Posted: Nov 20, 2017
**Guest post written by Andrew Tufano, Nashville based Acoustic Pop Singer-Songwriter.
"When you’re strapped for cash on the road, it can be a relief to have a bandmate in the passenger seat, lifting your spirits and holding things together. At the same time, splitting $42 in tips and then going out to drink every night can make turning a profit feel like a luxury you can’t afford. Here are some of the pros and cons to touring alone versus with your friends.
It’s almost always more profitable to tour solo. The numbers are simple – you make a little less, but spend a lot less. You don’t go out for food and drinks as often, you don’t have to pay a band, and it’s easier to find a free place to stay.
A solo act can play anything from a 1000 cap club to a local bookstore. You don’t have to worry about the number of inputs in your PA system or blowing out your speakers. It’s much easier to book shows every single night and stay busy.
When you’re the only person in charge of your schedule, you are in complete control of when you sleep, how often you work out, and where you eat. On longer tours, you’ll find that it’s easier to tour sustainably when you’re on your own.
- Selling Merch
There’s a critical window of time immediately after you finish your set when you sell the most merch. If another band is about to take the stage, it can be impossible to tear down your gear and rush to meet listeners and sell merch fast enough. Some people won’t wait in line, and other people will struggle to hear you once the next band’s set begins.
- Spreading Yourself Too Thin
It’s hard enough to have a captivating stage presence when you’re playing by yourself. On DIY tours, it’s a solo artist’s responsibility to not only put on a great show, but also handle booking, financials, branding, and marketing.
There’s a good chance you won’t actually spend that much time by yourself on a solo tour, other than traveling between cities (and you might even prefer driving by yourself than with sweaty, tired musicians). However, it can be draining to exclusively hang out with strangers while never seeing the same face more than two days in a row. For this reason, be wary of booking too many months on the road by yourself.
- The Show
Bands usually sound fuller and more energetic than solo acts. If you put a good set together with a band, more people will follow you on social media after the show, and maybe even buy your merch while they’re at it.
- Yin and Yang
Everybody has strengths and weaknesses. It’s more productive to find a teammate who fills in your weaknesses than to fight against your DNA. If you find that you struggle with banter in between songs, being diligent about follow-up emails, or filing small business taxes, find bandmates who naturally excel in those areas. Teamwork will multiply your success on tour.
- A Bigger Network
Having more bandmates means more friends in different cities, more industry connections, and generally more resources and skills to pool together into a successful tour. You’ll see an uptick in ticket sales, and generally have a better time.
- Buying Bulk
Splitting groceries, car maintenance, and Airbnb’s does count for something. You don’t have to worry as much about food going bad, and get to focus a little more on hiding a stash your favorite snacks in the back of your amp so bandmates don’t take them.
- Money Gets Tight
Most venues will pay more for a bigger band, but rarely two or three times as much as they would for a solo act. Be conscious that you’ll have to make up for lower guarantees per person with other revenue streams.
- Rehearsal Time
Unless this is your regular band and everyone has all the songs mastered, you’ll discover quickly that teaching the same set to new musicians each tour is a draining process. Even with enough rehearsal time, your live show might not sound tight until the last few dates of your tour. A sloppy band is worse than a rehearsed solo act.
- Going Out
Even if your bandmates are also down to spend $3/day on food, there will probably be times when each of you independently assumes everyone else has higher standards than themselves. All of a sudden you’re going out to eat or drink every other night. This is super fun, until you see your bank statement!
- You’re Inconvenient
“Is it cool if the five of us take over all your couches and floor space for the night?” As a band, it’s hard to find places to stay, sound guys are more likely to hate you, and the tour van will be a tighter squeeze.
Long story short, touring successfully as an independent artist is tough, whether or not you have a band. If your music “works” whether it’s performed as a one-man-band, a duo, or an eight-piece orchestra, experiment and audit your success with each group. At the end of the day, whatever arrangement works best for you is the right choice! "
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