[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Rich Nardo.]
DIY touring is hard. The financial strains associated with travel are among the biggest stressors that an artist has to deal with early in their career. That being said, don’t let that deter you from getting out to stages beyond your hometown!
If you watch your wallet and plan effectively, you CAN get on the road and make a little money in the process. Here are a few easy tips to help cut costs as you prepare to expand your gigging range.
Weekend Warrior? Come home after!
I’ve mentioned this a few times before but, when you’re getting started with touring, don’t make the mistake of stringing too many dates together. If you keep your gigs within a couple of hours of your hometown, you can still spend the night in your own bed.
Obviously, don’t put yourself in danger by driving when you’re exhausted but if you are capable of getting home that saves you a hotel bill that will likely be at least $100.
Play Tetris With Your Travel
Travel as light as possible. If you don’t have a van, see what you can do about packing one of your SUVs or minivans as efficiently (and safely) as possible. If you know the other bands that you’re playing with, ask about sharing equipment to lighten your load.
It also helps to find out what kind of backline the venue is working with. I know you love the sound of your amp or kit, but your musicianship will still shine through on someone else’s gear.
Couch Surf When You Can
If you’ve given it some thought and you’re going to spend the night away, see if you have friends in town that will let you crash. I can’t stress enough that finding alternatives to paying for a hotel room is your best chance of coming out of road shows with a profit.
If you do decide that a hotel room is a must, it makes sense to get a band credit card with travel points on it. If you’re dedicated to touring, this could end up saving you a lot of money as you start racking up points that you can put towards lodging. Just make sure you are paying off the balance every month and not getting extravagant with your use of the card.
Save The Crew for the Arenas
I know its more fun to bring your friends, but everybody along for the ride is costing you money. It’s one more person that has to be fed and transported. Even if they’re paying their own way, it still makes it harder to coordinate cheap travel and lodging. There will be plenty of time to bring them along when your payouts get larger.
Pack A Meal Or Two
As someone that loves food, I get the allure of trying new spots in a city you may not have been to before, but it saves a lot of money if you pack yourself a meal or two. If you want to treat yourself once in a while, then do it, but if you’re traveling every weekend, it’s going to start eating (no pun intended) into your profits pretty quickly.
Maybe try picking and choosing when you’re going to eat out on the road and when you’re going to bring something from home. The sacrifices you make early on will help you get to your bigger picture goals that much quicker.
Promote Directly…Say Hi Online!
It costs nothing to reach out to someone on social media. I go into more detail on how to approach this in my previous TuneCore article of marketing for your tour, but it’s worth reiterating. Spend some time every day before your show reaching out to people that may be into your band in the city you’re playing via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and any other outlet you think potential fans might be spending their time online.
Limit The Extracurricular Activities
The most overlooked aspect of saving money on tour is the amount of cash spent on ‘extracurricular’ activities. We already touched on food, but this extends to drinking and even shopping. Partying is expensive and it limits the probability of you being fit to drive home after your show. There are a lot of ways to explore a city for free if you have some time to kill that will actually be more rewarding than hanging at the venue killing time with some beers. If you do insist on throwing a few back, make sure you work out a drink deal or free drink tickets with the venue ahead of time.
At the end of the day, touring is like any other worthwhile endeavor. It’s a lot of work and sacrifice upfront but if you endure the initial difficulties, you’ll get to have more of the experiences you always dreamed of.
Think about what you want out of your touring career and figure out the necessary steps to make that happen. What aspects of being on the road can you cut costs on now that allow you to save (or even make) money? Those are the things that will allow you to play more shows away from home and genuinely building your fanbase.
Now go out there, have some fun and try to save a dollar or two as you start your career as a touring musician!
Rich Nardo is a freelance writer and editor, and is the VP of Public Relations and Creative at NGAGE.