Music Business: Financing and Keeping to Your Touring Budget

By Loren Weisman

Touring is an essential financial obligation in the music business. Touring costs a great deal and in many cases more than people realize. Build up a conservative but considerate budget that takes into account all the requirements to sustain a tour and get an artist or band everywhere they need to be.

Look for ways to cut expenses, such as finding a coffee shop for Internet access or staying with friends, family members, or fans. Pack a cooler with bottled water and snacks to save a little cash. But there are still the core costs that add to a budget and have to be addressed and planned for before you ever hit the road so you won’t get stuck on the side of the road in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere.

A great deal of profits from a tour is based on pure speculation. This makes it challenging to give exact numbers for the revenue side of a tour.

Laying out your costs

The first step is to look at all the costs and create some simple math that considers where you’re going and what you can save on each trip. The following list shows the top 15 costs and issues that your budget needs to address:

Personal bills/debts Hotels/lodging
Food Gas
Laundry Parking
Hygiene items/makeup Hair cuts
Tolls Car maintenance/oil changes
Marketing/promotion Printing
Postage/shipping Phones/Internet
Gear/repairs

Note that this list doesn’t take into account serious medical injuries occurring on the road, which are worsened if a band member doesn’t have medical insurance. Theft or gear being broken beyond repair also needs to be taken into account, both situations big reasons to spend a little more on securing your vehicles or bringing gear into hotel rooms or homes as extra measures of security.

Calculate the higher side of the mileage your vehicle gets with average gas prices to get a ball-park figure on what you need for gas.

Life goes on, even when you’re on the road. And that means you still have to pay your personal bills, such as rent, utilities, car payment, insurance, and so on. Create a total budget, figure out how long you’ll be on the road, and that should tell you how much you need to make per week to maintain your home life.

Figuring out your routes in advance for driving can tell you about tolls and bridge fees. This can also include ferries if they need to be taken to play on islands.

By understanding and justifying the expenses first, you get a much clearer idea of what needs to happen for revenue and for sponsorship or investment support.

Sponsors for touring support

Look to sponsors for touring support as a solid option and good approach to take.

From the larger sponsors of hotel chains and car manufacturers to the smaller ones like restaurant chains and even clothing lines, there are a ton of companies to pitch to. Many of these pitches for sponsorship that showcase an exclusivity of products or services that you already use in some way can help connect you that much easier. Finding simple ways of promoting these companies can become mutually beneficial.

Consider graphic wraps or large stickers around your vehicle or vehicles to promote your sponsors. You can also use postcards and promotional materials that showcase a given venue or event is being presented by or partially presented by a sponsor. Using sponsors like this can help build up your tour revenue that might not come in as quickly through your performances.

Sponsorships that range from vehicles to gas to places to eat can help reduce your costs while you get out there to reach that many more people.

Complex costs and simple savers

Figuring out in advance the cities and the distances can help you look for couches to crash on or places to stay. Offering prizes and rewards for cooking the band a meal, giving them a place to stay, or filling up a few tanks of gas can excite fans and help you dig into their network of people.

Visit coffee shops that offer free Wi-Fi to avoid adding that charge in a hotel room. Join a rewards program for gas or hotels to earn points toward fill ups and free rooms. And pack food and drinks.

Pre-Op for your tours and working from the road

While you’re still at home, start building up an arsenal of items you need on the road — strings, drumsticks, extra hygiene items, merchandise, and so on. While you still have your day job and some income coming in, it’s a good idea to stock up.

Save for back-up gear or put money aside in a separate bank account for devastating emergencies, such as gear being stolen. Also look into both medical insurance and instrument insurance to help make a horrible event become much more manageable.

Anderson Musical Instrument Insurance Solutions LLC is a great company to look into for insuring your instruments. Although it might seem like an extra cost, the sanity, security, and safety of having that coverage/policy, especially while you are on the road, can save you a fortune.

You can prepack certain gear and clothes and have it sent to you while on the road. Too, you can send clothing and items home to save space and help you travel light.

The more you can prepare for touring, the less it costs you when you get out on the road. Buy items like makeup, Listerine, toothpaste, and other hygiene necessities in bulk. Stock up on drum heads, strings, batteries, cables, and other gear and items that will need to be replaced. Buying them in bulk saves you a fortune over needing to pick them up at a rest stop or music stores around the country.