Bands On a Budget


Whether you’re in a DIY garagel band getting ready for your first weekend tour or a major label artist, budgeting is the very essence of keeping a successful band or artist afloat. Since most of us don’t have multi-million dollar budgets to play around with, it is important to find ways to be smart with the money we do make through playing shows and selling merchandise. Investing in the right things, avoiding spending too much on others, in addition to saving up for your first tour and spending wisely, will ensure you use your money to help strengthen your band’s ability to keep traveling and recording music.

In This Article:

– What To Invest In At Home
– What Not To Spend Too Much On
– Save Up Before Going On The Road
– Going On The Road For Cheap



Before you think about how you’ll budget on the road, you need to budget from home first. No band can go out for a month or even a weekend, if they have already spent all their money just to have a single and place to rehearse.

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1.) Quality Gear

Spending a little more on industry standard brands (guitar: Fender, Gibson, etc; drums: Pearl, Tama, etc.) will ABSOLUTELY save you money in the long term. Cheaper companies use less expensive parts, more plastic, and iffy solder and wiring. Go with a brand your favorite artist uses. You don’t need to buy the $5000 model, but the $800 one probably will save your a lot of sonic heartache and money

2.) Recording Equipment

Time in a big studio can run up an expensive bill super quickly, especially if you are still learning how to record comfortably and with accuracy. Many bands book time for their first big single only to find out they have a lot to learn about nailing takes under pressure. This is a great reason for your group to invest in recording equipment together. At base, you need a good computer, an interface, good mics, cables, and a DAW program. Check out our article about building your own studio for all the details. Although it costs some money, this investment will yield huge returns as you learn how to play and record, without just someone else by the hour while you figure it out at your own speed.

3.) A Reliable, Used Van

Renting a vehicle can be nice, but again the bill racks up super quickly, especially once you’re paying by the mile. Invest in a lightly used van, usually someone’s second vehicle that was barely driven makes a wonderful band vehicle. 

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4.) Merchandise

One of the most important investments you can make (at home and for the road) is an item of quality band merch, such as a t-shirt or maybe something else like a hat or a sweatshirt. Bands make WAY MORE MONEY selling clothing than they do on streams and even CDs and Vinyl. It’s is worth every penny to print up some shirts for $500 and sell them all for $20. You will turn a profit if you can sell them.

5.) Local Venues That Actually Pay

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT play concerts where you have to pay to play. It is a waste of time selling the tickets and money. While you get your chops up, it is far better to find a bar, restaruant, or winery that will pay you a guarantee. They have the money, they need the entertainment, and it is a great way to work through kinks or rough spots in the set, while you get ready for more professional concerts on the road. Cash in hand is the goal as you get ready to save up for a tour, so at this point it doesn’t matter if people are eating spaghetti while you play.



1.) Recording Time

Rehearsal Space: someone has the basement or garage for you, paying to set up in someone else’s space is only really necessary if you’re living in a major city, and even at that, put in the effort you’ll find something and save big.

2.) Pay to Play Concerts



Bands can’t expect to make much money on their first time out, so it’s important to stockpile as much money from paid and private gigs as possible before going out on that first run, even if its for three days.

You have to figure for the gas and milage of your vehicle on your journey. This also means tolls, possible oil changes/repairs, food for the band each day, and instrument upkeep (strings, skins, sticks, picks, etc.). It all adds up, so having an idea of these expenses, versus the amount you think you’ll make at each show will save you some heartache.

Calculate what you will make each night, make sure you balance guaranteed paid gigs with ones where you’ll just sell merch, and expect to break even (this is usually mark of a successful first tour, breaking even and NOT LOSING MONEY).

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Once on the road, here are some more ways to budget and save money. 

1.) Outfit The Van To Sleep In

With a built in bunk in the back for smaller bands in a van, or a traitor camper for larger groups, there are many amazing ways to convert a van to sleep in. Most nights you can find someone’s driveway to sleep in, and if not WalMart allows free overnight sleeping in their lots for those in mobile homes. That said, a hotel once a week is huge for showering and mental recharge purposes (especially in the summer).

2.) Couch Surf

Talk to people at each concert and as you come into town each day. Invite people to the concert and see if friendly folks will let you sleep over. There are many friendly strangers out there who would be thrilled to have the story of the night the band stayed over. That said, always practice discretion and safety when around strangers on the road.

3.) Budget Meals Per Band Member

As weird as it can feel, the most successful bands plan a certain amount each band member can spend per meal or per day. It keeps things from getting hairy and arguments to brew if someone constantly eats more or spends more than the others.

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Music is all about the comradely and fun of creatively writing and playing music with people you click with. No one wants money to be the reason people fight and then and breaks up

These techniques highlight ways to invest in the right things, avoid money pits, and to save up so you can make the most of your time on the road.

At Planetary Group, we can help reach out to radio stations on your route and make the most of your time traveling and playing. As your band grows and gains more success, your budget can extend to include marketing and online publicity campaigns to help your music grow ever faster. When you’re ready to take it to the next level, give us a call at (323) 952-5050 or email at and we can help connect the dots while you’re on your first tour, or when you’re ready to step into the next phase of your career!

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The Indie Bible has been a staple for musicians and performing artists for over 20 years. Learn more in our writeup below.

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