Posted: Jan 2, 2013
Hitting the road and playing directly in front of your fans is one of the best ways to spread the word about your music, and is one of the most exciting aspects of the music business for many artists. Of course, it can also be downright expensive. The tour budget has to include transportation, lodging, food, and promotion. But a tour on a budget doesn't have to mean sleeping in the van or sneaking ten people into a two person room. At the same time, if you want to maximize the amount of money with which you arrive home, don’t just plan on staying in a hotel every night. Check out the following tips for low cost lodging options...
Network with your fans in the areas you'll be touring (+Nurturing Your Fanbase). If you've built up a rapport with some folks on Facebook, through email, or in person when you've played in the city before, you might know someone who would love to offer a guest room or two as you're passing through town. Fans always love hanging out with a band that they like. Be smart if considering staying at the home of someone you've never met or don't know well though - head for a hotel/motel if the situation seems unsafe in any way.
Don't limit your potential hosts to your newest fans. Obviously, if you have close friends or relatives along your route, be sure to reach out to them in advance and let them know when you will be in town. Does your college roommate, second cousin, first music teacher, or others that you may have lost touch with live in any of the cities that you are playing? This could be a great chance to reconnect and save a little cash at the same time.
The easiest way to secure free lodging when you don’t have fans, friends, or family in a given city is to ask the other band(s) if they have any extra floor space for you to sleep on after the show. Anyone who has been out on the road knows how tough it can be on expenses, and is usually more than willing to accommodate you if they can.
Crashing at the home of a fan, friend, or another band can mean much more than a place to sleep for the night. You might find yourself enjoying a home cooked meal, some free drinks, meeting great new people, or initiating a late night jam session that leads to the next hit.
Head to your computer or grab your smart phone and shop around for a great deal. Websites like orbitz.com, kayak.com, and expedia.com allow you to search by location and then sort the results by price. Before booking check out the hotel's website or give them a call, as the direct booking price is sometimes lower than through a third party website. When you speak to someone be sure to ask about parking - paid parking might make a great deal less of a bargain. Motel 6 is usually pretty nice and it is consistently one of the cheapest places to stay in almost every U.S. city (they are virtually everywhere too).
Expand your search to include spots outside of the immediate area where you are playing. Lodging further from downtown or major attractions is often cheaper. Is there a major event such as a festival, big sports game, or college homecoming driving up the cost of hotel rooms (and making them harder to come by)? Take a look an hour or two towards your next destination and toss the keys to the night owl in the group.
Need a room at the last minute? Download the Hotel Tonight app to your smart phone. It hooks you up with unsold hotel rooms for same day check in, often at a steep discount.
Don't know anyone offering their place for free in a certain spot? Find one for cheap online. Check out sites such as couchsurfing.org, airbnb.com, wimdu.com, or roomorama.com. The latest craze in budget travel, these sites connect guests, those looking for accommodations, with hosts, anyone with a house, room, or even a couch to rent for a short term stay. The cost per night can be incredibly low, and allow you to explore a part of the city away from the touristy areas you might not otherwise be exposed to. Again, be cautious about staying with a stranger - check the website you are booking through for safety tips.
Is your place back home empty while you're out on tour? Consider listing it on one of these sites - you could rent it out to people visiting your home town and make a little extra cash to offset tour expenses.
Not really. But sleep in the tricked out rv? Maybe. Compare the cost of renting an rv to the cost of accommodations along the way and the numbers just might add up. Know someone with an rv you can borrow? Even better. Be sure to factor in the cost of fueling up the rolling home along the way, as well as any fees for staying in rv parks or campgrounds any nights you don't have a free place to park. You will also want to consider the feasibility of navigating city streets if playing mostly downtown venues, and the driving ability of those on the team.
If you go this route, try using the oversized vehicle as a billboard promoting your tour and hang a banner from it announcing upcoming shows whenever and wherever parked.
There's almost always a deal to be had, you just need to find it. Ask the talent buyer at the venue you're playing if they have any relationships with local hotels or motels. Are you a student? Veteran? AAA member? There are often small discounts available for these groups. You might also find special deals through affiliations with the college or university you attended, professional groups you're a member of, or even through your credit card company.
Long story short, type, quality, and cost of travel accommodations can have a huge effect on you and your bandmates while out on the road, so don't just put these decisions off until the last minute. Assign these tasks to someone on your team and coordinate accordingly with the show dates that you secure. And of course, always remember to keep safety at the top of your priority list when deciding on places to stay.
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