Pomplamoose just finished a four week tour, hitting 23 cities around the US. They sold just under $100,000 in tickets – pretty good for a duo with no label support. They may not be the biggest name in the music industry, but Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn know what it takes to be independent musicians in today’s industry – a lot of dedication and constant hard work. They just don’t seem to know how to make money at it.
Jack Conte published their tour’s expenses and profits dollar-for-dollar to shine some light on exactly what goes into planning tours as an independent artist. You can check out the whole article here, but below is a quick run down of the expenses and income. I have to say that they did not optimize for profit, they seem to have optimized to have fun and make as big an impact as they could on their audience. This tour seems to be more of a long term audience and reputation builder as opposed to a tour that makes a profit. Check out an alternate view on touring as an independent band here from Nick Woods if you are interested in making some money on the road.
This is from Jack’s post:
Being in an indie band is running a never-ending, rewarding, scary, low-margin small business. In order to plan and execute our Fall tour, we had to prepare for months, slowly gathering risk and debt before selling a single ticket. We had to rent lights. And book hotel rooms. And rent a van. And assemble a crew. And buy road cases for our instruments. And rent a trailer. And all of that required an upfront investment from Nataly and me. We don’t have a label lending us “tour support.” We put those expenses right on our credit cards. $17,000 on one credit card and $7,000 on the other, to be more specific. And then we planned (or hoped) to make that back in ticket sales.
Where did all those expenses come from? I’m glad you asked:
$26,450 – Production expenses: equipment rental, lights, lighting board, van rental, trailer rental, road cases, backline.
$17,589 – Hotels, and food. Two people per room, 4 rooms per night. Best Western level hotels, nothing fancy. 28 nights for the tour, plus a week of rehearsals.
$11,816 – Gas, airfare, parking tolls.
$5445 – Insurance.
$48,094 – Salaries and per diems.
$21,945 – Manufacturing merchandise, publicity (a radio ad in SF, Facebook ads, venue specific advertising), supplies, shipping.
$16,463 – Commissions. Our awesome booking agency, High Road Touring, takes a commission for booking the tour. They deserve every penny and more: booking a four week tour is a huge job. Our business management takes a commission as well to do payroll, keep our finances in order, and produce the awesome report that lead to this analysis. Our lawyer, Kia Kamran, declined his commission because he knew how much the tour was costing us.
$97,519 – Our cut of ticket sales. Dear fans, you are awesome. 72% of our tour income.
$29,714 – Merch sales. Hats, t-shirts, CDs, posters. 22% of our tour income.
$8750 – Sponsorship from Lenovo. Thank goodness for Lenovo! They gave us three laptops (to run our light show) and a nice chunk of cash. We thanked them on stage for saving our asses and supporting indie music. Some people think of brand deals as “selling out.” My guess is that most of those people are hobby musicians, not making a living from their music, or they’re rich and famous musicians who don’t need the income. If you’re making a living as an indie band, a tour sponsor is a shining beacon of financial light at the end of a dark tunnel of certain bankruptcy.
Add it up, and that’s $135,983 in total income for our tour. And we had $147,802 in expenses. We lost $11,819.
The point of publishing all the scary stats is not to dissuade people from being professional musicians. It’s simply an attempt to shine light on a new paradigm for professional artistry.
We’re entering a new era in history: the space between “starving artist” and “rich and famous” is beginning to collapse. YouTube has signed up over a million partners (people who agree to run ads over their videos to make money from their content). The “creative class” is no longer emerging: it’s here, now.
We, the creative class, are finding ways to make a living making music, drawing webcomics, writing articles, coding games, recording podcasts. Most people don’t know our names or faces. We are not on magazine covers at the grocery store. We are not rich, and we are not famous.
We are the mom and pop corner store version of “the dream.” If Lady Gaga is McDonald’s, we’re Betty’s Diner. And we’re open 24/7.
We have not “made it.” We’re making it.