Becoming an artist is a good way to ensure you’ll never be rich. Becoming a musician is a good way to have no money at all. Even musicians who make a living have legitimate gripes as to how the system is gamed so that everyone around them gets most of the dollar produced by their music. In the underground, that dollar becomes cents and it’s really hard to stretch out a coin. It’s not even made of rubber.
So, your band is going on tour? Well, you already should know you had to save up so you can pay your rent for the couch to mom and dad. But you guys just know that this tour will be awesome. People are gonna buy your shit up because you’re playing metal in a way no one else can even comprehend. I know that 21 and up bar in Duluth should pay you a king’s ransom for deigning to gild their evening with your fine musical fare. They won’t. And that’s why you need to know some easy ways to save money on the road.
1. Drive Reasonably
The term “common sense” has mutated. In its original definition, it meant the sense of a commoner, i.e. stupid. Now you’ll understand why I say that driving fast is common sense. There is a reason for the old tortoise and the hare parable… it’s god damn true. Slow down.
Your van is already guzzling gas at a rate that eats through your generalized neo-pagan environmentalist aphorisms at a rate of 2:1. While dusting through the Arizona desert at the posted rate of 1,000,000 m.p.h. while blaring Sammy Hagar in a celebration of American fuck-you-ism might feel grand, you’re ripping through gas. And that’s not just because of the Slim Jims you unwisely ate. Engine peak performance on most cars is somewhere between 45 m.p.h. and 65 m.p.h. depending on the car. Slow down. After driving 3,000 miles across America, the rate at which you save gas will make your pocketbook feel a little less lean when you get home and have to pay for everything else you did stupid.
2. Get a Water Bottle
Yes, those hipster-gentrifying scum carry around those lame ass water bottles while they make a cafe in your formerly crime-ridden neighborhood the center of their new fixed-gear utopia. Well, just like the amazing coffee at that cafe, the hipsters are onto something.
How much does a bottle of water cost? $2? And how much do you drink in a day? It should probably cost more as we enter the Mad Max climate change nightmare of the 21st Century, but can you believe that you can get water for FREE? Whether it’s a drinking fountain or a soda fountain with a little hidden tab by the iced tea that says “water,” that truck stop will let you take their water. For nothing. Or fill it with soda and lie. I won’t tell. That aluminum or glass reusable water bottle is your free ticket to a water park called “Raging Hydration.”
3. Make Friends (Who Have Places to Stay)
One of the best parts about touring is making friends. Even better is when those people have a place you can crash at. And by “crash,” I mean respectfully sleep at and do some god damned dishes in the morning. Oh, and give ‘em a tee shirt you cheap fuck. Because the $5 wholesale of that shirt beats the exorbitant price of a Red Roof Inn or in the van.
Building up a network of friends is even easier in the age of social media, so just don’t be a prick. I’ve even called out on stage, to varying degrees of success, “Any one got a place to stay?” Even the bartender is an option, so remember that tipping isn’t just a city in China. There’s lots of amazing folks who let bands stay at their place and they’re usually the most interesting people in the room. I can be one of those nice folks on occasion, though there’s a few bands that won’t be allowed back in my homestead.
4. Eat Groceries
It’s 3 AM, the show’s over, and you’re hankering for fourth meal (TM Taco Bell). Once you’ve gotten to where you’re staying, the easiest call to make is for a pizza. Queen Margherita decided tomatoes weren’t just for poor people when she first brought pizza into the palace in 1889, and it’s been an overpriced commodity ever since!
You know what’s cheaper than ordering a pizza? Just about everything. Get your ass to the grocery store via the one lame-o in your band who isn’t drunk and get some groceries. There are plenty of packaged options for those who can’t cook, a.k.a. momma’s boys. Share with your hosts! Make breakfast and coffee! It can be fun and sure as shit it’s cheaper than eating out. “But what if we’re not staying some place we can cook?” I hear you whining. It’s called a loaf of bread, cheese, and mustard. You’re already in a metaphorical jail of poverty, might as well eat like a prisoner, too.
5. Plug in Your Pedals
Batteries are quite an invention. Portable DC current from a battery allows you to have power anywhere you want on stage for your BOSS Fuzz-Distortion-Mistake-Cover-Upper. It also allows you to throw down $5-10 when you have to run five blocks to a 7-11 because you figured out ten minutes before your set that with a dead 9-volt, your tuner is as good as a paper weight. Or, if you’re smart, you’ll take advantage of a club’s most important amenity provided to musicians… electricity!
Get a power adapter for your pedals. Not only does it make you feel good that you’re not throwing away acidic poison containers into a landfill, but you don’t need to spend the money on batteries. I mean, do you really want to support this man’s disgusting vegemite habit?