Canadian Musician - May/June 2017 - Page 46

Vehicle/Trailer Rentals: Renting a vehicle for long trips is insanely expensive. A three- week trip in a minivan on Expedia was costing at least $1,400. I’ve had friends pay upwards of $2,500 for a similar length. Listen, for the price of a few tours, you can buy yourself a nice pre-2008 Dodge Grand Caravan with under 150,000 kms on it. I’m not a car guy, but I’ve had a few of these vehicles and they are cheap, super reliable, and fit a lot of gear. “I think a lot of bands make the mis- take of bringing too much gear or invest- ing in a giant van right away,” Wood says. “I think it was really beneficial for us to do a couple of barebones but profitable tours first, before adding anything like that.” Renting a trailer is not very expen- sive, but it is a pain. Hauling a trailer through the mountains is terrible on your gas. You can’t park it anywhere. They’re easily stolen/broken into. Tour in the smallest thing you possibly can and try to avoid renting a trailer. Food: We all know food is expensive. That’s why most of us don’t eat out every night! When you go on tour, you’ll end up eating out almost every meal. With a four- or five- piece band, this adds up quickly. First off, always ask for meals from the venue. If they serve food, it’s really the least they can do. Try going to the grocery store ev- ery once in a while. A little fruit will not ruin your punk image. The grocery store often has cheap baking, bulk drinks, and produce. Bring a little cooler with you to stock up on these snacks. If anyone is kind enough to give you a rider, raid it. Take the extra food – they bought it for you! WHERE TO SPEND YOUR MONEY Everyone’s threshold for doing uncom- fortable things to save money is different. I’ve slept in some pretty uncomfortable situations – dorm rooms, really dirty houses, etc. We’ve agreed to avoid these situations whenever possible. “This is actually your life and you have to find ways to enjoy it.” Wood advis- es. “If you’re touring half of the year, you need to find ways to feel like you’re living a valuable life. We all learned how to do Rubik’s Cubes on our last tour.” If we sense that our sleep is going 46 • C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N to be terrible, we’ll often take the option and buy a cheap hotel. It’s usually worth it. “Yeah, we’ve been in a situation where you sleep on the floor in Victoria and get three hours of sleep, and then go to play a 300-person show in Vancouver the next PIPE & HAT ’S TIM JON day,” shares Wood. ES “That just makes the whole experience worse.” We try to be frugal with food; however, eating cheaply often means eating poorly, especially on the road. Lately, we’ve been spending a little more (around $15/person) on a big, delicious lunch/brunch everyday, and then avoid eating until we get to the venue. Often, this means we’re only buying one meal per day, and it means our one meal gets to be more delicious and healthy. Finally, never skimp on van main- tenance. I own the van we use, and the peace of mind is worth every penny. Your van will also last longer and you’ll end up saving money over time. THE DIFFERENCE A SHIRT CAN MAKE Everybody knows that selling merch is important. Where many artists fail is keeping track of that merch and under- standing how to properly manage their merch sales. At music conferences, you’ll often hear people tell you to “run your band like a small business.” Another tired cliché, but truly, when you are selling merch, you’re basically setting up a small retail business. Keeping careful track of your merch has many benefits. You need to keep inventory for taxes, track album sales for grant reporting, and track merch sales so that you stay on top of it. “If the band isn’t tracking merch, they’re not making money,” Jones says bluntly. “If you’re making money, you want to know how much and how to split it up. If you’re keeping track of mer- ch on a long tour, then you can plan for running out of merch. Maybe set up a drop shipment to wherever they’re going to be.” Ordering merch is always tough. You have to put out a bunch of money and you never really know if anyone will buy it. Keeping track of merch will allow you to refine your ordering strategy. “It’s sort of trial and error, figuring out what your audience likes and doesn’t like,” Jones offers. “If you’re keeping track, you can do short supply runs and find out what you need to buy… right down to specific sizes.” Like budgeting, keeping track of mer- ch doesn’t take much – just a little bit of extra thought. Keep a little binder and fill out a separate merch report for every gig. Keep track of everything – models, colours, and sizes. You’ll be glad you did and can learn to be more efficient and effective with your ordering based on that. Keeping on Top of Finances Will Make This More Fun Honestly, doing all of this can be fun. Usu- ally, it falls on one member to keep most of it organized – someone with a head for numbers. Running your band like this makes it into more of a job, which can be rewarding and even enjoyable (believe it or not). It’s exciting to realize that you’re steadily mak- ing more money on a tour and exciting to finally pay yourself something. It’s also just more fun to tour when things are well organized and thought out. If you’re not worrying about the small stuff, you get to focus on the big stuff – playing a great show and making good connec- tions and new friends. Liam Duncan is musician and writer based in Winnipeg, MB. He likes to make music with his band The Middle Coast. Check them out on Facebook.