The places you are really going to make money on tour are sometimes surprising. They aren’t always what you think is going to save you a ton of money. It’s the little things – and the reason that you need to have an all encompassing and holistic approach to your tour planning that really matter. It’s why being able to take a step back and find the optimal deals on every aspect of tour planning will save you hundreds of dollars. It’s why you need to pick apart your contracts and look at everywhere you are spending money and how you can reduce costs. By being holistic and careful I’ve been able to save bands I tour manage hundreds if not thousands of dollars with every tour. This is different from cutting corners – keep that in mind, but also be aware that you can protect yourself from a lot of lost money by putting in an extra few hours of planning.
It’s interesting to me to watch where these things crop up. For example today I have been spending a lot of time looking into the optimal money saving configurations for vans. It requires a bit of careful planning, but in the end it’s going to save us several hundred dollars, which means several hundred more dollars in the bands pockets. Then there’s other even less obvious, scarier things things that bands hemorrhage money on. For example – if you are taking a trailer then you need to factor in the fact that you are going to be spending extra money not just on the trailer (Duh!) but also gas. Or food – you can save so much money and time just by buying a ton of sandwich material at the start of a tour and just making sandwiches for lunch instead of slowing down your entire process by stopping to eat. Keep these things in mind as you struggle forward and you will watch the entire world start to make progressively more sense.
None of these things are exactly obvious, nor are they things that a lot of bands do, but it’s the same sort of things that are going to help your band not end the tour totally broke and starving. One thing that I’ve found helps is to figure out your average daily base expenses (Obviously this varies based on how far you drive) and then use that to generate a ‘magic number’ of what you would like your income to be day to day. By having these two core numbers in mind you can figure out how much your band should be willing to spend on food and everything else. The key to having a financially profitable tour is to crunch numbers nonstop and be fully aware of what your band is pulling and how much money should be spent day to day. The bonus of having these numbers is that when it comes time to talk to labels, bookers and management companies you will have all sorts of delicious figures for them to crunch which makes you look better.
I want to circle back though and focus on the importance of not cutting corners on these types of things though. Even though yes, it is cheaper to tour in a minivan, I can guarantee you will hate yourself. That’s just how it is. Its the same if you want to not have per diems. I mean some bands can make that work – but most of the time you end up just destroying group morale. That’s an important factor to consider and one that cutting corners will hurt. Beyond that – cutting corners can screw with your safety – and obviously that should be of paramount importance. Just look at all the bands who have been basically permanently ruined because of car crashes or screw ups on tour that happened because someone wanted to save money. These people weren’t taking the proper holistic approach and decided that cutting corners would be a better choice. The way I view it is the money you save by holistically approaching touring can be reappropriated to make sure that you DON’T cut corners – and odds are that will allow you to make even more money in the long run.
Touring non stop is a hard thing to do and after you do it enough it’s easy to get stuck in a pattern, but a pattern that causes you to lose money. You need to be willing to think outside the box if you want to keep moving forward in a way that is productive and helpful. You need to realize that not only is touring how you are going to make the most money but also how you are going to lose the most money so every detail needs to be accounted for. I know I’m making it sound intimidating – and to some degree I should be, since touring is, by its very nature intimidating. Still – checking out what business savvy bands like KEN Mode and Night Demon are doing, you should be able to find that there is a lot more money to be made out there on the road than many of your peers might think. It’s just a question of making smart choices every single day of the tour.
Again – this really isn’t as hard as I’m making it sound it’s just that people in bands traditionally make poor decisions. People in bands are dumb as hell sometimes because they only want to focus on the music when they should be taking the time to approach things more holistically. Spending those extra few hours of research can actually end up being the most profitable hours you spend in setting up your tour since they will save you so much money. Don’t lock into anything without properly doing your research and always, always, ALWAYS ask more experienced bands who you KNOW MAKE MONEY for tips in order to figure out the best way to go forward.