Why touring Australia is expensive for new bands

The first day I joined my band back in late 2006, the band I am still in today Bronson, all I wanted to do was go on tour. You know press that magic ‘make tour happen’ button and bang off you go on this smooth sailing trip around Australia, with hundreds of people flocking to your shows because you are f%$king awesome. Only if I could insert a record scratch there, it would make perfect sense. But yes aspirations and dreams are a great thing to have, but there is also a bleak reality that touring Australia is expensive for new bands.

Take a look at a map of Australia, it’s pretty big right? Each major population hub is approximately 1,000 km’s apart from each other (This is of course not including major regional centres). Unlike the USA and Europe where the next million populous is literally the equivalent of driving from Pakenham to the Tullamarine Airport. This is the point where you feel sorry for yourself, cross your arms and screw your face up and scream ‘it’s not fair’. It is pretty shit luck being born in Australia as a musician, I’m not denying its an amazing country. It’s just shit if you are a musician or a refugee.

Doing a tour budget for a run of major city shows in Australia can be a fearful and intimidating task. Now if you have never done a budget before it’s ok, it really is not that hard. I’ve dealt with corporate business budgets in the 100’s of millions now that is crazy! Simply a budget is figuring out how much a particular ‘thing’ is going to cost. In this case it is a tour. There is two columns you need to work with. There is the costs involved and then there is the revenue.

Simply, the goal of a budget is to figure out how much something is going to cost your band, so you can be prepared for these costs as you get ready to go on this marvellous tour into the unknown. Costs include:

Van Hire vs Flights vs Trailer Hire (Already have car with tow bar) – They all have their pros and cons
Estimated petrol cost (If driving)
Accommodation costs per night per member (Caravan parks and hostels all the way)
Gear hire if flying (try and borrow off other bands to reduce costs)
Food and drink (usually consists of mostly beige coloured foods and amber coloured liquid)
Production costs per show (dont skimp)
Advertising and PR costs (no point in touring if nobody knows)
Now the positive side, the revenue:

Ticket sales (Split of door or ticket sales for your band)
Merchandise sales (CD’s, t-shirts, hoodies, panties, etc)
Golly, there’s a lot of costs involved and not a lot of revenue if you’re a band expecting 50-100 people (thats generous for a band who hasn’t left its state yet) to your shows. Look I am not trying to be pessimistic, while you are young and have a bunch of expendable cash to invest (or blow) on your band, do it. The amount of times I hear people come back from tour and they say something like. It cost us a fortune, I am so broke now, but man, it was so worth it for the experience. Just be realistic about it all, don’t set your expectations to high and remember it is all an experience.

Here is a quick budget of a 4 date tour if you are from Melbourne. Van hire to Syd and Adelaide. Plane to Brisbane. Perth sorry you are just way to far.

Costs (guestimates):

Van Hire 3 Days x 2 – $360 x 2 – $720
Petrol – $350 x 2 – $750
Return flights to Brisbane – $200 x 5 – $1000 (be sure to have correct baggage allowance)
Accomodation – $30 a head (cheap) x 5 – $150 at 6 nights – $900
Gear Hire – Just borrow them to save
Food & Drnk – $30 a head x 5 – $150 – 9 days – $1200
Production – $150 per show x 4 – $600
Advertising & PR – $1000
Total Costs: $6170 or approx $1200 each – So that is your break even.

4 Shows with 80 payers paying you $3 a head – $960
20% of the people buy something worth $15 on average – $1080 – profit @ 50% – $540
Total Revenue: $1500
Estimated Investment: $4670

So as you can see, it’s pretty expensive when you write it all down and whilst these are all guestimates and you could try and be a lot more frugal with your money. But the toughest part is actually organising the shows, making sure it’s with other bands and a venue that will compliment your style. But the major reason I wrote this article was not to demonstrate the costs involved, it was to make you think a little and ask you a simple question? Is there any other way you can do it? The key to playing shows is obviously getting people to witness your shear awesomeness right? But have you ever thought of possibly investing into non traditional music industry methods to increase the awareness on your band?

The answer for most is, probably no. Think about that $6170 you could possibly be spending on this tour and the reach of audience you are getting. It costs you $6170 to reach 320 people, say 50% of these people took and interest in your band. So it costs you in reality $40 per new fan. But if you are smart about this fan acquisition and have collected some form of information to remain in contact, that $40 typically will then equate to a continued fan. But let’s be totally brutally honest here. There’s something wrong when it ‘costs you’ that amount to reach new fans. There are other ways you can do it. In my next article I will be discussing several digital methods and what it would typically cost you to initiate these tactics. So be sure to subscribe in that little section in the right hand column, which says ‘subscribe to newsletter’.

Feel free to share your thoughts below, I’d love to know what you think, thanks again.

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