Jack Conte of the musical duo Pomplamoose recently wrote a now widely-debated article detailing how they made $147,802 on tour, and still managed to lose over $11,000. The article was not written to state that it’s impossible to make money on tour, even with millions of fans internationally, but rather to show how much their particular style of touring cost them. Many pointed out that there are many expenses that were easily avoidable, such as extraneous lighting and some large expenses for the backing band & support behind their performances. What this article shows is that there are different styles of touring, and each of them come with their own expenses.
The Vice music publication, Noisey, quickly rebutted the article with their own response, stating that it is “fucking easy” to make money on tour if you plan your expenses correctly. Their advice is great, if you’re a small-time band with absolutely no regard for comfort whatsoever. The writer made money on tour even though they were a little local band by carefully calculating expenses before their trip including the MPG of their vehicle for the entire trip, taking cheap meals with them. However, the vehicle they calculated MPG for, as an average size band, is a minivan. 4 people sleeping in a minivan! That works, but how long can a band survive like that, and play 6 on-point shows a week? Also, they said to buy multivitamins, peanut butter, jelly, and tuna. Gross. If I had to survive and had no other choice, sure, I’ll take it, but I won’t be happy about it. It’s absolutely doable, and it’s a great article with very practical advice, but if you’ve been doing this as a band for let’s say 10 years, with a decent following, and you’re nearing your 40’s, you might be hating life just a bit. There are other response articles such as the one by Pitchfork with the title, “You Can Make Money on Tour, (but not if you’re Pomplamoose)” This was actually a very informative article, albeit from a cranky 37 year old writer, but the author is simply asking for more detailed answers. I’m sure many would like to know this now, seeing as Jack’s article is really gaining steam.
Now, however practical or impractical it may be, there is Pomplamoose and their own unique style of touring. They’re a duo who’s been around over 6 years, has YouTube videos with over 100 million views & 429,000 subscribers, 142,240 Facebook likes, etc., needless to say they’re pretty well-known. During their tour, They sold over 1129 tickets at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco alone, and in total, their cut was a whopping $97,519 in ticket sales! On top of that, they also had a sponsorship from Lenovo who provided them with computers for their light shows and a bunch of cash, $8,750 in total. They still managed to LOSE around $10,000 at the end of the tour. A lot of the expenses went to extra lighting, sleeping in motels each night, per diems for the members and the crew, parking for their HUGE van, insurance, and other smaller items. Needless to say, they toured reasonably comfortably.
Sure, they could have done without the lights, and the motel rooms, and possibly cut down on the daily per diem for them and the crew members, but they’re not some punk band with a very local following, in their early 20s going on their first tour in their lives. To them, it’s their first experience and there is a lot of comfort that can be easily sacrificed in the wake of that. For Pomplamoose, they’ve been doing it for a while, and have already been on numerous other tours. They wanted some extra comforts on their latest tour that they didn’t get to experience before, and they wanted their fans to have an unforgettable experience through the added costs of programmed stage lighting and a backing band. This was a cost Pomplamoose fronted to ensure they were invited back to the venues and give their fans the unforgettable experience they had come to anticipate.
This begs the question: How comfortably does your band deserve to tour?
At what point does a band deserve to tour with some basic and reasonable comforts? A band with a pretty large following wants to have $20 per day in food and sleep in Motel 6s every night, and gets lambasted by the internet. They even said they were happy about the money they spent. Some people took Jack’s article to mean something along the lines of “no matter how big your band is, if it is self-funded, you’re destined to fail.” Not true. He even addressed that some expenses were extraneous and simply made as an investment into future tours, so not all is lost.
If you’re a band looking to go on tour, it can be done, and in many cases, money can be made. Calculate every single cost of your tour no matter how small, reasonably anticipate your income, and subtract from that your anticipated expenses based on how comfortable you want to be on tour. Boom! Simple. Follow your dreams, follow your budget and be smart.
Below is a cover of “Come Together” by Pomplamoose