Written by Angelica Herrera, Rock the Dream
Most up-and-coming bands dream of the day they can pack their suitcase and hit the road with their band mates. It’s no secret, artists love touring and for good reason, it’s one of the best ways to grow your fanbase. But, touring is costly. It can cost an arm and a leg if you don’t do the prep work before cramming into the car with your gear. Here are a few ways to make sure you use your budget effectively while touring.
- KEEP COSTS LOW – We’re not talking about sleeping in the car and eating top ramen for breakfast, lunch and dinner. With a Google search, you can find good deals on lodging and transportation. Book your rooms ahead of time and use sites like Priceline and Kayak. Opt for hotels that include complimentary breakfast, so it’s one less expense to worry about.
We know a big, shiny tour bus is #bandgoals, but when you’re starting out, it’ll be cheaper to rent a trailer and hook it up to a car. Use MapQuest to plan your route and download an app like GasBuddy that will let you know where the cheapest gas is available.
And, when it comes to food, cheap fast food can quickly get old. When possible, hit the closest supermarket for fresh fruit & veggies. You’ll stay healthier, while touring. The deli section always has cheap, yummy alternatives that won’t break your food budget.
- SELL MERCH – Design really cool, unique merch your fans will WANT to buy, even without your logo on it. Make sure it looks ATTRACTIVE and is good QUALITY. Stay away from Fruit of the Loom. It’s cheaper in inventory cost, but it falls apart when washed. You want your fans to continue wearing your T’s as long as possible. There are many cheap brands out there that still hold their shape.
Take just a few items per price range with you. Too big a variety eats up your inventory budget and confuses most buyers. Display just 2 types/color of apparel with 2 types of artwork design; and, choose just one of the $2-$3 items like stickers, wristbands, temporary tattoos, etc. Always display all your current CD’s and bring download cards to sell.
Price your items so you’re making at least a 75% net profit. Bundle your merch into discount deals so you can up-sell at your booth, such as pairing a T-shirt with a CD and a free sticker, thereby offering an attractive discount, because they are purchasing numerous items.
Make sure you can accept all forms of payment including PayPal, Zelle, Cash App and a credit card processor you can hook up to a phone. I suggest you don’t use Venmo, because everyone can see everyone you work with financially on the site.
- EXTRA SHOWS – Supplement your gig income by booking private shows on your days off. Weddings and house shows can be an easy way to make a little side money. You might even get lucky and get tips or offered some of the delicious catering!
- SPONSORSHIPS – Securing a sponsorship is my personal favorite type of touring income. Create a professional sponsorship packet offering promotional opportunities at different price levels and pitch it to businesses you know are trying to reach your band’s target demographic. Most business will say no, but this is a numbers game. And, the more you do this, the better you will get at pitching and eventually you will be able to think about securing a sponsor. Make sure you follow through on your end of the promo and take pictures/video to send to your sponsor afterwards to keep up the excitement level.
- YOUTUBE – Record all of your concerts and random candid moments of your band on the road – shopping at the supermarket, setting up for a show, bloopers, playing games at the motel, etc. You can upload your concerts to YouTube or create really cool behind-the-scenes vlogs and monetize your channel, so you can continue receiving money from YouTube for years to come. Remember that the more creative and fun the video is, the more views you will get!
Use these tools to plan your next tour and see how it makes a difference on your finances! And remember not to get disappointed if you make a costly mistake. Touring is a learning experience that will improve the more your band does it. After a few gigs, your band will be pros on the road!