Submission by Mike Wright, Founder and CEO of SongCast
Touring the Right Way – Six Tips for an Effective Tour
Most bands would count a successful tour as one where the band members all get along (for the most part) and the band connects with fans. While both of those outcomes are great, a tour also needs to make money, especially if the band is planning future tours.
Bands that are starting out or don’t have massive followings can’t really negotiate pricing with club or concert hall owners. There’s no leverage on their side, so they’ll be paid the typical amounts for each show. So for a band to protect their profits they have to carefully manage expenses. You want to develop a fan base, and spend money when necessary, but the band has to survive.
Following these six tips can help musicians enjoy their tour and hopefully bring home some case when the road trip is finally over:
- Stay for cheap. Lodging costs eat up a lot of your budget, but you can’t all sleep in the van, so you need a decent play to rest for the night. Consider booking rooms before leaving on the tour, and then checking rates frequently to see if you can find a cheaper alternative. Sites such as Expedia and Hotels Tonight offer good last-minute rates, which can help you grab a nicer hotel for less money. Also look for free Wi-Fi and take advantage of free breakfasts if available. Going out for pancakes for five people can easily cost $60 or more, so grab any freebies.
- Bring your own food. Even if your food tastes are Chipotle and Arby’s, you still want to avoid a constant stream of fast food. The costs will add up, and you’re going to feel sluggish after a while. Eating out is a massive touring expense, so try to bring your own food (within reason) to help avoid a constant drain on the budget. Buy some snacks at Costco, and bring your own water bottle and fill it up whenever you can. Dropping $20 on snacks and water at every gas station will really add up over a long summer tour.
- Sling that merchandise. Selling merchandise isn’t just about earning some extra money, it’s a way to create “walking billboards” and grow a fan base. You should always have merchandise on hand while you’re on the road, both at the gigs and during any restaurant or gas stop. Never miss an opportunity to pull in some cash.
- Embrace efficiency. A long road trip means a lot of fun miles traveled, but that also means costs in terms of gas and maintenance for your vehicle. Pick a van/SUV that gets decent mileage and try to avoid a trailer unless absolutely necessary, as it will drop down your MPG. Have the vehicle inspected and fixed before the tour begins and set aside some budget for any unexpected issues.
- Avoid the bar tabs. Unless the club lets you all drink for free, then you should avoid knocking back drinks before, during, or after the show. It is fine to have some celebratory drinks every once in a while, but if the whole band has 15 drinks a night, you’re looking at $150 or more just in bar money. BYOB if you need a beverage to loosen up before a show, but don’t burn all of the money you received for a gig on pricey cocktails and craft beers.
- Contact the local press. Local TV and radio stations need to fill dead blocks of time – there’s simply not enough news. Contact local stations about your upcoming show and they just might give you a free plug. Be sure to talk about what makes your band unique so the news has a decent “hook” for your story. Hustling for this type of publicity can get people in the door, and more money in your pocket.
These six tips aren’t meant to turn an amazing tour into a penny-pinching and painful odyssey. However, making money is important for the band’s success. The bandmates need money to pay their bills, you need to pay for better mics and equipment, and you need to reach more fans.