The Golden Rules of Not Going Broke on Tour: Part 2

author: UG Team

date: 08/02/2016

category: the guide to

 

           

 

...And we're back! In last edition, we talked about how you can avoid going broke on tour by minimizing your expenses. This time, we've looking at ways to maximize your profits.

 

I'll get this out of the way to start. When you start out, making money on tour is hard. Without much of backing or a following to speak of, your band is an unknown quantity, and unknown quantities don't often get money thrown at them.

 

That said, there are ways to make some money while you're out on tour for the first or second time. I'm not talking crazy profits here - this is an article about not going broke on tour, not about making lots of money. But, sticking to these rules will make a positive difference to your tour finances and hopefully keep your band out of the red.

 

Make Sure You Get Paid Something

Ok, so this one might seem obvious, but getting paid on tour isn't always as easy as you'd think.

 

For unsigned bands going out on their first, or second tour. Getting financial reward from promoters can sometimes prove challenging. Booking new bands is a risk, as they don't guarantee the kind of attendance that you can get from established acts. As a result, gig organizers aren't always forthcoming with cash for up-and-coming artists.

 

If you're supporting an established act, you're going to be looking at a significantly smaller cut of the money than the main band because your group isn't the main draw. In extreme circumstances, I've heard stories of young groups going on tour with a bigger name band and playing basically for free because they think it will bring them exposure. Then there's buying a way into a tour, where a band will either agree to sell a minimum number of tickets (and pay the difference if they are short) or pay the headlining act for the privilege of opening for them.

 

First things first, I'd advise thinking very carefully about playing for free or buying your way into a tour. Weigh up what exposure you'd actually get opening for the act in question and decide whether that exposure is worth the price that you pay for it (while opening for X name band might seem like a good opportunity, playing a set to the five people that have showed up early before they go on probably isn't going to boost your reputation to any great degree).

 

Secondly, make sure that you're at least getting something for the trouble of playing a gig - never do it for nothing. 

 

Even if a promoter won't pay you upfront for playing, they might be willing to offer you a portion of the ticket sales. Depending on how many people show up to a given show, a cut of the gate could mean anything from a couple of dollars to a three or four figure sum. When you're starting out, it's likely to be the former, rather than the latter, but even a few bucks will go some way to offsetting the expenses of life on the road.

 

 

 

If a cut of the gate is out of the question, promoters may still cover some of your costs for getting to the gig. When arranging the tour, make sure to ask every promoter you talk to if they'll pay your gas money for getting to the show. Again, the $50 you may end up getting for fuel goes some way to keeping your bank balance in the black, and it isn't unreasonable to ask for some compensation when you're traveling to a given venue (especially if you're otherwise playing for free). To the same end, don't be afraid to ask if there's anything else they can do to help you out on tour. I talked about requesting riders in the last edition, but it bears repeating here. More general requests for help can also produce results - I know bands that have been allowed to stay in a venue overnight after inquiring about local accommodation. Not exactly cushy I know, but it saved them $100 in hotel fees on that one stop.

 

Make the Most of Your Merch

Ticket money aside, your main source of revenue when out on the road will come from merchandise sales. So make sure you've got a load of killer merch available!

 

For the record, killer merch does not mean boring black t-shirts with your band's boring logo slapped on them or stickers that you've made using your inkjet printer. If you rock up with those in tow, you'll look like amateurs, and that will put people off buying your gear.

 

Even though it might seem like an expense, hire a graphic artist to come up with some great merch designs (if you can coerce a graphic designer friend or graphic design student to do it on the cheap, then even better). Think of some unique products that fit the ethic of your band. With a combination of unique and well designed merchandise, you'll be in a much better position to sell, and will likely make more money from apparel and ephemera while you're out on tour.

 

On a related note, making the most of your merch also entails having someone at your gig to sell it. When you're not playing, make sure at least a couple of your group are manning the table - preferably your most charismatic band members who aren't afraid to talk to people and are good at making a sale. Prior to the gig, see if you can arrange for a fan to man the table for you while you play (if you've got someone letting you stay in their house after the show, that same person may be willing to handle merch duties for half an hour). If you can bring a dedicated merch guy/gal with you on tour, then even better, but factor in how much bringing an extra person on the road with you will cost and work out whether it's actually worth it taking them with you.

 

Also, make it easy for people to see you're selling stuff, and make it easy for them to buy it! An eye-catching point of sale display for your merch table is a must, and I'd also thoroughly recommend investing in some kind of card payment processing device. There are plenty of inexpensive solutions for that these days that you can connect to your smartphone or tablet, so do some research. Remember, the more visible your merch is and the more payment options you offer, the more likely people are to buy it. 

 

One final word of advice on merch - when you're an unsigned band, avoid getting tour dates printed on the back of your shirts. That way, if you don't sell all of the shirts on a particular jaunt, you can still take them out and flog them the next time you hit the road along with your newer merch. Doing that maximizes your profit and means you don't end up with boxes of old shirts cluttering up your garage.

 

Make the World Aware That You're on Tour

In my experience, bands more often than not will spend a load of time and energy promoting a tour before they head out, only for that promotional energy to completely dissipate by the time they hit the road.

 

To an extent, that's understandable. When you're worrying about flat tires, gas money, soundchecks and gear itineraries, getting your Twitter on doesn't exactly seem like a major priority. 

 

But, promoting the tour while you're on tour can be enormously beneficial, not just in getting more people to your shows, but reminding your existing fans why they support you in the first place.

 

 

 

Here's the thing. Your band has fans, but not all of those fans are the same. You'll have a core, loyal following of hardcore devotees - the sort of people who buy all your records, all your merch, and who were waiting in line to buy tickets to your tour on the day that the box office opened. Outside of that core, you'll have the guys and gals that like your band, but aren't nearly as fervent in their devotion.

 

Chances are that your fanbase will be made up more of the latter than the former. Unlike your megafans, those will be the people that will need convincing that forking out $15 to see one of your shows, rather than staying at home and listing to your album on Spotify, is money well spent. And, the best way to convince them is to remind them that you're on tour, heading to their town, and having a fucking blast while out on the road. 

 

Photos, live videos, backstage antics, fun anecdotes - sharing these things on social media shows fans on the fence what they'll be missing if they don't check you out. It reminds them that you're coming to their town, that you kick ass, and that dropping a couple of Hamiltons on some sweet rock and roll is a much better option than binge watching season 4 of "Nashville."

 

This kind of promotion also impacts on fans that have already been to your shows. Checking Facebook or Twitter the day after the gig to be reminded of how good your show was through photos and videos is likely to cement in their mind how positive the experience was. Not only are they, still on a post-gig high, more likely to share said content (potentially opening you up to a wider audience), they're also more likely to remember how great your band was when you hit their city again next year. By that point, you've turned them into a repeat customer, and repeat customers are great for business.

 

By Alec Plowman

The Golden Rules of Not Going Broke on Tour:

Part 1

date: 07/05/2016

category: the guide to

The other day, I signed into Facebook to see a statement from a young band I'd been following. In the post, they announced that they were calling it a day because they cannot afford the financial

hardships that come with life on the road anymore.

On reading this, I sighed.

I sighed because group in question had brought this upon

themselves.

Don't get me wrong here. I'm aware of how expensive touring is for

 

emerging bands these days.

There isn't the financial provision for emerging acts that there was in the music industry of yesteryear. Even for those with record

 

deals, money can still be tight.

Received wisdom states that bands don't make a profit from their earliest tours. It takes time, and money to build up a reputation and

 

a fan base.

Still, while you shouldn't expect to make a substantial return in your early life on the road, you shouldn't be in the red either. In my experience, there are many bands out there who throw money at touring with reckless disregard, making stupid financial decisions and whittling away vast amounts of capital in the process. And I

knew that the young band making the statement was one of them.

Though life on the road is difficult and costly, I firmly believe that it doesn't have to bankrupt you. By planning ahead, being frugal and business savvy, you can make it out on tour without crippling

yourself with debt.

There are two golden rules to doing this: minimizing your expenses and maximizing your profits. In the first of this two part series, we're going to address the former.

Though life on the road is difficult and costly, I firmly believe that it doesn't have to bankrupt you. By planning ahead, being frugal and business savvy, you can make it out on tour without crippling yourself with debt.

There are two golden rules to doing this: minimizing your expenses and maximizing your profits. In the first of this two part series,

we're going to address the former.

Minimize Your Expenses

Transport

When you head out on tour, you will spend a LOT of money on transport. There's no two ways around it. Walking or cycling from city to city is entirely unfeasible, not to mention exhausting, while traveling by train runs the risk of incurring delays, and is hugely

impractical if you're anyone other than a solo singer-songwriter.

If you're planning on hitting the road, it's a given that you'll need to either rent or hire a van. You're also going to need to fork out for gas to fuel said van. Those expenses are unavoidable, but there are

two ways to lessen them.

First and foremost, tour with as little gear as possible. Especially when you're starting out, make sure you take only the things that you absolutely need on the road with you. Consider whether those four 4x12 cabs are absolutely essential, or whether your 100w combo is big enough for the 100 capacity bars and clubs you're likely playing. Accept that you don't need to bring your acoustic guitar for that one bit in that one song, and that the effect

of your acoustic simulator pedal is good enough for the job.

 

When on a bill with several bands, see if you can organize gear sharing. Ask the headliner if you can use their drum kit (minus breakables of course) and maybe offer to pay for a new set of skins

to sweeten the deal.

Why should you minimize the amount of stuff you take with you? Simple. The less gear you need, the smaller the van you need to hire or buy (a side note here, but if touring is a part of your life for the foreseeable future, then buy rather than rent. It's an investment that'll work out much better for you in the long run). The smaller the van, and the less gear loaded into it, the less

fuel you'll burn running it and the more money you'll save.

Secondly, plan your tour route to be as fuel efficient as possible. Admittedly, this one only works if you've got a say in organizing the tour specifics and is dependent on venue availability. Still, it bears noting that scheduling dates by geography will prevent you from darting up and down the country and running up a huge fuel bill in the process. Logistics matter, so

make sure you plan for them.

Accommodation

 

Transport notwithstanding, the biggest expense for touring bands is

 

accommodation.

Hotels ain't cheap, especially when there are several of you, and it's possible to rack up a bill running into the thousands after a few

 

weeks of gigging.

Many bands see forking out four figure sums on rooms as an inevitability of life on the road. But, there is an alternative that will save you money. It isn't exactly glamorous, but sleeping on fans'

floors is a great option for a band on a budget.

I've seen a number of acts cut down on the costs of accommodation enormously in recent years by staying at fans' houses between shows. Making effective use of social media, these bands put up posts well in advance of the tour, asking if anyone has a place for

Many bands see forking out four figure sums on rooms as an inevitability of life on the road. But, there is an alternative that will save you money. It isn't exactly glamorous, but sleeping on fans' floors is a great option for a band on a budget.

I've seen a number of acts cut down on the costs of accommodation enormously in recent years by staying at fans' houses between shows. Making effective use of social media, these bands put up posts well in advance of the tour, asking if anyone has a place for them to stay in a given city. (If they're a young band touring with a more established act, they'll also get the headliner to share the posts in order to spread the word). In exchange for their trouble, the act in need of a place to stay won't offer money, but free entry to the gig, and sometimes some free merch as a means of

payment.

In my experience, this really works. You'd be surprised at how many people are willing to help a band in need by offering them the floor of their lounge for an evening. Crashing in a sleeping bag on an inflatable mattress or somebody's couch might not make you feel like a rock star, but it is much friendlier on your wallet than a

hotel bill.

 

Chances are that you won't be able to stay with fans on every stop of the tour. If that's the case, you'll need to start thinking about forking out for accommodation. But even when you do have to pay for a hotel or motel room, you can still be frugal. Stick with the budget options where possible, and accept that you're

going to have to get cozy with your band mates.

Chances are that you won't be able to stay with fans on every stop

If there are four of you in the band, you can make do in one room with two double beds. Sure, the drummer is a snorer, but think of

the amount of money you're saving with one room over four.

One last thing. While saving on accommodation is advisable, remember that getting a good night's sleep is essential to

your continued ability to function on tour.

I say this because I once knew a band that thought they could save money by camping while on the road, which is among the stupidest

 

tour stories I've ever heard.

Every night, after loading up their gear, they would attempt to find a campsite and pitch tents. Needless to say their attempts to do so at two in the morning, in pitch black and in the pouring rain, were largely unsuccessful. Three nights in, the shattered group threw in the towel and ended up shelling out an exorbitant amount on last minute hotel rooms. Ironically, their grand money saving plan ended up costing them more than if they'd just booked hotel rooms

in the first place.

Food

 

When you're touring, it's essential to eat properly. Unfortunately,

 

eating well on the road is very difficult.

A lack of cooking facilities mean that you're restricted to whatever you can buy that's ready to eat, or take out. Both are expensive, and continuous consumption of them will likely result

in you shitting for three days straight after the tour's end.

So what to do? The key to success in this area is being prepared.

of the tour. If that's the case, you'll need to start thinking about forking out for accommodation. But even when you do have to pay for a hotel or motel room, you can still be frugal. Stick with the budget options where possible, and accept that you're

going to have to get cozy with your band mates.

Firstly, speak with venues well in advance of the tour and see if they'll give you a rider that includes a meal. In my experience, while venues aren't always great at paying up-and-

coming bands much money on tour, at least a basic rider is often negotiable. Hell, if they're paying you jack shit, they should at least be willing to feed you - if it comes to it, don't be afraid to remind

them of that.

So what to do? The key to success in this area is being prepared.

Firstly, speak with venues well in advance of the tour and see if they'll give you a rider that includes a meal. In my experience, while venues aren't always great at paying up-and-

If you've my advice on accommodation and have arranged to stay with fans, ask those fans if they'd be OK with you using their kitchens. That way, you and your band can buy some basic ingredients and prepare some home-cooked food - healthier for you and much friendlier on the wallet than buying something pre- prepared. If your fans are really nice, they might even offer to

cook for you, which is certainly a bonus.

Finally, make sure you pack plenty of long-lasting foodstuffs for the times when free chow isn't available. In my experience, goods like tinned mackerel and baked beans are great, cheap sources of protein that come in very handy if you're in a tight spot (remember to take a can opener folks!). Ramen noodles are also excellent if you have access to a kettle. Eating cold food from a can might seem desperate, but it's a budget friendly option that'll keep you fed while on the road. Besides, they don't leave you with that gut rot feeling you get after bad take-out, and that has to count for

something.

By Alec Plowman 

Metal Injection contributor Matt Bacon presented a solid rundown of things y'all should be aware of before hitting the road with your band, or before playing live shows in general even.

 

The post comes as a nice follow-up to that article about how much money mid-level metal bands actually make.

 

So, notable quotes below, check the source for the full piece. Here goes...

8. Don't Expect Anyone to Care About Your Band

"This is one of the most brutal realities about being in a band on the road that is far too easy to ignore. While there might be a good number of people at your shows, the odds are no one is going to care."

7. Your Van WILL Break Down

"It happens to everyone - it's just a question of how badly. Will your van flip, or will a belt get burned out?"

6. You Don't Know Your Bandmates as Well as You Think You Do

"No matter how many nights you've crashed at a bandmates house after a show, or how much you think you bonded on your eight-hour road trip to Canada, there is nothing quite like being locked in a metal box with your band for a month. You start to notice weird idiosyncrasies and habits that will eventually start to drive you insane."

5. Sleeping on a Stranger's Floor Is Terrifying

"Every band in the world has a nightmare story about sleeping on a stranger's floor, be it Windhand, who have a story about going into a strangers house to find the floor covered in dog poop, or Black Table who once got lice at a crust punk house, these things happen with frightening regularity."

4. You Are a Travelling Salesman

"Where does the real money come from? Merch - selling anything and everything."

3. Promoters Are Hit and Miss

"I've seen icons who have played to arenas turn around and play to 15 people a week later."

2. The Fatigue Is Devastating

"If you're going on tour be ready to be more tired than you've ever thought possible for weeks on end."

1. Touring Is Literally the Best

"Like seriously. Anyone who has gone on tour will tell you this."

 

Once again, check the source for the full thing.