[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Rich Nardo. Last month, Rich broke down some helpful tips for saving money on the road, but in this piece, he looks at the inevitable costs you’ll incur when touring.]
If there is one common theme in the DIY touring series of articles I’ve been writing over the past few months…it’s that touring is hard. If I had to pointpoint a second area of commonality, it would be that touring is expensive and, if you’re not careful about your spending, you could lose enough money to make the experience disheartening relatively quickly.
If you want to avoid a situation where touring becomes prohibitive as it drains your bank account, plan ahead. If you know what you’re looking at cost-wise, it’ll help you figure out how to account for the absolutely necessary expenses, eliminate or lower the optional expenses and book your gig calendar in a way that allows you to not overextend yourself.
As you start planning your next run, here’s a checklist of expenses to plan for:
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, if you can start your touring cycles in weekend warrior mode, it allows you to come home between gigs. If you are doing a string of dates or you have a show that will run late into the night, thus making it dangerous to drive home, there are some ways to factor for lodging in a more cost-efficient way.
First, see if you know anyone in the city you’re playing in that will let your band crash for the night. If the answer is ‘no’, then find a cheap hotel. Look on sites like Expedia or Kayak to read the reviews and find the best deals. They also have incentive programs for people that book through their service often so you might be able to sneak a free stay in every few runs if you consistently book through them.
Gas is an important and obvious consideration, but you also need to figure out how you’re going to get to and from your shows. If you can safely play tetris in an SUV one of the band members already owns with your personnel and equipment, that’s ideal. If not it’s time to look into a van rental. Looking at U-Haul or on Priceline.com are two starting points that offer solid deals.
If you want to go spartan, then bring your own food with you on the road. These savings will add up quickly as you amass more tour dates. That being said, being on the road is supposed to be about new experiences and getting to see other cities. Food is obviously a big part of that.
Rather than doing a McDonald’s stop at a rest area on the way, maybe bring some sandwiches and snacks on the road with you for lunch. That way it won’t be as big of a deal if you decide to hit up that taco spot you’ve heard so much about before the show.
You can also pick the dates you want to bring your own meals and which ones you want to eat out for depending on what city or town you’re playing in. Just make sure to keep your food budget in check as you’re adding more out-of-town gigs.
Drinking and partying can be fun if you’re into that, but bar tabs add up quickly. Is dropping a couple of hundred dollars on beer worth not having the funds to do more dates? I would say no, personally. There are usually fun and free things to do in most cities to kill time, so look into those before committing to posting up at the bar all day. Also, try to arrange for free drink tickets at the venue to help negate some of those costs!
Additional Tour Expenses That Can Actually Make You Some Money:
Sometimes, it makes sense to spend a little money for your tour in order to better the chance of making a little extra money on the road. Here are two ways to allocate some budget that could help you get some additional funding. Like they say, “scared money don’t make money”!
A very modest budget ($50-$100) could help spread the word about your show. If you’re interested in giving social media advertising a try, you can check out my previous article on the topic for tips on how to do so effectively
T-Shirts, hoodies, etc. may be a bit more costly of an endeavor, but it could turn profitable quickly if you do a good job with your designs. I’ve had many experiences personally where, as a new touring band, I’ve made way more (often double) from t-shirt sales than I did from the money my band made from performing.
There are usually local print shops in your town that can have them made for you at a lower price and doing a bit of homework on where you get our merch create and the quality of the shirts can make all the difference!
Rich Nardo is a freelance writer and editor, and is the VP of Public Relations and Creative at NGAGE.