This article is an extension of this one: How This Indie Musician Is Promoting An EP With No Budget.
There was so much to say about the experience of touring this information deserved it’s own place. Below I will break down how we fund our tours as well as a summary of what happened each night in terms of connections, merch sales and whether or not we were paid for each show.
Funding tours (with no budget)
At the indie, DIY level of touring, it’s all about tapping into all your contacts and resources to make things happen. Here’s a breakdown of how we work the financials when we go on the road; or at least for this specific trip.
Once the shows have been booked,
- we calculate how many miles will be traveled,
- we check gas prices across areas we will travel and use the highest price per gallon as the reference point to calculate how much will be spent on fuel,
- when we can find friends’ houses to sleep at, we take advantage; when not available, we stick to cheap motels, round up the price of the room per night, then determine an over-estimated figure for our lodging costs.
The Time for Revolution Tour saw us splitting costs 3 ways between Mr. P Chill, Whorrifick and myself at $123.00/each.
$123 X 3 = $369 for total cost of gas and lodging.
This $369 was put into “the till”.
The ledger and funds are kept in a safe place but always accessible by everyone on the tour to make sure everything is above the table.
- When we are paid for shows or we receive donations from those in attendance, this money goes into the till.
- All money in the till is used for gas, rooms, and any unexpected issues such as flat tires, etc that might occur while traveling.
- If there is money left over after the trip, it is split evenly so we all lose or gain equally.
- We are responsible for our own food and drinks during the trip.
- We keep 100% of money from our merch sales.
The Time For Revolution Tour was one of those very smooth and fortunate weeks where we returned home with money to split.
After contributing $123/each before hitting the road, we received $70/each from the till when we returned.
Mr. P Chill and Whorrifick did better at merch sales than I but they also had more options. The big lesson I learned this trip was the importance of T-shirts and clothing items at merch tables.
People love to buy shirts!
Now for a summary of each night from the tour and their importance to the marketing, branding and awareness of my music.
Time for Revolution Tour
Performing live, in my experiences and personal opinion, is THE prime time means of connecting your music with other people in a way that has a long lasting impact on, not only them, but also you.
The real key to connecting your music with people is more about giving people the opportunity to connect with YOU.
Your music is a part of it but what people really connect with in a face-to-face encounter is…YOU, yourself, your aura, your energy, your personality.
When someone connects with you, they will connect with your music by default. As a bonus, when people connect with each other they want to help and support each other.
There have been many times over the years where months of promoting music and merchandise on social media go by with very minimal or even zero sales.
On the flip side, I have watched indie musicians do 1 show and nearly sell out of merchandise to a room with as a little as 20-30 people. Imagine what could happen if you were consistently in front of hundreds or thousands of people…
To help promote the release of Purgatory, I joined Mr. P Chill and Whorrifick for the Time For Revolution Tour celebrating the release of P Chill’s new album The Beautiful Revolution.
Night 1 – Sacramento, CA
Before we left for tour we were able to conveniently plan Mr. P Chill’s album release party in Sacramento the night before we left for Oregon.
Considering I have rocked many shows in Sacramento with P Chill, this is a crowd who is familiar with my music. I did not sell any merchandise this night but I reconnected with all my Sactown family and KILLED my set which felt really great!
Doing shows locally is important but unless you are putting yourself in front of new crowds, as opposed to pulling in the same people every time, you’re not going to do much for expanding your brand or selling more music and merch.
This is where touring comes in!
Night 2 – Salem, Oregon
I LOVE interviews! Anytime a blog or podcast, and especially radio stations, request one I am all for it!
Depending on the blog or podcast, the audience you reach could be tiny or it could be huge; however, FM/community radio comes with a built-in, and typically bigger, audience.
Our first night on tour included an interview during the Sunday Night Rap Up show on KMUZ FM in Salem, Oregon hosted by our good friend Orlando aka DJ O.
We were active on social media from the moment we showed up until we started answering questions and the station was taking calls so this created an environment of fast-paced connection between us and all of our social media followers who were excited and happy to see us on the radio in another City, State.
The station uploaded the replay of our interview to their Soundcloud so now we have long-lasting content we can share and re-purpose for our blogs and social media.
Night 3 – Olympia, WA
There’s always that one night on tour when you watch the acts before you rock a very intense and energetic crowd only to have that crowd leave or go outside to smoke, etc during your set.
And that’s exactly what happened in Olympia but these nights are not losses.
We still sold merchandise and we made a long lasting contact that can book us in Olympia in the future; not to mention the other awesome people we met and are now connected with via social media.
This was the first time in Olympia for all 3 of us and my first time in Washington State…ever, so getting a foot in the door is always the most important first step.
Remember how I mentioned loving interviews and radio? Well, one of the people in attendance in Olympia hosts a radio show..focused on Hip Hop.
After the show she took the time, in the freezing temperatures, to grab radio drops from us as well as a full-length interview with Mr. P Chill which will be airing during her show in the near future.
It never matters HOW MANY are in the crowd. It only matters WHO is there.
Night 4 – Spokane, WA
This was my first time in Spokane and I fell in love with the city and the people that were hanging out at the venue that night.
We performed in the big and beautiful Red Room Lounge located downtown. This is by far one of the nicest stages with the nicest sound systems I have yet to rock in all the cities I have performed.
The room is big enough for hundreds of people so the small crowd that was in attendance that night seemed even smaller than it really was but the energy was on point!
This was one of those rare nights where we actually received payment before setting foot on stage. To make things even better, the owner found us after our set, praised us for what we were doing, then handed us more money toward the end of the night.
On top of the great friends we made and the merchandise that was sold, this night was another that proved once again it’s never about how many are in the room, it’s all about who is in the room.
Night 5 – Salem, Oregon
We headed back to Salem, Oregon for a show at The Triangle Bar followed by, what we thought was going to be, an off day.
If Mr. P Chill has a city outside of Sacramento he can call home, Salem is it. This was my 4th time performing in Salem and it’s always a great time.
This night we reconnected with old friends, made a few new ones, and sold merchandise.
At the end of the night, the hosting DJ walked up to us and asked if we could show up at a venue downtown the next night for a surprise set. So much for that off day…
Night 6 – Salem, Oregon
We hate off days on the road so when DJ Gitdown asked us to come downtown for a surprise set at The Night Deposit we were ecstatic to get in front of another crowd.
The three of us only performed one song each, but often in business you hear about the 15 second elevator pitch, and this was our chance to do just that in front of a packed venue of people drinking, eating and playing pool.
We left all our merch in the car and carried as many CDs as we could fit in our pockets inside. With that said, we moved a few units but the real rewarding aspect of this night were the few people who connected with us after our performance.
For instance, there was a couple of ladies tearing up the dance floor. These two beautiful souls were in their 60s or 70s. In a building packed full of millenials and 30-somethings, these two had everyone’s attention the entire night.
However, after I performed my one song I was approached by one of them who embraced me, told me to never stop what I was doing, and then she proceeded to explain how she is Tennessee Cherokee and as soon as she heard them announce I was from Tennessee she immediately began paying attention.
I gave her and her friend CDs and thanked them whole-heartedly for being there and connecting with me.
There was another dude who came running up on stage as soon as I ended my set to tell me how bad ass my performance was…
It’s moments like these that refuel your spirit and help you stay positive and focused when things aren’t going so smooth and lovely.
The main lesson I learned from this night was that it only takes 1 song and less than 3 minutes to impact someone for a lifetime. I already knew this but sometimes you need reminders.
Night 7 – Arcata, CA
Although we performed in a small bodega for less than 30 people on this night, it was by far the best night we had on the entire tour.
Because a few of the people who were there really..I mean really…connected with us and our music. So much so we received $100 donation from one of them and another beautiful young lady insisted on spending $60 in merch on each of us “because it was only fair”; this young lady also refused to accept art for free.
This doesn’t include other merch that was sold. I also haven’t mentioned that someone who owns a bar in Humboldt County approached us about coming back to do shows at their venue.
The energy in the room this night was amazing and one of those nights I will never forget. Thanks to Mr. P Chill I have a video clip from my set. You can check it out below.
Seven days, seven shows, unforgettable memories, new connections forged, old connections reignited, and, the most important thing for me is, the momentum.
Having not toured since 2014, I had forgotten how much fire and momentum touring can bring to your creativity as well as the content you are able to create for blogs and social media sharing.
After taking into considering the amount of money spent on eating for 7 days, I did not come out on top financially for this trip. Despite having money to split when we returned, I did not sell enough in merch to make up for all the meals I bought.
However, I never look at finances when considering whether or not a tour is a success or whether or not my music career is moving in the right direction.
The other thing we need to consider is the pipeline money generated from touring.
Because I have my publishing in order, I will receive money from BMI a few quarters from now for all the shows I have reported during this quarter.
Any royalties generated from receiving spins on KMUZ FM or Zulu Radio 91.3 FM will also not show up in my statements for several months.
It’s also worth considering the momentum that came from documenting our tour on social media, mostly through Instagram and Instagram Stories. My impressions/views/etc (on IG) for the week of our tour were significantly higher than any other time I have been active on Instagram.
As I tagged locations and hashtags related to the venues and cities we were traveling through, I noticed engagement from accounts (businesses and individuals) in those areas. (Shout out to Bentley’s Coffee in Salem and The Buzz in Spokane!).
I think I have made it clear the impact of touring on more than just finances but my goal in sharing this information is to empower more of you to let go of your fears and to just do.
Be sure to check out the original article that this one is an extension of: How This Indie Musician Is Promoting An EP With No Budget.
The Power of the Tour Badge
At our level, tour badges mean absolutely nothing to the promoters, venues, and other artists…so why wear them?
…because 95% of your time on tour is spent traveling from one place to another which means you spend a lot of time in gas stations, restaurants, rest areas, and running into people outside of the venue where you perform each night.
Every tour I have been on so far, the tour badge has been the key to maximizing your chances of marketing yourself to others. People notice the tour badges, they get curious, they ask questions…
With that in consideration, the tour badge is a conversation piece.
For instance, we’re in the middle of the Redwoods far away from any type of urban sprawl and we stop at a lonely gas station to get snacks and take a leak.
We’re checking out… Mr. P Chill and Whorrifick had already gone outside and I was paying for a water.
Cashier: So…where are you guys from?
Me: They are from Sacramento but I’m actually from Tennessee.
Cashier: *surprise on her face* Tennessee?! What part?!
Me: Nashville area…
Cashier: I’m from Chattanooga!!
Me: Really?! I’m actually from Manchester…
Cashier: I Know where that is!!! So I’m actually from Cleveland, it’s a suburb outside of Chatt.
Me: I know Cleveland. I worked on house there once doing plumbing and tile floors.
Cashier: Really?! Do you know Ootewah?
Me: Yes I do!! What a small world!
The store not being very busy, the lovely cashier comes outside to chat with us. We talked about music, touring and she even took photos with us. She also told us that the owner of the store used to be a touring musician and went on to tell us about all the bands that pass through. We gave her CDs..enough for her and the owner..then went on our way.
This was not an isolated incident. These moments happen consistently all because of a little laminated piece of paper around our necks we call the tour badge. It emanates a perception of importance and says to people that we aren’t just traveling through…we’re on a mission!
A lot of CDs and stickers were left with individuals we encountered in gas stations and restaurants during our travels.
Now I just hope they all look up our websites and connect with us on social media or add our music to their playlists!