Musician’s guide to financing your tour

musicians tour bus

You’ve been playing gigs around your city, and people love what you do. You’ve got a substantial number of followers across social media, and there is a consistent interest in your work. You’re ready to take your show on the road, but how do you do it?

First things first

Where to play? Think about the kind of setup you need and choose your venues accordingly. You can use sites like Indie on the Move, SHOW4ME or Listening Room Network to get started. These sites offer access to venue lists with information about what features are available onsite. Try to book all of your venues a few months out from the date of the first show. 

Promotion for a tour can start before venues are booked by posting tour teasers on social media. Once you start booking dates, announce venues to get fans excited. After you have the full roster, release all dates on as many social media platforms as possible.

Use a tool like Hootsuite to help you manage and schedule social media posts. Also consider using a service like Mailchimp to build your email list and promote directly. And don’t forget the power of print materials like posters and handbills.

Consider your major expenses

Your music tour can be as low key or as extravagant as you choose. But even the most basic tour will need to cover the following expenses:

  • Promotion: People need to know about your shows. Good promotion leads to good turnout.
  • Travel expenses: You’ll need a vehicle that accommodates you and your band mates. You’ll also need to cover lodging and food on the road.
  • Merch: Having merchandise for sale such as t-shirts, posters and recordings is not only crucial for continued engagement with your fans, it is a way to set off costs on the road.
  • People: You and your band members should be getting a per diem to cover expenses on the tour. You also want to factor in the possible need for outside help, such as back-up musicians or light and sound people.
  • Insurance: Covering yourself on the road is important, so travel insurance should be a part of your budget. Also make sure you’ve insured your instruments and equipment against any possible accidents or theft.

Ways to pay

Taking care of the upfront costs of going on tour doesn’t have to be daunting. Here are a few ways you can do it.

Get smart about credit cards

A credit card can be a great tool to help pay for a music tour if you are taking advantage of rewards as well. When thinking about financing your tour with a credit card, try to choose one that offers useful kickbacks such as gas rewards, travel rewards or cash back. Choose a card that you can use exclusively for tour expenses, so that you can easily keep up with how much you spend.

Personal loans

If you have good credit, look for a personal loan with a low interest rate. Before applying, make sure you’ve created a budget for major tour expenses, and also account for possible mishaps. It’s also good to have a solid plan in mind for how you will repay the loan after the tour has ended.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a great option if you have a well-established fan base. Sites like GoFundMe and Kickstarter are popular places host a campaign that requests a specific sum of money.

If you are looking to have a more constant flow of donations, Patreon is another option to look into. Patreon works more like a subscription service where patrons agree to pay a set amount per month.

If these sites are used successfully, you can raise a good sum of money to pay for the initial costs of the tour and then use the monthly amount from patrons to cover expenses like food and gas.

Grants

If the music tour you are looking to fund has a particular community aspect or addresses a specific theme, you may be able to get grant funding for it. Grants have to be applied for well in anticipation of the tour and there is no guarantee that you will receive the funding you need. However, if you know far enough in advance what kind of project you want to take on the road, this is an option worth researching.

Other ways to offset costs

Once you’ve got your budget in place and know how you plan to finance your tour, here are a few things you can do to offset your costs.

Bunk with friends

If you’re a small operation, you may be able to offset your lodging costs by staying with friends or family. This works especially well if you know people living across the country.

Staying with friends and family could also potentially offset costs of meals. Be sure to invite whoever you’re staying with to the show and have them spread the word for you.

Sell merch

Having a variety of merch across a variety of price ranges is important. Stickers and buttons are incredibly popular these days and sites like Stickermule make it easy and affordable to customize them for your tour.

T-shirts are also great higher tier items to have available, and you have a lot of options for creating them. Check around your neighborhood for local printers that provide this service or go with a site like My Custom Band Merch.

Lastly, make sure your music is available for sale. While CD’s are the traditional route, also consider selling USB drives with compilations of your music and maybe a few surprises like music videos or tour posters.

Go digital

If you’ve looked at the cost of touring and it seems out of reach, consider going digital first. The site Stageit provides a platform for artists to give live concerts online. You can set your prices and decide where you want to play. As long as you and your fans have a good internet connection, anyone can enjoy your live music without ever leaving the house. Fans can also send you tips to help you earn money.

Bottom line

While going on tour requires an investment of time and money, it is one of the more lucrative ways for musicians to make a profit from their work. If you plan your tour well, it can offer you financial gain and a boost of exposure for your music.