Frugality on DIY Tour: Some Simple Suggestions
A DIY tour is expensive. There are ways to be successful, but for a band just starting out, I would recommend trying to spend as little money as possible. Here are some suggestions on how you can do that.
If you’re a new-ish band planning on touring a lot, you may have bought a van or an RV. If you have purchased such a vehicle, I highly recommend converting it to run on a cheaper, more efficient type of fuel. The fact is that you can save hundreds of dollars in gas by doing this.
The first case I heard of touring bands using alternative fuels was that of nerd punk legends Piebald. They worked with a company called Grease Not Gas, which involved fixing their van to run on vegetable oil. If you have the means and you’ll be touring several times through a year, switching to some kind of alternative fuel may be the best way to go. I’m not sure if Grease Not Gas is a company anymore, but I do know that more and more companies are getting involved in alternative fuel, so as time goes on, musicians will have even more options to get away from hiked gas prices and environmentally damaging travel factors.
-Skip the Trailer
A trailer is traditional but not necessary, and assuming you have enough room in the vehicle without it, it’ll end up being an added cost out-of-pocket if you aren’t at least breaking even. In addition, driving with a trailer is much more dangerous than driving without one, and it becomes even more dangerous when you drive at night (which I have done at least once on every tour I’ve been on). A small amount of discomfort is a small price to pay to avoid wasting hundreds of dollars on a trailer that you don’t necessarily need and is a safety hazard.
-Minimize Eating Out
Most bands I know pay for food on a person by person basis - meaning that each member pays for their own self out of pocket. However, if your band is paying for food as a collective, I probably don’t have to tell you it’s wiser to go to a grocery store and buy food for meals that will last you multiple days than to live off fast food. Here are some ideas:
Dried Fruit and Nuts
Cliff Bars and Similar Items
Campbell’s Soup on the Go
Giant Packages of Cereal
-Have Cool Merch
“But doesn’t merch cost money?” Yes, but if you’re smart about how much you spend making it, this could be a huge financial benefit for you. Selling merch matters because no form of income is guaranteed on a DIY tour. So while a number of factors affect selling merch, like how good your band i, or even how well your merch represents the quality of your brand (in this case your band) - you can’t get around merch not mattering at all. Just make sure whatever merch you produce, you produce it well. I sold CDs on tour this October that I burned off my computer and distributed in cardboard sleeves I got at Walmart.I drew a new picture on each CD, and they ended up selling well!
-Skip Hotels and Long Drives
For most bands, what you are paid at each show goes right into your gas tank, so spending less on travel expenses is always best. While it may seem best to cover the most ground on a tour, it’s sometimes better to make contacts and fans around an area without wasting too much money, and hit a new area next time and do the same thing. That way your drives aren’t as long, and you worry less about making ends meet if a promoter pays you badly or there’s a low turnout at your last show. Then when you have contacts and know you can make enough money to do a bigger tour, get on it!
Also, for goodness sake, don’t waste money on a hotel if you don’t need to. Usually, in my experience and the experience of many others, a showgoer, promoter, or local band member will have a place to stay for you. As stated by Nick from Direct Hit!, “always ask about money and a place to sleep.” It’s best to figure this out in advance to arriving at a venue or even leaving for tour. But ultimately, there should be no reason to waste money on a hotel.