are driving, taking a hire car, or a Blue Groove Van, check that there is sufficient parking at the accommodation.
If you are on a tight budget and book the cheapest hotel check that you won't be driving through a toll road, need to pay for parking, or use too much fuel getting there.
After a few nights on the road you will be tired, look for accommodation close to the venue.
Avoid backpackers as these can often be loud and may not be as good as what the pictures suggest.
Oh, and please don’t trash your hotel room. That’s no longer a cool thing to do.
Australian cities bands should book for a tour
ACT – Canberra
NSW – Sydney
VIC – Melbourne
QLD – Brisbane
NT – Darwin
SA – Adelaide
WA – Perth
TAS – Hobart
We could talk for hours about the merits of each town, but instead we will give you a list of just some of the popular regional hubs in each state. Make sure you do your research and see if that town is right for your act before committing to playing there.
Geelong, Ballarat, Warrnambool, Bendigo, Traralgon, Echuca, Albury/Wodonga and Mildura.
Launceston and Devonport are pretty much all they’ve got outside of Hobart. However, most acts touring TAS will opt for Hobart only.
Mount Gambier, Port Lincoln and Port Augusta.
Fremantle, Albany, Bunbury, Geraldton, Carnarvon, Port Hedland and Broome.
Note: WA is massive, so take that into account before booking shows in regional towns.
Some consider Darwin to be a regional town due to it being so remote. Most touring acts will not even play there, but there’s an opportunity to have successful shows there as they crave acts from outside of the NT.
Port Douglas, Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton, Longreach, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Coolangatta and Toowoomba.
New South Wales
Tamworth, Dubbo, Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Newcastle, Wagga Wagga and Wollongong.
There’s plenty of towns that aren’t mentioned, but can prove to be very much worth the trip. Mining towns crave entertainment, so if you don’t mind playing to a bunch of burly blokes and a few women, you’ll be okay. There’s also plenty of towns in central Australia, away from the coasts, that could be worth a look, but again, it’s best to do your research first.
Article written by Anthony Barton