Touring Fees

NerfLad

Silver Member
So last night I saw a discussion on facebook between a local promoter and a friend of his. A band coming through wanted $875 for a show. He said this was highway robbery. Now, he didn't name the band specifically, but apparently they are signed with a record label and have management/agents, etc, and the way he made it sound, they're at a sort of low-level "national" status. Considering that, that fee doesn't seem unreasonable.

I am only aware of two current "big" bands' rates (not sure if I should mention names, so I won't), but their fees for 2013 are $40,000 and $70,000 per show. Maybe Bermuda or somebody else who's toured at that level can chip in as to what a relatively normal fee is; given the above information I was surprised to see a promoter complaining about $875.


-Eric
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
As with most things 'music', there are no rules. It's always a case of whatever the market will bear, and what the different parties can agree upon.

I don't know what kind of band can afford to tour for $875 a show, but that's really not a lot of money, depending on the venue, and the band's draw of course. And being signed doesn't mean much, it's a given that little or no support comes from the label, regardless of their size. But a low-level national act (club tour) should be able to get more than $875. Thirty years ago when we played clubs & colleges, we made a lot more than that (and with no label support.)

But, it's the promoter's job to cry highway robbery. It's all part of the game.

Bermuda
 

Jeremy Bender

Platinum Member
Sheesh, I'd hate to hear what he'd have to say about booking a big-band for a wedding!
$875.00...they couldn't cover fuel, lodging and meals for the trip if that was the only gig during the week.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Tons of touring indie label bands are out there making less than that.
Ouch!

Let's say a band gets $700 a night, and plays 6 nights a week. That means a gross of $4200. Obviously there's no crew, and an average band is 4 persons, so these are just their expenses.

Assuming they're not complete cavemen, they'll need hotels, and sharing rooms isn't uncommon. If an average hotel room is $50, and they double-up in two rooms, with tax that's $120 per day ($840/wk.)

If they're using their own van, they save money on a rental, but there's still fuel. If they travel 250 miles between gigs, and the vehicle gets 20/mpg (loaded with people and gear)and gas is $4/gal, that's $50 per day ($350/wk.)

Even if they get a pizza at the gig, they have to eat 2 meals a day, 3 on the 7th day, so that's a minimum of 15 meals, multiplied by 4 people. If they eat REALLY cheap, let's say that sit-down meals and fast food average out to $10 (meal, drink, tax & tip,) that's at least $600/wk.

There should be a fund for wear & tear on strings, sticks, heads, cables, let's say that's $150/wk.

And assuming there are no other expenses such as vehicle repairs, parking, etc. that leaves $94 per person per gig. And then they'd better put 20% of that aside for taxes!

Is that what some of these bands are touring for??!!

I repeat... OUCH!

Granted, bands sell merch, but that costs money to make, they have to pay someone to sell, and then the venue & promoter normally take a cut of the sales. A band selling a $20 shirt probably nets only $6 or 7. Not too bad if they're selling 100 shirts a night... but at the club level, probably not. :(

Bermuda
 

Dirtcity

Member
In the indie world, from bands that I know, it seems like $300 a show is on the higher end. These bands have day jobs that they go back to at the end of tour though. Being in a punk or a metal band isn't normally a great way to make a living.

We tour because we love it. Now, personally, I would love to make my living as a touring musician, but it's not in the cards at the moment.

I've never been on an extended tour, but whenever I go out on the road, if we can get gas money for the next town we're stoked. We sleep on couches, we eat as many peanut butter sandwiches as we can handle to avoid spending money on food. Maybe some day... ha.
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
A friend of mine who out touring the indie circuit wrote on his Facebook wall about walking 3 miles in the eastern cold to buy cheap generic sticks from the local GC because he can't afford anything else. The gig shots he posts are of 500-1500 seat venues and they are the headliners. It's kind of outside the code to ask what he's making but I suspect it's less a night that he got when we did corporate gigs together. And this guy has got folks posting youtubes covering songs he's released. Rough life.
 

NerfLad

Silver Member
Thanks for the interesting responses so far. I'm reminded of what Zoro writes in 'The Big Gig'.... "In this business, you don't get what you deserve; you get what you negotiate." That's an excellent book, by the way!
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
In the indie world, from bands that I know, it seems like $300 a show is on the higher end.
I can't even conceive of being on the road making that kind of money and covering expenses, let alone coming home with any cash at the end. I love performing as much as anyone, but what's the point of touring and breaking even (if you're lucky!)

Bermuda
 

HoM3R

Member
I can't even conceive of being on the road making that kind of money and covering expenses, let alone coming home with any cash at the end. I love performing as much as anyone, but what's the point of touring and breaking even (if you're lucky!)

Bermuda
I'd say living the dream.

With the internet I think more youngsters would like/try/are able to go for it and are willing to do it, breaking even or maybe even pay for playing/touring with a band.

I would be happy to tour for a solid month barely breaking even just to have the experience.
Would almost say that last generations roadies are able to start their own bands in this day and age.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Touring at even the lowest possible level is a different fee base to gigs traveled to from your hometown. Accommodation is the killer, followed shortly by travel & subsistence expenses. In the UK, a pub gig pays an average of £200, so you're not going to cut it at that level. You can go out for a lot more than that, but only on the basis of bringing in a good size audience, & preferably one that spends big. Club gigs pay more, but here's the rub. If your band is good, but otherwise less recognised than a local band, you won't get the gig. Local bands bring their own punters, touring bands don't. A degree of following is needed to get those fees up. As always, it's about the numbers.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I'd say living the dream.
I guess it depends on what one's particular dreams are. If it's just to play, no matter what, then I guess a free tour is attractive. I'm hardly a mercenary, but my playing has value, my time is worth something, and I have to eat. Well, perhaps on a free tour at least l'd get to eat!

With the internet I think more youngsters would like/try/are able to go for it and are willing to do it, breaking even or maybe even pay for playing/touring with a band.
I wonder if the devaluation of music caused by file-sharing and YouTube song videos has created a similar mindset for younger players... that music is just intangible audio, and possesses no real value other than to possibly promote live shows, which ironically take on the same loss of value in the eyes of the musicians, who cheerfully accept less for their work.

I don't think most players can demand more and expect to get it, but settling for less is a bad trend. It's the 'race to zero' that so many other industries have been experiencing in the last few decades.

Why beat myself up on tour? I can just stay at home and be at zero! Then I win the race, right?? :)

Bermuda
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
It could be worse.

Some bands actually will buy in on a tour, or take a tour for no pay, just for the opportunity to open for someone big.

Otherwise it's supply and demand. The supply of musicians who want to make a living is large, while the demand for live music keeps going down. it doesn't matter if you have a label, or what, if you don't have a name for yourself and your own promotion machine, booking agents have little incentive to lay out a guarantee. Someone else will often be willing to do the job for less.
 

Bull

Gold Member
There is no radio support for most of these bands. The only way to build a following is to tour.The hope is that every year the crowd grows, along with the $ .It's no different than any small business. The business owner is the last to be paid. It can take years to get a business of the ground.
 

NerfLad

Silver Member
There is no radio support for most of these bands. The only way to build a following is to tour.The hope is that every year the crowd grows, along with the $ .It's no different than any small business. The business owner is the last to be paid. It can take years to get a business of the ground.
The two bands I mentioned that are charging $40000 and $70000 aren't on the radio. One of them has had a few hits (and they charge the lower amount!) and the other never has been as far I know. The internet is where the marketing and "exposure" (though I absolutely hate that word) happen. The concept of getting "exposure" from playing a show is BS promoters spew at musicians to try to get them to play for less money. You build a following on the internet, you please and entertain the following you already have on the stage.

The thing you're missing is that most of these bands/businesses/business owners have absolutely awful business sense. If they didn't have other income streams (a day job), their "businesses" (their bands) would never get past the preliminary stages of existence; their awful decisions (like the decision to work for free) would ensure that.


It's a combination of widespread economic illiteracy (which promoters take full advantage of), the emotional baggage/pressure/shame of "doing it for the love" or "not selling out", and a resultant societal devaluation of the work of musicians. Which is why....
Money these days is pathetic. Bar gigs paid more in the 1980s than they do now.



If you treat an activity like a hobby, it will cost you; if you treat it like a business, it will pay you.

-Eric
 

tamadrm

Platinum Member
I'd say living the dream.

With the internet I think more youngsters would like/try/are able to go for it and are willing to do it, breaking even or maybe even pay for playing/touring with a band.

I would be happy to tour for a solid month barely breaking even just to have the experience.
Would almost say that last generations roadies are able to start their own bands in this day and age.
Sorry,but that kind of thing is another component of why promoters and venue owners feel bands should play for free or very little money.Too many younger players are too willing to play these show for free or next to nothing,which kills it for the bands who are starting out,and just about everybody else.

I got my experience playing for free,playing parties when I was 14.My first paying gig was when I was 16,playing a school dance.From that time on,except for the occasional charity fund raiser,when I played with a band,I got paid.The very thought of not making money,and playing for free was a joke.

In my early 20's my band toured the college circuit up and down the east coast,from Mass. to Florida,and when we finished the tour,we all came home with money in our pockets after expences.

I just read an article about Beyonce being contacted by some festival promoters to play in the UK.These promoters were VERY happy to be able to book her.Her agents sat down with these promoters and the meeting lasted 10 minutes.Her fee was 50,000 euro,which for a star of her caliber,and drawing ability is VERY reasonable.

The promoters were thinking somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-10 K,which for that caliber of entertainer, is an insult.That dosen't even begin to cover overhead.

As long as bands keep bending to the will of these thieves ,the'll keep low balling musicians,and pocketing the REAL money,of which there is plenty to be made.Between T-shirts,novelties,food and beverage sales,these guys are killing it.

Peter Grant (Zeps Manager) had it right.If you want Led Zepplin to play,here's our fee,and we get a percentage of all t shirt sales and on occasion a percentage of ticket sales.They were also paid in cash most of the time.This was non negotiable.Lots of other bands followed suit,and everybody made a nice living.

My drums don't come out of the basement unless it's a favor for a friend,charity......or I get paid.We don't play too often,but that's by choice...not design.

Steve B
 

Anduin

Pioneer Member
I just read an article about Beyonce being contacted by some festival promoters to play in the UK.These promoters were VERY happy to be able to book her.Her agents sat down with these promoters and the meeting lasted 10 minutes.Her fee was 50,000 euro,which for a star of her caliber,and drawing ability is VERY reasonable.
I don’t quite follow your story here. Are you saying that the promoters coughed up the 50 000, or did Beyonce’s agents laugh and walk away?
 

Chunkaway

Silver Member
So I have never been anywhere near the level of Bermuda, but I think my experience can help shed some light on touring for a small amount of money, from the band's perspective.

A couple of years ago I played in an alt.country/rock/folk band that did very well in the Pacific Northwest. We played nearly every large venue in the area, did several radio shows, promoted the hell out of our album, etc.. We got some radio play in the area, which was very cool. Several music publications (both online and hard copy editions) gave us terrific reviews. We had clubs/bookers calling us for shows from all over the states as well as Europe, etc..

We talked to a couple of well known bands/musicians and they all encouraged us to really try to promote the band/music and see what could happen. We hired a p.r. firm, started working with a manager, etc... One of our songs was picked up in about 20-25 stations across the U.S. and a couple of stations in Europe. (Now when I say picked up, I'm not talking heavy rotation, I mean they would play the song every once in a while.) A couple of stations picked up two or three of our songs, which was really cool.

We were told that we should, "Strike while the iron is hot!" and go on a national tour -small scale obviously. Now, we had NO label support, so we had to pay for everything ourselves. We knew this tour would not make any money at all BUT we thought this might be an opportunity to help break the band/song into bigger markets, so we decided to go for it.

We played a couple of very high profile shows in the area to build up our coffers (we had a fair amount already from merch sales) and then booked the tour. The idea was that the band would pay everyone a VERY small amount per week and would pay for our travel, room (sharing hotel rooms of course), and one meal a day. I'm not going to lie, it was going to be VERY tight. Most of the clubs on the tour would not guarantee us more than a couple of hundred dollars- TOPS!

Without a label supporting us, it was going to be a subsistence living at best, until (or if) the album/band/song broke loose. As a SEVEN piece band, we just could not expect to make any money. Our idea was to give it a shot and if the band/song/album didn't break, we at least knew that we gave it a shot.

Long story short, our bassist (and my best friend) suddenly quit the band and two weeks later committed suicide. That basically sent us reeling and we never fully recovered. We were done as a band within three or four months. (We broke up about a week before leaving to go on the tour.)

So having said all that, I can see how a young band would be willing to endure barely making any money at all. I remember reading how the Counting Crows made $300 a week on their first big tour opening for the Cardigans. Of course that was in 1993 or something, but that wasn't a lot of money back then!

By the way, everyone in the band was in their 30s, which made this kind of sacrifice even harder as we were a little more established in our lives than most people in bands in their early 20s.
 
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