Band Tips: Making More Money on the Road when You Aren’t Well-Known

Touring is fun and all, but there’s a big problem: most bands don’t turn a profit while they’re on a road. Even singer songwriters can see a deficit from a tour, and they have fewer mouths to feed and a bigger share of each night’s take. Bands need to tour–it leads to long term profits as you get your name out and build up a buzz. However, every band should try to make each tour as profitable as possible, and this doesn’t always mean asking for more cash.

Here are a few things that every touring singer songwriter and band should think about to make as much money as they can from a regional or national tour.

Supplement your income if you can
. The sad fact is that bars and venues don’t pay touring acts well, even though they typically get a few extra bucks for cash that a local act wouldn’t get.

Try to find ways to supplement your income on the road. Consider busking, which means playing on the street. You’ll have to check with each city’s police department to make sure that busking’s legal, but when it is, it can be a great source of additional revenue.

I’m able to support myself on tours by writing, as I primarily write for online companies like Associated Content, so I can write just about anywhere. You can also find freelancing opportunities as a photographer, graphic design professional, or even by making crafts. While you might not make much at first, remember that you’ll be spending a lot of your time in a car or a van–use that time to supplement your income as a band in any way that you can.

Look into dinner shows. Dinner shows make serious money, and if you can learn about three to four hours worth of material, you can pull in $100-200 or more. Dinner gigs still get your name out there and they usually come with a hot meal.

If you’re booking a show at a restaurant, ask if you can play a dinner gig earlier in the night. Even if you’re traveling with a band and they can’t all play the dinner gig, the singer can often double or triple the night’s take with some extra work as a dinner musician. The singer shouldn’t keep all of the money for him/herself, by the way–a 50/50 split will keep the band going longer and keep tour costs under control.

Tips aren’t always bad. Many bands don’t like the idea of playing for tips. Tips can be great income, however, especially when you get one of the aforementioned dinner gigs, and sometimes tips outweigh the money offered by a venue, particularly in high-traffic places like bars.

Always ask if it’s alright to set out a tip jar and call attention to it. Many bands that I’ve met have come up with creative ways to draw attention to their tip jars, either by writing songs about them or coming up with a cool design. Don’t write off tips. Try to get them every night and you could easily end up with some extra cash.

Minimize your costs. Always tour smart. Avoid hotel rooms; stay with friends and other bands instead. Don’t go to too many towns that you’ve never visited before. Start with small regional tours to keep gas and food bills down. Eat from the grocery store, not fast food joints. A little planning will go a long ways towards making a tour profitable, so it’s always something to consider.

Have any other tips for making extra money as a touring musician? Post below.