Being a touring musician can be an exciting and rewarding experience but also financially challenging. Living on the road and constantly moving from one place to another can make it tough to stick to a budget, and expenses can quickly add up. Whether you're a seasoned touring musician or just starting out, here are a few tips on how to be frugal and survive the music business as a touring musician:
Before starting that road trip, it's essential to research and plan out your travel and accommodations. Please be sure to look for deals on flights and hotel costs, and consider staying in hostels or Airbnb rentals to save money on accommodations. These options are often cheaper than traditional hotels and provide a more unique and authentic travel experience. These options can save you money on transportation costs and be a great way to meet new people and learn about different cultures.2
If you're into camping and weather permits, you can plan to camp and get a cheap gym membership to use their showers. If you're traveling to familiar cities, you may have relationships with people you can crash with. None of this reinvents the wheel when saving money on tour. Still, when planning ahead, this kind of cost savings will allow you to properly budget for parts of the tour that are more expensive.
While it's important to have some fun on the road, it's also important to be mindful of your spending. Avoid splurging on unnecessary items and try to stick to a budget. Keep track of your expenses using a budgeting app, spreadsheet, or Green Room. Consider setting aside a certain amount of money for all non-essentials, and then stick to that budget. This will help you avoid overspending and keep your finances in check.
Touring insurance is an expense that may seem counterintuitive to keeping costs down. Everyone has heard stories of the guitar that gets snatched from the back of the van. That sort of unexpected event can be devastating, so to protect yourself, consider looking into a policy for your gear.
As a touring musician, your primary income source is likely ticket sales. Make sure you're getting paid fairly for your gigs, and try to negotiate higher rates if possible. Don't be afraid to ask for what you're worth! In addition to gig fees, you can also make money by setting up a merch table and selling t-shirts, albums, or any other merchandise. This can be a great way to supplement your income and give your fan base a way to support you and your music. As a self-managed band, you're also booking your own shows. Consider charging a fee for booking yourself just as a band with an agent would. Try Green Room's Gig Pricing Tool or read more about Gig Pricing here. Likewise, did you know that you can claim royalties for playing your own songs live? Here's how you can claim your live music royalties.
Eating out can be expensive, especially if you're on the road for an extended period. Consider packing your meals and snacks at the hotel or Airbnb to save money on food. A cooler is essential for any touring musician, as it allows you to bring perishable items like fruits and vegetables and non-perishable items like granola bars, trail mix, and dried fruit. You can also get a portable stove or burner to cook simple meals like pasta or oatmeal. Not only will bringing your own food save you money, but it will also allow you to eat healthier while on the road. Some day-of-show food is tax deductible. You can read more about tax deductions for musicians here.
Being on the road can be tough on your health, so taking care of yourself is important. Eat a healthy diet, exercise, and get enough sleep. Try to avoid getting sick by washing your hands frequently and staying hydrated. Being fit will not only help you feel better, but it will also help you save money on medical bills and missed gigs. If you can ask the venues for things like socks, Advil, Emergen-C, granola bars, and water bottles, many will help out where they can.
This is a bit of a combination of some of the above, but it gets to the heart of the matter more succinctly. If you are a big fan of excellent coffee and spend $10 a day on coffee on the road, invest in an aero press and an electric kettle to bring on tour so you have high-quality coffee wherever you go. Suppose you are always hungry after a show and end up spending more than you meant when you are hungry at 2 AM, pack snacks to bring to the venue, and eat after a show. These kinds of trigger things can be some of the most costly small bits that add up over the lifetime of a tour.
In conclusion, being a touring musician can be a financially challenging experience, but it doesn't have to mean operating at a loss. By following the tips outlined above, you can save money and survive on the road without sacrificing your musical career or your enjoyment of the experience. From planning ahead and bringing your own food to being smart about spending and taking advantage of discounts, there are many ways to be frugal and thrive as a touring musician. With careful planning and discipline, you can enjoy the exciting and rewarding experience of life on the road while also keeping your finances in check.
Planning ahead is key to saving money on travel and accommodations as a touring musician. Research flights and hotels for deals and consider alternative options such as hostels or Airbnb rentals. These options can often be more budget-friendly and provide a unique travel experience. If you're into camping and weather permits, you can also plan to camp and get a cheap gym membership for showers. In familiar cities, you may also have relationships with people to crash with. Proper planning and budgeting for cost savings in these areas will help you have more funds for the more expensive parts of the tour.
To be smart about spending while on tour, it's important to be mindful of your expenses. Avoid splurging on unnecessary items, and keep track of your expenses using a budgeting app or spreadsheet. Set aside a certain amount for all non-essential spending and stick to that budget. Touring insurance is also an important consideration, as unexpected events can be devastating to your gear and finances. Being smart about spending will help you stay within budget and keep your finances in check.
As a touring musician, your primary income source is likely ticket sales. It's important to get paid fairly for your gigs and negotiate higher rates if possible. In addition to gig fees, you can also supplement your income by setting up a merch table and selling t-shirts, albums, or other merchandise. Consider charging a fee for booking yourself just as a band with an agent would. You can also claim royalties for playing your own songs live. By making the most of your gig money, you can ensure a steady income while on the road.
Eating out can be expensive while on tour, especially if you're on the road for an extended period. Consider packing your own meals and snacks at the hotel or Airbnb to save money on food. A cooler is essential for bringing perishable items and non-perishable snacks. Bringing your own food will also allow you to eat healthier and save money on medical bills and missed gigs. Some day-of-show food is tax deductible, so make sure to research your options to save even more.
Staying healthy while on tour is important for your well-being and finances. Eat a healthy diet, get plenty of exercise, and get enough sleep. Wash your hands frequently and stay hydrated to avoid getting sick. Being healthy will help you feel better, avoid medical bills, and ensure you don't miss any gigs. Consider asking venues for items like socks, Advil, Emergen-C, granola bars, and water to help maintain your health on the road. Know your weak spots and plan ahead for triggers that may impact your health or finances. By taking care of yourself, you can have a successful and enjoyable touring experience.
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