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Handling the Financial Side of Being in a Band

Being in a band requires a lot of planning, particularly the budget. In fact, it’s one of the biggest reasons bands break up. Be prepared to have financial struggles at least for a year or two, if you are lucky. 

But don’t let this intimidate you! Planning a few steps ahead, and following some fundamental rules of the music business, will hopefully make your band bigger (and more profitable) with every new release. 

Nowadays, most of one band’s revenue comes from touring, and that should be your number one task from day one, besides making good music. Get in the van and travel to every venue that has electricity. 

Don’t expect fancy hotels, thousands of dollars and hundreds of tickets sold every night. We are not in that century anymore. Breaking even at the end of every tour and not getting loans is more than a good result for a new band. 

Read on to find out how you can make the best of the financial situation inside a band.

Tours! Tours! Tours!

We can’t stress this enough, but tours are the number one goal you need to focus on in this day and age. You need to have good songs, of course, but don’t expect people to listen to them if your only plan is to upload your album to the streaming services. 

There are millions of new songs every day, and beating the algorithm of YouTube or any other streaming platform to put your songs up as recommended is a Sisyphean task. 

Plan the tours throughout the year, especially if you have a new album coming up. Play as much as possible, wherever possible, and be patient. At some concerts on the tour, you’ll play in front of a full club, and the very next day, your only crowd will be the people working there. 

Don’t let the fact that you sold five tickets discourage you! If you play an awesome show, those five people will spread the word out, and the next time you are in the city again, you’ll have a bigger audience. 

The financial side of the tour is always a hassle, especially for the first couple of times. It is fundamental to plan. Start booking the gigs at least six months earlier. That way, you have the time to prepare everything along the way. Usually, the clubs will give you a fixed fee or you’ll work on a door deal, depending on the politics of the place. 

Before your tour starts, make a list of what you need to pay along the way. We made you a list of the most common expenses on tour to help with this:

  • Gas money – Count how many miles you need to travel and how much gas your vehicle needs for the entire tour.
  • Food and beverages – Approximately count how much cash every member of the touring party has to spend on food and drinks. Try to save as much money on this! You don’t need to eat at restaurants and drink whiskey every day. Also, your hosts may be kind enough to include a few drinks and a meal for each band member. 
  • Accommodation – Depending on the deal you have with the club or the booking agent, you’ll need to book a place to sleep on your own in some cities. Find something small and cheap, and always carry a sleeping bag. Sleeping on the floor will save you a lot of money. 
  • Unexpected fees – Before you go, count everything that can go wrong during the tour. Things like medical fees or car repair cost a lot of money. You need to plan them even if they don’t occur. And hopefully, they won’t!

Always bring merch on the tour. You’ll see that it will bring you over 50 percent of the earnings at the end. 

People love to spend time and money on the merch table, especially after a good concert, and that is a good chance to spend some time and bond with your audience. Leaving a good impression will bring more and more people to the concert every subsequent time you play. 

Never be the guy who vanishes after the show. 

Pros and Cons of Having an Agent

When you look at the big bands and artists, one thing that they all have in common is an agent. Some agents book the tours, while others make your appointments, plan the press releases, talk to the labels, and all the other managerial business. 

But the question is: Do you need an agent?

Small indie bands usually handle all the tasks mentioned above on their own. Usually, one guy from the band takes the booking duties, the other does press or contact the labels, depending on how you divide the tasks within your band. 

There are a couple of benefits to doing it this way:

  • You cut out a sideman. If you keep everything inside the band, planning things like touring or recording is much easier. An agent would just send you the dates, and that’s that. 
  • Agents are strictly for profit. Of course, some agents like your music, especially in the independent scene. But, if you plan to step up into the major league, you need to be aware of this.

Here are a few reasons having an agent may be a good idea:

  • Agents have a wide web of contacts. They can get you to the places where your music will be heard. Booking agents have direct contacts for the bigger venues and festivals, and they can also get you on a tour with some bigger names they represent. 
  • Agents can take your music to the major labels.

As you can see, there are both pros and cons to having an agent. The path you choose will depend on your needs and drive to do managerial duties. The question is whether it’s necessary to hire an agent at this point when you can find every contact online? 

Of course, you’ll have much more time to focus on your music and leave all the rest to the agent, but spending some time searching for contacts will save you a lot of money that you could invest into the recording of the next album and promotion. 

Dividing the Money Inside the Band

Dividing the money inside the band was always the reason for many conflicts, especially if they aren’t any rules to follow from the start. 

It is necessary to set the rules from day one to prevent conflicts. 

Usually, bands where everyone has some duties and who work together on music share all the income equally. On the other hand, if you do everything by yourself and have a session musician to support you, it is necessary to establish their percentage of income right away. 

Follow the agreement if you don’t want to look for new musicians for every concert. 

Work Hard and It Will Pay Up, Eventually

Remember that breaking even after the first couple of tours and the first or second album is a good result. 

Follow the essential steps we established here, don’t skip them, and don’t expect the fame to come overnight. A lot of bands break up after the first tour because of financial struggles, or they don’t have the money to record an album. 

You need to work hard every day, and if you are persistent and keep improving your skills, it will all pay up, and you’ll end up with the most beautiful job in the world. 

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Hi, I'm Duncan, the owner, creator, and head writer for InciteMusic.com 
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