Finding Income: The Struggle of Touring

Finding the money is often the hardest part of making a career as a touring musician. Expenses tend to out-weigh the income, especially if you’re a smaller act trying to make waves around the nation. Nobody really knows you so nobody really cares.

I guess I’ll just play for the snakes.

But hey, don’t give up just yet. There are many ways to cut back on spending until the world catches up with you.

  1. The drummer doesn’t need their own hotel room.

I am well aware that no one wants to sleep in the van, but there are cheaper ways to get a goodnight’s sleep than to get separate hotel rooms. Although it seems obvious, do your research on hotels. Find the best one for the cheapest price and double up.

You’re sleeping in the car, Chuck. You’re not getting a suite.

You may be able to avoid hotels altogether. Ask everyone you’re travelling with if they have relatives or friends along your route that you could stay with for free. You’re more than likely to find at least one couch in one city with a vacancy sign. If you’re feeling brave, ask your fans. Be careful, of course, but if you have some cool fans willing to put you up for a night, take advantage of it. Not only are you saving money, you’re also developing a lasting relationship. That person letting you sleep on their couch now has an awesome story and will buy all of your t-shirts so they tell all their friends that a rock star slept in their house.

2. Teach the bassist how to cook.

Eating at restaurants, even if it is just Taco Bell, quickly drains your cash. One idea is to pack a lunch. Get the band together and go to the grocery store. You can bring a small grill or prepare the food where you’re staying and save a lot of money. Even replacing one trip to MacDonald’s with peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches can make all the difference on a long tour. Not to mention, it’s always good to keep the bassist busy.

3. Get behind the table.

The merchandise table that is. If you know your audience and can guess what they like, make and bring as much as you can. Make tour t-shirts, water bottles, guitar picks, bumper stickers, anything and everything. The best part about merchandise is that it never expires. If you don’t sell everything on this tour, you can bring it on the next.

If you’re making exclusive gear that you wouldn’t be able to sell after the tour, make it special. People will pay big for exclusive (signed) vinyl records or if they’re nerds, cassette tapes. Advertise that before and during the tour. Tell the radio station to include that in their promos.

If none of this seems to be making a difference, sell better stuff. Raffle off your shoes, auction up your Telecaster, have fans bid on a date with the lead guitarist, beg if you have to. Be creative.

Alright, I need $100 from everyone feeling me up right now.

Money will come, just be smart about where it goes.

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