#1
In what ways do bands make enough money to keep afloat?

I know about charging for doing gigs, selling merch in the form or t's, pins, cd's, posters and stickers, but thats about all I can think of for an unsigned band.

If I was to plan a tour, with the costs of petrol, van hire/ buying/ food/ hotels/ drinks/ new strings/ repairs to equipment to gear or the van/ roadies etc, where would the money be come from? I'm looking at some figures and guessing it would be hugely expensive, and I can't quite work out how even some larger bands get by.

I'd like to point out also, I dont actually have a band, Im just curious.
#2
mainly out of their own backpockets
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#3
play local, then semi local doing the things an unsigned band would do as you say. then once you have a bit of a name, you could attempt a regional tour while selling your merch, then move bigger. your not gonna to a national tour for your first one.

also touring with another band would split the cost of gas if you could share a storage van or bus.
#4
most bands lose money on tour. you have to spend money to make money young padawan.
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#5
how do you think rap "bands" manage to tour, they get like 18 different "artists" and ya.. so idk.. tour with other people
#6
i would have thought that doubled the expense to be honest - unless the van that we got was an absolute beast. that'd be quite cool, but i suppose it might get robbed too.

and i didn't think most rap artists did tours until they had a label - i thought they just played a few local gigs and got picked up!
#8
yeah a tour is just a good way to get herd, then you get recognition, which can lead to more money per venue, a small time record deal, and/or people wanting to buy your merchandises. its a way to travel, play your music and slightly make money to live off of.

ever herd of a starving artist? thats one reason why.
#9
sponsors pay the way for the tour
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#10
Quote by CobenBlack
In what ways do bands make enough money to keep afloat?

I know about charging for doing gigs, selling merch in the form or t's, pins, cd's, posters and stickers, but thats about all I can think of for an unsigned band.

If I was to plan a tour, with the costs of petrol, van hire/ buying/ food/ hotels/ drinks/ new strings/ repairs to equipment to gear or the van/ roadies etc, where would the money be come from? I'm looking at some figures and guessing it would be hugely expensive, and I can't quite work out how even some larger bands get by.

I'd like to point out also, I dont actually have a band, Im just curious.


You wouldn't plan the tour, you'd have a manager plan the tour for you. When you play a gig, you have to be able to draw enough people to come to it, so that the venue doesn't lose money having you play there, and that you make some money out of it. Selling your own music doesn't make most bands money anymore, because it can easily be freely downloaded. Most bands just make money off of selling merchandise like t-shirts.
#11
Quote by messiah01
You wouldn't plan the tour, you'd have a manager plan the tour for you. When you play a gig, you have to be able to draw enough people to come to it, so that the venue doesn't lose money having you play there, and that you make some money out of it. Selling your own music doesn't make most bands money anymore, because it can easily be freely downloaded. Most bands just make money off of selling merchandise like t-shirts.


yeah, but a manager would also cost money, and i thought for an unsigned band it might work out better booking everything themselves.
#12
I have no idea man. Mark Tremonti from Alter Bridge said they loose money touring. He said it would be nice if they could just break even doing a tour.
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#13
Quote by CobenBlack
yeah, but a manager would also cost money, and i thought for an unsigned band it might work out better booking everything themselves.

A good agent on the other hand takes a percentage of what he earns for you (which is really what a manager should get, but managers have more complicated contracts that usualy end up saying that they own your mother or something. ) so the more he earns for you, the more he makes for himself. Motivation doesn't come any better than that.
A decent agent should be able to set you up with a small starter tour playing 4 or 5 gigs a week for enough money to ensure you can pay for enough petrol to get to the next gig plus food and (if you're lucky) lodgings, but he really doesn't do anything that you couldn't do yourself.

That 4 or 5 gigs a week are the secret to making money on a tour. If you are playing only a couple of dates per week, then they need to be damn good earners just to get all of you through the week, but if you play practicaly every day, even twice a day in some cases, then you can play cheaper gigs, which are obviously a lot easier to find.
Each gig should be as close to the next gig as possible, for two reasons;
1) It's cheaper in petrol.
2) If people like you at a gig, they may travel to see you at the next gig as long as it's not too far away, which increases the size of an average crowd, which then gives you a better grounding for negotiating a better price for that venue the next time you arrange a booking there.
Which brings up another thing about touring, if you do it right, your first couple of tours will be hard work and you'll just about break even, but after building up followings in loads of towns, you can charge more for your gigs and double up on money earned on previous tours.
Promotional items like CDs, shirts, badges, ect, are all handy items for making extra money, but that is all they should be regarded as, the difference being, the gig money is guaranteed, the money from sales isn't, but obviously, the better the quality of merchandise and the cheaper you can price it at, the more chance there is of you making sales.
We, for instance, buy our printed shirts for £3 each and sell them for £5. So the eventual sale of 200 shirts pays for another 200 shirts and generates you a further £400, but more importantly, it's a 'promotional' item. People walk around wearing them like mobile adverts for your band, so when someone else sees a poster for one of your gigs, your band's name is already familiar to them, which psychologicaly encourages them to come and check you out, so sell 'em as cheap as you can and more people will buy 'em who in turn will be a walking billboard for you attracting more people to your gigs.
And that is really what it's all about, getting bodies in gigs. If you fill venues they will pay you more the next time you play there, so make sure you have a hand in all promotion for the tour and make sure it's done right, with big full colour posters and local press interest.
Each town has a local newspaper, generaly read by most of the local poulation. You are aiming to get a write up in them before playing the corresponding gig. Newspaper ads are OK but they cost money and are generaly glanced over by most people, but a write up or feature has a much bigger impact and attracts more punters to the gig.
Do some homework, find out what the local newspaper for each town is, ring them up, ask to speak to the 'reporter' who handles 'entertainments and ''what's on'' guides' and ask if they would be interested in doing a 'feature' on your band as you will be playing their town as part of your 'latest nationwide tour' and ask if you can send them your 'official' press release.
Then e-mail them a press release that you have already written. This should really play up your band as much as possible, make you sound like the best thing since sliced bread and mention the release of your new album or ep (don't ever say 'demo') and other news about you that springs to mind and tour dates and a discription of your music, a little bit of humour doesn't go amiss either but not too much. (for instance, in one of ours, just after we'd got back together after a 12 month break, we said we'd split up a year ago because of health reasons... we were sick of the sight of each other!)
Try to write it in a typical cheesy reporter style, because what you are actualy doing is the reporter's job for him. If he sees a press release that he hardly has to edit, he's more likely to get it into print.
Make sure you send two pics with the press release, one colour, one black and white.

Hmmm, I've rambled on again, but I think that just about covers the basics.
Last edited by SlackerBabbath at Jul 16, 2008,
#15
It's also worth adding that for the duration of a tour, you should live as cheaply as possible, like sleeping in the van or at people's houses, or buy loaves of bread and fillings rather than eating from take aways.
You can feed a band quite well on one loaf of bread, one block of cheese, one packet of sliced ham and a spot of margarine. (ketchup is optional.) Cost, around £3:50.
Take a travel kettle with you that can operate off the van's ciggarette lighter and you can have hot food too, such as pot noodles or other dehydrated food.
Of course, those that know what they are doing set up a large diesel van, like a long wheel based sprinter or transit, with a boarded off section that has a small kitchen and some bunks in it, or even tow a caravan around with them.
Last edited by SlackerBabbath at Jul 15, 2008,
#16
Quote by SlackerBabbath
It's also worth adding that for the duration of a tour, you should live as cheaply as possible, like sleeping in the van or at people's houses, or buy loaves of bread and fillings rather than eating from take aways.
You can feed a band quite well on one loaf of bread, one block of cheese, one packet of sliced ham and a spot of margarine. (ketchup is optional.) Cost, around £3:50.
Take a travel kettle with you that can operate off the van's ciggarette lighter and you can have hot food too, such as pot noodles or other dehydrated food.
Of course, those that know what they are doing set up a large diesel van, like a long wheel based sprinter or transit, with a boarded off section that has a small kitchen and some bunks in it, or even tow a caravan around with them.


cunning. if i ever get a band together, i'll have to use this advice
#17
Quote by CobenBlack
cunning. if i ever get a band together, i'll have to use this advice


+1

its like camping, but living like a college student
#19
Quote by SlackerBabbath
It's also worth adding that for the duration of a tour, you should live as cheaply as possible, like sleeping in the van or at people's houses, or buy loaves of bread and fillings rather than eating from take aways.
You can feed a band quite well on one loaf of bread, one block of cheese, one packet of sliced ham and a spot of margarine. (ketchup is optional.) Cost, around £3:50.
Take a travel kettle with you that can operate off the van's ciggarette lighter and you can have hot food too, such as pot noodles or other dehydrated food.
Of course, those that know what they are doing set up a large diesel van, like a long wheel based sprinter or transit, with a boarded off section that has a small kitchen and some bunks in it, or even tow a caravan around with them.


+1

Also I suggest getting a can that con comfortably sleep everyone, because chances are you will be sleeping a van a lot of the time, I really hate having to explain that to n00b musicians that I tour with expecting a bus or hotels or some shit like that.
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#20
Quote by Kid_Thorazine
+1

Also I suggest getting a can that con comfortably sleep everyone, because chances are you will be sleeping a van a lot of the time, I really hate having to explain that to n00b musicians that I tour with expecting a bus or hotels or some shit like that.

There's a number of ways of doing this, you can either section part of the van off just behind the driver and put bunks in (in a space of six feet, you can actualy place six bunks, three on the far wall and three on then near wall. There may not be much head room but who needs haedroom when you're sleeping? The gear in the resulting area at the back can then be stacked right up to the ceiling.
Or you can have everything in boxes that stack up along the floor of the van, place boards over it, then matresses on the boards. Again, not a lot of headroom, but it doesn't really matter. Another option, (as long as you're gear doesn't stack up too high) is the same but with hammocks that fasten to each side of the van.
#21
we usually just put a queen sized mattress in the back and sleep in shifts, since a lot of nights driving overnight is required (probably not as much of an issue if you're just touring in England or GB though)
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#22
Well...

I'm in the back of a van right now, with 6 other guys, 1 girl, 3 guitars, a bass, 3 amp heads, everyones luggage and a drum kit...

We're about 30mins out of Sydney after driving from Brisbane (about 11 hours driving so far), and I'm somewhat drunk...

But, to answer the TS question: It's costing us, about $150 per band member to do this tour, that's not including any food or gear repairs (unexpected costs). We're going to make about...$20...for the 3 shows we're playing this week, so right now we're $880 in the red. We've got our merch, which with any luck will cover about 1/3 of that cost. so we'll say we've lost about $589.60 in doing said tour.

The other band on tour with us, are spread into two vans (for 5 guys and two merch chicks) with all their gear in hire trailers, they're making $200 a night, and haven't had to spend a cent.

Difference?

Label support, the others guys a signed to an indie label that's set up the whole thing.

Band's make money on tour when they get signed, that's the long and the short of it.

But luckily, we don't care about how much money we've spent, cause we're having some seriously awesome fun and it hasn't even been a day yet

It's hard going, but we've got some labels looking at us, so it's worth the money spent
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#23
A good quote I read recently somewhere... "the line between touring musician and homeless guy living out of his van becomes strangely blurred...." haha

Other means of cutting costs:
Ask if the venue can provide food or accommodation. Many bars won't mind throwing a plate of nachos and a couple of pops at you. Some are even attached to hotels that they can't practically give away so they'll have room. They won't be the nicest places in the world, but probably beat spooning with your bass player in the back of a U-Haul.

Stay at houses of other bands, new friends (fans) that you make that night (if ya know wad I meen....haha....) Can usually swing some food out of that too.

Careful about squeezing too many people and belongings into a vehicle. I know a guy who died when his van drove off an embankment. The rest of the guys, who all lived, were wearing seatbelts, but he was not. Coincidence? I think not. Not to mention that a guitar flying out of its original resting place and suddenly flying at 110 km/h straight at your head will more than likely result in a closed-casket funeral for you.... if your head is even recognizable.... or even still attached.

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