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It's Just Business

It Seems Bands Don't Make Money Off Touring Either

Posted on July 23, 2010 Follow on Twitter | Follow on Instagram

You'll be livin' in a vaaaaan... (Photo by Justina Villaneuva)

Update 1/4/2016: This story was written in 2010. A more recent detailed breakdown of how much a band can expect to make can be found here.

Popular opinion states that a band's business model in the current economic and technological climate is 'give the music away for free, make money on tour'. But, with rising costs and other factors, it seems even that is a falsehood.

Over at our friends at MetalSucks, there has been a debate of sorts spurred by Intronaut's Sacha Dunable posting that corporate sponsors may be hurting touring bands. Trap Them vocalist Ryan McKenney wrote a pretty in-depth rebuttal stating that being sponsored was what kept them afloat, and never once did the sponsor try to compromise their beliefs or output. But, at the end of the week Shane Blay of

But, at the end of the week Shane Blay of Oh, Sleeper posting a very eye-opening accounting of just how little a mid-level touring band makes on the road, definitely worth a read:

Why Mid-Level Bands Cannot Make Money.

Tuesday at 20:35
Hey Everyone,

For the past 5 years my brothers in Oh, Sleeper and myself have sacrificed our lives, our time, relationships, birthdays, holidays, health(haha) to travel around and play shows for our fans. Not to say that isn’t been a fun ride!

I would just like to bring a few things to our fans attention:

I would like to show you guys an average day in finances for a “mid-level” band like us. Im going to breakdown the average monetary in and outs of a day on tour.

On tour bands have two ways to make money. Guaranties, and Merchandise.

On tour bands have big bills. The biggest are: Managers, Booking agent, Merch Rates, Merch bills, Food, and of course.. the Gas bill.

Our last headliner tour was an east coast run with 3 other bands. The average guaranty per band was 300$ per band, and around 300$ in merch. This was the average for all 4 bands, for the entire tour.

So we have a 600$ gross income per night. Now lets break this down.

Merchandise is bough, printed, and shipped on the bands dollar. We print most our shirts on American Apparel. They obviously offer the best fitting shirts, and kids are smart about looking good now days. They wont sell unless you have slim fitting, soft shirts. The demand for better quality shirts from bands is higher in last few years.

American Apparel shirts are very pricey to print. usually $7.50 a shirt. More for v-necks, 3/4 sleeve shirts, etc.

We sell our shirts for 15$ at our shows, UNLESS we are on tour with a headliner that demands we price match them.

SO $15 – $7.50 = $7.50. So half is profit. So out of the 300$ the band made in merch, they owe 150$ to the printer.

BUT HOLD ON! Merch rates!

Most nice venues have merch rates, we have seen them be as high 32% gross. Usually they are 25%.


So out of the initial $300 in merch the band made. 25% goes to venue. Thats $75.

$300(gross) – $150(merch cost) – $75(merch venue rate) = $75 (Net profit for the band.)

BUT the breakdown doesnt stop there. If the band has a manager, he takes 15% of Net profit of merch.


$75 X .15 = $11.25

$75 – $11.15 = $63.75( TOTAL Net profit in merch for the band.)



The breakdown in deductions from this money is: 15% to Manager, 10% to booking agent.

$300(gross guaranty) – $45(managers cut 15%) – $30(booking agents cut 10%) = $225

Average Gas bill is around $150. some days way better some days way worse. We have done 17 hour drives..leaveing show and showing up to next one right before we play…many times. Those are a bit more expensive. Most west coast tours we do the average gas bill is around 200–250…but ill use 150 for this example.

$225(guaranty after manage and agent deductions) – $150(gas bill) = $75

We have 6 people on tour, our 5 Guys, and our merch guy “The maze”. We give everyone $10 bucks a day to eat on. (This isnt enough when your 6 4 and 200lbs like micah and i by the way)

6 people x $10 = $60

$75 – $60 = $15

$15 Total net profit in Guaranties.


$63.75(Net merch) + $15(Net guaranty) =

$78.75 for the band for the night. out of $600 gross.

if you divide that 6 ways its $13.12 a day per band member.


This doesnt include hotel costs. which are usually 50–60 bucks. Most bands dont get hotels or shower to save money to pay for phone bills.

This does not include Tires/Van payment/Oil changes/Van upkeep registration bla bla/Trailer tires/Gear/etc.

This doesnt include taxes. This doesnt include ROAD TOLLS. Which in the northeast can add up to 20–40bucks a day.

Thanks for reading.


thanks for reading.


Certainly that should be eye-opening to anybody looking to make a career out of being a metal musician. It's becoming very clear that what touring is is just a working vacation, as most of the time you end up just breaking even or even paying out of pocket to tour. This is certainly a bit depressing.


  • Kristopher Bras

    Best way is Bandcamp actually–most indie/punk/metal bands are on there. Correct me if I'm wrong, but they get the biggest chunk of the proceeds through that platform.

  • Metalhead

    If our want to place blame on anyone, it's to blame the femiNAZI mainstream industry, they're the ones who want to make fame look cool by producing artificially produced music, it's why society has been brainwashed into forcing to accept that kind of shit. Cmon guys, just because a band is small, it doesn't mean it's failing, it takes time to produce a band that makes it big, ask any musician of a former band who you know today.

  • Destiny

    People are entitled to like whatever music they like. Everybody doesn't like listening to loud rock/metal music. Perhaps some of these bands need to understand that the demographic they cater to may have less money or don't but music while other genres such as acoustic, easy listening or popsoul may just do better on average.