How Much Money do Musicians Make From Touring?


This is a guest post from The Musician’s Guide

If you’re in a band, then touring isn’t always a way to make money. For new bands tours are often self-funded. It can be an expensive undertaking, with van rental, petrol, food and lodgings, not to mention beer money.

With gig attendance typically low at this point in a band’s career and venues either not paying bands at all, bands often have to make money with other avenues, such as merchandise or through selling music on iTunes. This of course is also typically self-funded.

Not to mention some venues adopting a “pay to play” scheme, in which bands are asked to buy tickets at a discounted price only to then attempt to sell them themselves and keeping any profits; or shouldering any losses.

However, if you’re successful and famous enough that a tour means increasingly bizarre riders and devoted groupies, then arguably you have more opportunity to make a solid income. With illegal downloading increasing the stranglehold on the music industry, bands are increasingly turning to touring to supplement their finances. If there’s enough demand for your music then it’s not unreasonable to fill the touring calendar with at least one show a day, each pulling in tens of thousands of dollars.

Even here, there is a hierarchy. If you’re in a band like the Red Hot Chili Peppers; successful and prolific, then you can tour a few venues in handpicked parts of the world and charge an average of $50 for a ticket.

When the Chili peppers played Hyde Park in 2004, the average attendance at the show was approximately 86,000, with the band selling close to a quarter of a million tickets over the three dates.

Whereas a much smaller, but no less prolific band, such as Against Me! can charge on average $16 for a ticket, still making a gross of $13,000 per show, but they would play more often to smaller venues.

Whilst even successful bands will carry their own overheads, including merchandise, crew and equipment, they are still taking a significant slice of this pie. When one considers that more people saw the band play in Hyde Park over three days, than bought their latest album, I’m With You, in the first week of its US release, and paid close to four times as much for the privilege, then the choice is obvious.

How much you take home will depend on the theatrics involved in your stage show. You wouldn’t have to pay too much for a simple banner on stage, but the likes of Rammstein with pyrotechnics and Muse with their electronic and strobe light shows will probably spend a little bit more of their profits.

This is not to mention the festival circuit where enormous and commercially successful bands such as Rage Against the Machine can demand anything for their appearance, with the BBC website suggesting that some of the summer festivals can put million pound price tags on the appearance of such bands in order to attract the crowds and go some way to justifying the close to £200 weekend ticket.

The amount you make as a touring band can be variable. Smaller bands, still working their way up the ladder will rely on the repeat business, playing smaller venues over a longer length of time, whereas the larger bands could probably live quite happily off five or six massive shows where everyone walks home holding a t-shirt and a tour poster.

Image Credit: foraxdoeixo


Discussion4 Comments

  1. Your not gonna make any money on you 1st tour, but it will lead to bigger and better things in the future!

  2. Thanks for the imput guys! Good to know that even newer bands these days can still make money touring. Im in a new band and I think we have a hooky catchy sound! Thats what it takes. I saw a few newer bands open for bigger artists over the summer and WOW, how these bands ever got these gigs is behond me! A couple down right sucked! What does it take to get your name and sound out there? I know the power of the internet is huge these days but anyone got any spesific advice or tips??

  3. Are You Kidding Me?

    Sounds like Marcus Taylor needs to take a couple hints from the DIY.

    Touring can not only be incredibly affordable, gigging and making cash from shows even as a small time relatively unknown band isn’t just possible, it’s probable.

    There is a scene that is vibrant and alive that sustains independently released artists from all walks of music. If you’re coming out in the red after a tour, you’re doing something wrong. Either your shows weren’t promoted (happens too often, unfortunately) or your music sucks. If people see a band they like, they rush to buy merch with whatever money they got. If you keep things affordable (Entry 5-15 bucks, T-shirts 10 bucks, LP’s/EP’s 5-10), there WILL be people to spend money.

    Illegal downloading just helps circulate your tunes, I don’t know a single independent artist that actually expects album sales to be their source of income. This is why we tour.

  4. People in music don’t really make any money which is why they ask the public to fund their music and pay for it. Mid-tier indie artists and known major label artists still don’t have houses and live via a charity based system. Labels do prioritise to stay alive, so indie and major acts that are touring constantly can live that lifestyle but they don’t pay the mortgage when they get home. Known artists who have been going on for sometime since 90’s have managed to survive if they haven’t sold in the millions with previous successful touring behind them. Even still, those known artists who sit beneath the ‘very famous’ category realise there is no money as a recording artist today and live performance profits are a big ‘if’. It’s not living a dream for most people then again neither working a normal job for most isn’t. Most people live in a dream.

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