#094: Martin Atkins – Tour Smart!

Martin is a longtime musician (Public Image Ltd, Killing Joke, and Pigface) and a full time lecturer at Columbia College Chicago. He recently penned a book called “Tour Smart and Break the Band” that examines all that is needed to hit the road and have a productive touring experience.  You might be thinking, “How hard is touring?  You just jump in a van and go!”  Well, Martin has a lot to say on the topic, and if you want to use touring to move your music career forward, you’ll definitely want to make sure you are touring smart.

To find out more about Martin and his book, click HERE!

  • Don’t know if you picked up on Martin through my comments a few months ago or just happened across him on your own but I’m very glad you did. It was refreshing to hear an interview on the podcast with someone who really knows what he’s talking about.

    One thing Martin didn’t get to, that he covers in his live appearances and in the book is, if you’re east of the Mississippi river, you don’t go to L.A. unless you’re blowing up in L.A. Then and only then do you go there. He is also quite vocal about the pay to play scene in L.A. in particular. One of his more profound points is, if you want to break into country, you don’t go to Nashville. Instead, you go to Albicurcy. In other words, don’t go where you’re a small fish in a big pond, go where you’re a small fish in a small pond and can grow.

    Believe it or not, there was a point to his query regarding myspace and other social media. If you’re one in 6,000,000 how can you possibly expect anyone to pay attention to you and your music. Better to be big in Boise than to be small in L.A., Nashville, New York, etc…

    Anyway, I’ll leave it to your audience to figure out how to put Martin’s experience to use. Thanks for a great podcast!

  • Great episode, found Martin’s advice and brutal honesty a really useful as I’m working on a lot of online promo at the moment, with a view to go on tour next year. Would be good if you could do something about actual tour organisation and resources for doing gig swaps with other bands, and any forums etc.. that can be used for this kind of thing. Cheers 🙂

  • AWESOME episode! I could listen to that guy talk for 18 more hours! He echoed a lot of great advice you guys have given us in these podcasts + more! I didnt want to listen to this podcast at first because i don’t know when i’ll ever be able to tour but im glad i did. His advice to start small is very encouraging and he had a ton more usefull things to say that wasnt even about touring. Brought some great reality and perspective!!! Thanks Guys!!

  • GREAT interview! I will definitely be buying Martin’s book. I was on tour myself when I heard this, and played it for the whole band the next night in the van as we were driving home to Houston from Rockville, Maryland. We also tracked down one of Martin’s lectures on iTunes U. A lot of what Martin says we’ve already learned the hard way, but it is still so inspiring to hear it articulated so well.

    Every band out there needs to hear this stuff… but I think the problem with a lot of musicians is they don’t want to hear this kind of real-world advice… particularly his lesson about the 11-minute power ballad. The worst thing you can do on stage is ignore the audience’s reaction to your show. Some musicians really believe the show is supposed to be all about themselves. It’s NOT. It’s about the audience. Until you figure that out you’re going nowhere.

  • after listening to the interview. i was so hyped up that i went home opened up my email and started booking shows. the whole time thinking, “why haven’t i been doing this all along?”. the answer came to me in email form. my band started emailing me back with their many reasons why each date i booked wasn’t good for them… so much for being a go getter.

  • JPeck – you gotta keep at it – and fuck them! do a solo thing, build a following then the’ll be begging to get involved! dont let the bastards grind you down!



  • I’d like to get this guy and the guy who runs concerts in his home together. Where I’m from (Cape Town, South Africa), a challenge facing artists is the number of live music venues. For fun, I sometimes play mini-gigs in people’s homes, often involving them in the creation process, and I think people in my position would benefit from altering the touring principles Martin had to offer to suit a new context – the individual’s own home.

  • Stass

    Great episode! I love like Martin who tell it like it is. Great reality check. As I was listening to him talk (I too could listen to him for hours) I was smiling as I have been guilty of doing some of the things that he pointed out as being pointless and a waste of time. I’m not sure how practical the book would be for an artist in Australia (like me) as travel distances are a real problem. Only one way to find out I guess…

    Keep the episodes coming, they’re pure gold!

    On another note, do you guys still have T-shirts for sale?



  • SLE

    Fantastic podcast! I’m going to keep tuning into you and will buy Martin’s book.

  • It’s nice to listen to someone talk who is as colorful as they are knowledgeable! Thanks Martin. This is my favorite kind of podcast…one that offers real advice and hands on tips you can use today. My favorites from this podast: flower petal touring, the reality of being a session drummer, trying out new t-shirts, the fact that fans six months ago won’t be your fans today unless you keep them engaged, etc… thanks again.

  • this was one of the best episodes yet.

    VERY informative.

    I WILL be picking up this book. I believe I’ve flipped through it once at the book store.

  • Got it going, and will probably get the book. I am just starting to figure out how to promote the famous band I have restarted. I hope we will eventually be able to set up a tour, but most of my contacts are short on paying well for now.

  • Geoff Lowther

    Funny, incisive and engrossing. I particularly liked Martin’s criteria for picking band members (what else can they bring in terms of skills, multi-tasking etc) and the bit at the close of the talk about not needing deals with record companies.

    I know he’s plugging his book, but if this podcast is anything to go by it will be a cracking read.

    Geoff. (Maidenhead, England).

  • My favorite podcast of all time. I loved the advice on where not to try and tour etc… advice I got years ago when I first went out in a band of the mid 80s era. I can tell you he is so right on with all that he says.

    I heard much of this kind of speak back then from a successful major label A&R future president guy and it was like rock’n’roll college to me.

    I can’t wait to read his book.

  • thanks maaaaaaaaaaaan!