The Dollars and Sense of Touring: 5 Tips to Help Make & Save Money on Indie Tours

The Dollars and Sense of Touring: 5 Tips to Help Make & Save Money on Indie Tours

3 mins read
The Dollars and Sense of Touring: 5 Tips to Help
Make & Save Money on Indie Tours 1

As a long-time touring musician turned tour manager, I know that It’s absolutely possible to make more money while touring. It’s true. But you have to be organized and well-prepared. I know that sounds boring, but when you think that the outcome is a successful, profitable tour, then being organized and well-prepared doesn’t sound so bad, right? The bottom line is many musicians think that touring is a big party, and sure, it can be, but if you want to sustain for the long haul and make this a career, it’s helpful to be aware and implement these tried and true basics to help save and generate more cash on the road.

It’s like this…
Being organized for tour involves researching and advancing the cities you’re hitting – and being well prepared involves having as much as possible taken care of before you hit the road (but we’ll come back to that in a minute.)

And the budget part…
Sort the facts before you leave – Establish as many details as you can – Know what your general outgoing and incoming cash amounts are going to be. Be realistic. Underestimate income and overestimate expenses rather than the other way around.

Also, allow extra cash for unexpected items or emergencies – they WILL come up. Make sure everything is balanced so that – worst case scenario – you will break even, but in all probability, you’ll profit.

So, with that said – let’s talk about some ways to make & save money:

1. Make sure you know what the payment & terms are for the gigs you are playing. Negotiate the best possible deals you can in advance and get this confirmed in writing, by email at least, so there’s documentation to fall back on. Try to get food and drinks with the deal as a bonus to save you paying out on gig days. Tons of venues have a kitchen and will at least offer half-price food and drink & let you fill your ice chest from their ice machine, and so on. Everything helps.

2. It’s obvious, but it can’t be left out – have solid Merch for sale. Include merch bundles to give people an incentive to support and buy more if they can. Be sure to include some lower-priced items, like printed 11×17 posters and 4×6 postcards, etc,. When you cater to people of all budgets, everyone wins, and the smaller dollar amounts can really add up.

3. Have a donation/ gas money tip jar at the Merch stand. This can go a long way. If a new fan doesn’t have the cash for a T-shirt, they will often throw a few bucks in the gas money tip jar. Every dollar counts! No telling what you’ll find in the jar at the end of the night. Dont ask.

4. Look into doing house shows- Essentially a private gig or party at someone’s house- These can be unexpected gems! Then there are music store endorsement workshops or similar in cities along your tour route. Many artists offer 30-minute lessons with fans for a small fee. You can get a decent chunk of change from these types of situations as well. It’s always a good idea to have an acoustic or lighter version set prepped for radio stations or in-store opportunities too.

5. Random performances on off-days – busking, coffee shops, in stores, etc. Even if you’re not being paid for these, you can potentially sell Merch, rock the gas $ tip jar, make new friends and fans, and maybe get lunches or similar (which means you don’t have to pay for them and can keep that extra money in your pockets).

Sure, you can set some of this extra performance stuff up on the fly, but better if you have the contacts and ideas in motion in advance. Oftentimes times, existing fans and bands in said cities can help put some pieces together. Make it about the fans and treat them like friends.

And in the end, be super-smart with your money. When you’re on the road, avoid spending unnecessarily. Rally fans and friends at the shows to get places to crash, organize food in as many places as possible, and stock up on water and healthy snacks in markets along the way to keep in your tour rig to help avoid stopping off at fast food joints. That can be very taxing on your health, energy, and finances.

Also, ensure your tour vehicle is in legit working order before you go – it saves you lost gigs and spending out for breakdowns on the road.

So there you go… There are many ways to save and generate money while on tour, and these are just a few! Here’s to many a great tour!

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