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Customer Discussions > Music forum

How is touring profitable?

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Showing 1-25 of 25 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 24, 2012, 3:08:05 PM PDT
A TJ H F says:
If you're a band that plays relatively small club gigs (a few hundred people, give or take), how do those cover all the travelling and other expenses, and make some profit? I've never understood it. Do artists get flying discounts or something?

Posted on Jul 24, 2012, 4:06:13 PM PDT
I would think that the members of bands like that would have to do some other type of work on the side, just to make ends meet. I doubt if they get any flying discounts, either. It would seem like a very difficult business to be in, no matter how much they love it.

Posted on Jul 24, 2012, 4:06:27 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jul 24, 2012, 4:07:00 PM PDT]

Posted on Jul 24, 2012, 4:15:49 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 24, 2012, 4:22:35 PM PDT
For an inside look at a small time Rock 'n' Roll band that never gave up, check out this great documentary. Anvil: The Story of Anvil They are the real life Spinal Tap!

Posted on Jul 24, 2012, 6:46:18 PM PDT
Clancey says:
Bands make barely enough to make it town to town based on their pay for the gigs. They make a bit more off of merchandise sold at the shows. We think of musicians as being rich, but most are work-a-day schlubs like everyone else. That's what makes the sale of their music essential to continuing making the music we love. Problem is, as expressed in another thread here, with digital downloads, more and more people are illegally downloading music and feel like they aren't stealing.

Posted on Jul 24, 2012, 6:57:01 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jul 24, 2012, 6:57:07 PM PDT]

Posted on Jul 25, 2012, 12:29:15 AM PDT
rezillos77 says:
"how do those cover all the travelling and other expenses, and make some profit?"

You usually don't. For bands starting out you hope you make profit but in reality you're lucky to make enough to cover gas money and some food.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 25, 2012, 4:52:45 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 25, 2012, 4:54:14 AM PDT
Dugan Nash says:
Yeah, the bands playing small clubs to a few hundred people will turn a profit, but not much. Most of 'em don't fly though and instead travel pretty lean in a van or other vehicle they've rented or own. I did it some back in the 90's. Did gigs all across the southwest with the 3-piece band I played with in a pickup truck and a U-haul! Play, drive, sleep; repeat, repaeat, repeat. Lotsa fun driving from Amarillo to Oklahoma City only to get there and find a gig cancelled. I often got home with about $17 more than when I left, and this for a week plus worth of "work". Highway to hell indeed, but some great memories too.

We weren't signed though so weren't making near what a signed band that can draw several hundred people who pay $20-30 each will earn. My buddy asked the same question when we saw Living Colour at a club in Michigan back in 2005. "Why do they do this? They CAN'T be making much money...." But... $25 per person times 300 is $7500. The venue gets a lot of that too but even after expenses and split 4 ways there's money to be had. No one's getting rich on that model though, that's for sure.

Posted on Jul 25, 2012, 5:34:10 AM PDT
Interesting question! Check out the movie "The Other F Word" that has been running on cable (Showtime, I think).

Posted on Jul 25, 2012, 5:42:54 AM PDT
D. Mok says:
If they don't tour, they don't build up a following. No following means they can't mount anything bigger and more profitable down the road, and no following also means no merchandising. Most of the small "tours" lose money.

Posted on Jul 25, 2012, 6:56:45 AM PDT
vivazappa says:
Small bands:
1-Bus not plane
2-T-shirts t-shirts t-shirts
3-CD sales at venue
4-Play the right sized club...not too big...not to small
5-One member of the road crew plus the band humps their gear

Big bands
2-Hire Peter Grant as manager (I know he's dead)
3-No backdrop...and raise the speakers so you can sell the seats behind the stage
4-Don't make the crappy seats too expensive
5-Get a cut of the food and parking

Posted on Jul 25, 2012, 7:24:09 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 25, 2012, 7:40:25 AM PDT
Stratocaster says:
The fact of the matter is, if you're an unsigned, unsponsored band, you better all have day jobs in order to survive. There are those that don't, and they're the ones who are pretty close to living in their car and scavenging for food.

I had 28 years in the music/live gig arena (14 of those with 2 original bands. The other 14 with numerous cover bands) And I can tell you first hand that everything that Sammy E. Upton and rezillos77 said above is 100% spot on. As an original band, and keeping in mind this is going back to the 80's, our typical wage was $800 a gig. At first you may think, oh that sounds pretty good. $200 each for a 4 man band. But what most people don't consider is the cost of transportation, paying the sound and light crew, any rental fees for sound and lights, your manager's cut, overhead like your own equipment replacement, building and maintaining a web site and/or mailing list, etc, etc. At the end of the day, each man was lucky to walk with 20 to 40 bucks. And that's in the places where they'll comp you your drinks - I've actually played some gigs where members of the band actually OWED THE CLUB money!! The crazy thing is, there's actually a more money to be had for the COVER bands!

And also, unless your some kind of international supergroup, like U2 or Foo Fighters, I believe the vast majority of bands still get around via tour buses. I even read recently how bands like Radiohead and Wilco STILL do 90% of their touring via bus (unless they have to cross an ocean, of course).

As for the signed and sponsored bands - In the early days of rock (60's thru 80's) touring was never about making money. Back then, a tour where a band "broke even" was good news. Most tours LOST money. A handful of the major names could turn a small profit. But touring then was about promoting an album release, and was pretty much mandatory as far as the record companies were concerned. You recorded an album, then you toured to promote it. The more you toured, the more records you sold. That's where the money was made - selling the records.

Now bring on the new millennium - record sales are in the dumps! For several reasons, mostly because of illegal downloading. Also partly because there just seems to be much less great ROCK bands out there who can consistently produce great music that millions of people will buy. We could go on and on regarding the lousy record sales of the past 20 years. But that's a different matter. The bottom line is, for most bands now, especially the older artists from the 60's and 70's, they just can't sell enough CD anymore to make a decent profit (just producing a CD incorporates the costs of production & recording, manufacturing, artwork and graphics, distribution, pay the lawyers, pay the managers, so on an so forth). So now they DO depend on the tours to make money. And the end result is the 600% rise in concert ticket prices that we have now. So the next time you go and pay $60 to $100 for your next concert ticket, ask yourself, did I really save money by stealing all those illegal mp3 downloads? (BTW - that was a rhetorical statement - not aimed any anyone here specifically)

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 25, 2012, 10:17:42 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 25, 2012, 10:19:50 AM PDT
A TJ H F says:
Makes sense with the high ticket prices. And the record sales in the past, especially considering how big bands like Black Sabbath in the 70s even played what you would consider small venues nowadays.
But still, if you're some underground metal or punk band who goes outside of their country to play small club gigs for no more than 100 people each, it doesn't make sense to go through with it.

Posted on Jul 25, 2012, 10:53:07 AM PDT
D. Mok says:
> Makes sense with the high ticket prices.

The artists this thread is talking about are not the kinds who do command high ticket prices. A ticket or door charge of $8 to $15, usually. Even as far back as 1968, Led Zeppelin's first U.S. tour lost money, but it allowed the band to start doing money-making tours within a year.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 25, 2012, 11:07:14 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 25, 2012, 11:07:54 AM PDT
Also, get a percentage on alcohol sales.
SLF does.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 25, 2012, 3:12:15 PM PDT
S. Stalcup says:
Yeah, but SLF getting a profit of the alcohol, are they REALLY making any money or is it just cycling through? Let's remember Jake coming out to sing "Suspect Device" with Naked Raygun at RIOT Fest with the pint in his hand.

Taking the mickey I am, of course. Sure hope I cross paths with Jake before I leave Chicagoland. Time's running out.

Posted on Nov 2, 2012, 6:35:29 PM PDT
Many a British and European artist/band cannot afford to tour in the USA today due to costs and expenses involved and without their record company's backing or corporate sponsorship it is not possible to cover costs. The machine has gotten bigger today and it keeps many musicians away from your town. Artists DO want to tour and play live music for you but they cannot afford to pay for it on their own.

Posted on Nov 2, 2012, 7:58:16 PM PDT
Someone should ask Meade Skelton, aka, E.P. Haufe, about this. He's our resident expert.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 2, 2012, 8:44:41 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 2, 2012, 8:45:14 PM PDT
onsenkuma says:

'...touring then was about promoting an album, and was pretty much mandatory as far as the record companies were concerned'.

...not to mention that heavy touring is all too often also required to pay off signing and other cash advances, out of which come the recording, production and other costs you mention. Unless the band is successful the arrangement is practically a form of indentured servitude.

Posted on Nov 2, 2012, 11:05:39 PM PDT
@Strat - "In the early days of rock (60's thru 80's) touring was never about making money"
sure it was, just not for the band

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 3, 2012, 6:03:40 AM PDT
Stratocaster says:
Keen Observer - LOL, so true. Sorry I neglected to point out that distinction.

Yeah, the managers, crew, promoters and arena owners all got their cut, for sure! The pocket change that was left over would be divied up between the band members.

In reply to an earlier post on May 11, 2013, 9:13:55 PM PDT
you drive a van
sleep in it

sell merch

nobody is making money touring except the BIG names like bieber and gaga and really old famous rock groups

In reply to an earlier post on May 11, 2013, 9:15:10 PM PDT
washpost had an article about a good group that toured internationally several times, had many cds produced yada yada

they quit because they could not make enough to raise a family

In reply to an earlier post on May 11, 2013, 9:17:10 PM PDT
you dont tour until you have a local following

then you expand in the nearby area
make it there with more fans
then go regional
finally national

and still many o fthose bands quit because they dont make enough to raise a family with

Posted on Sep 19, 2013, 5:43:53 PM PDT
Back in the 1980's a few folks were taking shots at The Rolling Stones and The Who for using corporate sponsers for their tours and I don't know about The Stones but Pete Townshend said that the 1982 'Farewell' tour of America by The Who was sponsered by a beer company and it payed for the plane. The band had toured many times before and came home in debt after a few months on the road so this one in 1982 gave them a few bucks when it was over.
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Discussion in:  Music forum
Participants:  18
Total posts:  25
Initial post:  Jul 24, 2012
Latest post:  Sep 19, 2013

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