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5
min

Tips for Staying Frugal on the Road as a Touring Musician

Being a touring musician can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it can also be financially challenging. Living on the road and constantly moving from one place to another can make it challenging 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:

Plan Ahead

Before starting that road trip, it's important to do some research and plan out your travel and accommodations. Look for deals on flights and hotel costs, and consider staying in hostels or Airbnb rentals to save money on accommodations. These options can often be cheaper than traditional hotels, and they can also 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 have relationships maybe people you can crash with in those places. None of this reinvents the wheel when it comes to saving money on tour, but when planning ahead, this kind of cost savings will allow you to properly budget for parts of the tour that are more expensive.

Image from Green Room

Be smart about spending

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.

One additional expense which may seem counterintuitive to keeping costs down is touring insurance. Everyone has heard stories of the guitar that gets snatched from the back of the van. That sort of unexpected event can be absolutely devastating so to protect yourself, consider looking into a policy for your gear.

Make the most of your gig money

As a touring musician, your primary source of income is likely to be 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 merch. 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.

Bring your own food

Eating out can be expensive, especially if you're on the road for an extended period of time. Consider packing your own meals and snacks at the hotel or Airbnb to save money on food. A cooler is an essential item for any touring musician, as it allows you to bring perishable items like fruits and vegetables, as well as non-perishable items like granola bars, trail mix, and dried fruit. You can also bring 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.

Stay healthy

Being on the road can be tough on your health, so it's important to take care of yourself. Eat a healthy diet, get plenty of exercise, and make sure to get enough sleep. Try to avoid getting sick by washing your hands frequently and staying hydrated. Being healthy will not only help you feel better, but it will also help you save money on medical bills and missed gigs. If you are able to ask the venues for things like socks, Advil, Emergen-C, granola bars, and bottles of water, many will help out where they can.

Know your weak spots

This is a bit of a combination of some of the above but it actually gets to the heart of the matter much more succinctly. If you are a big fan of nice coffee and end up spending $10 a day on coffee on the road, invest in an aero press and an electric kettle to bring on tour so you are having high-quality coffee everywhere. If 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.

Conclusion

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.

Brian Lynch

Brian has worked with hundreds of artists and startups. He leads Growth at Green Room.

Reading time
5
min

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