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Rollmo! No. 09


Rollmo! # 09Most recording artists view touring as a necessary evil of their profession. Recording an LP is seen as the most enjoyable part of being an artist - the creation of material that didn't exist previously - the fruits of your creative expression as a writer, and as a person. But the bad part is - now you have to promote the thing so that it will sell in droves. You have to go out "on the road" with strangers sometimes if you're a solo artists - in a vehicle ranging from a transit to a limousine - and perform in one city after another, night after night, for a gruelling grind which could sometimes last as long as two years. Apart from the fact that promoters rarely, if ever, make money on tours - unless your name is Madonna or Prince - it's main purpose would appear to be merely recreate live what may have been sweated out to create in the studio.
The artist(s) has demands made on them the likes of no other profession. Most of their day during a tour might be spent doing promotional work in recording warehouses or doing endless radio interviews. After soundchecking the venue, they may have 2 - 3 hours free time before having to be on stage. Afterwards, probably more interviews and photo sessions - plus the obligatory time which must be spent with those who have assisted their career.
Finally, there may be a party to attend, or you may want to get some sleep before the next night's gig in Cambridge or wherever you're next supposed to be. You're dead on your feet, you may be ill with 'flu', but there are 25 fans waiting for you to leave the building.
I've painted a very bleak portrait of what to many may seem a glamorous existence, but no doubt this is how some people view this part of their career. There have been "studio groups" over the years which have resolutely refused to tour, or broken up rather than face the rigous of touring, the most famous studio band being Steely Dan.
As any Sprout fan knows, Paddy has likened touring to a breakout of Anthrax (the disease!) and Martin Stephenson recently cancelled a 50 city solo tour after London Records refused to release his solo LP. he shares a view which is no doubt shared by other artists that the sole purpose of touring is to "shift more units", to use a marketing term.
What happens if you just don't tour? The aforementioned Steely Dan managed to have a 12 year recording career and only played live once. Playing live should not be confused with a dreaded tour - one off live shows can be and often are enjoyable affairs, because one doesn't have to repeat the process every night for a year, with one or two fortnightly gaps. But how many Steely Dans have there been? How many have had the courage to defy the unwritten rules of the music business and simply record without ever going to tour?
To tour or not to tour? That is the question. We all know the answer for many, because from the fans' perspective, it remains the only chance to see their idols come to life, prove their talent is genuine, and meet their fans. As long as this demand exists artists will feel compelled to tour, no matter how pointless or physically draining it may be.
Rona Topaz