Whether you're at the top of the music industry or just launching your career, going on tour is expensive. It’s a necessity, and sometimes one of the only ways you’re going to make money as an artist. It still, however, costs money just to head out on the road to play for people... even if there’s no guarantee you’ll make your money back.
Since you don’t always know how much cash you’ll earn at every stop, you should do your best to save as much as possible in every way, including on food. It might not sound like the most expensive part of your endeavor, and maybe it’s not, but every dollar that leaves your hand should be going to something you truly need, and you should spend each and every cent wisely.
Here are a few tips on saving money when it comes to food while you’re on tour. They might not all be massive money savers, but every little bit counts!
1. Don’t eat out
The temptation will arise constantly and in many ways, but you have to do your best to resist. Otherwise, you’ll see your funds dry up much faster than you anticipated. It’s easy to simply say you won’t stop at restaurants along the way, but it’s much tougher than most people anticipate, and between taste, familiarity, and laziness, there will be plenty of reasons why you’ll want to stop at a beloved fast food joint or a local diner for a bite. I understand the desire, but it’s as simple as this: If you need to save some cash, this is the best way to ensure your wallet stays padded.
Now, having said that, I will admit that the occasional bite at an actual restaurant won’t kill you and your bandmates, and it probably won’t break the bank... but when I say occasional, I really mean occasional. Space these stops out so they are true treats, and they’ll be even better.
2. Shop at grocery stores
If you’re not eating at restaurants, you should be shopping at grocery stores for all your food needs. Don’t look to convenience stores for sustenance, because often times, the prices on anything healthy can be jacked up, and everything else will slow you down, make you feel terrible, and help you gain a few extra unwanted pounds.
There are ways to save a few bucks at grocery stores — stay away from hot, prepared foods; collect coupons; do some research; and stick to the grocery chains known to be the cheapest (read: not Whole Foods) — but if I included all of these, this article would double in length. For the most part, if you’re spending your hard-earned money intelligently at grocery stores instead of at restaurants, you’ll do just fine.
3. Buy in bulk
Shopping for items in bulk is a smart idea for anyone, whether you’re going on tour or not. People who want to save money in all walks of life stick to this smart financial choice, and if it works for them, it can for you!
If someone in the band has a membership to a store like Costco, use it wisely and collect the food you’ll need for the next several weeks or months at once, getting everything at a discounted rate. For those who aren’t members or for those items not available at those stores, look online. Anyone with an Amazon Prime membership can grab some items in large quantities for cheaper than most stores sell them.
It’s easy to say that buying in bulk is a money-saver, but it’s not always possible for everyone, especially those who are on tour. Many healthy foods require refrigeration or aren’t sold in bulk, and many items sold in large quantities take up a lot of space, which is a treasured commodity in most tour vans. Think about what items make sense to purchase at these bulk-focused chains, and pick up the rest along the way at grocery stores.
4. See if venues will feed you
This one is sometimes a stretch, but if there’s even a chance, why not ask, right?
If you’re just starting out as a baby band or a musician who is relatively unknown, you’re not going to be paid a lot of money for your sets. I know it sucks, but it’s true, and it’s what most people have to go through when they start their careers in music. Since you probably won’t be bringing a ton of people into the show, you won’t receive a hefty sum (if anything at all), so some clubs, bars, and venues will compensate you in other ways. Some will give you drink tickets, while others will help you out by giving you a discount on food or possibly even a free meal.
I wouldn’t book a tour based around these charitable gifts, but it doesn’t hurt to inquire about this practice after you’ve cemented a date and time for a performance. Simply question what, if anything, the venue or promoter can do for you as musicians, and you might be rewarded with at least a bit of a bonus.
- Touring on a Budget: 6 Places You Can Sleep for Cheap (or Free!) on the Road
- 7 Essentials Bands Often Forget to Bring on Their First Tour
- How to Book a DIY Tour Like a Pro
- Top 4 Ways to Prevent Common DIY Touring Disasters
Hugh McIntyre is a freelance pop music journalist in NYC by way of Boston. He has written for Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter, and MTV, as well as various magazines and blogs around the world. He is also the founder and editor-in-chief of the blog Pop! Bang! Boom! which is dedicated to the genre of pop in all of its glory.