We all have seen people come up with life hacks and thought “why didn’t I think of that?” Well, here are some travel hacks tailored to bands on the road. Some of these ideas I got from following professional travelers. I would recommend following some travel gurus for even more tips like these. One great resource I found was flyingwithguitars.com. This website was born as the result of two musicians traveling for a year with their guitars. You’ll find the info they found out about how to travel better with instruments.
Reward point credit cards
Most of the time when you think about credit cards with reward points, you might think that only fancy people use them to book trips to Italy with them. Well, stop that thinking and start earning some points for yourself. If you are on the road a lot then these points can rack up pretty quick. Some cards will even give you double points on travel related items like airline tickets, and hotels. They might even give you more points for eating out and putting gas in the van.
Find the card that gives you the most points for the things you already buy. Then use your points to pay for those things when you get enough points saved up. Follow The Points Guy if you want to become a points virtuoso.
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ASCAP members get discounts
Did you know that ASCAP has teamed up with certain companies to give you discounts? If you are a member of ASCAP then you need to look into this. You can get discounts on rental cars, hotels, website hosting, etc. It is all part of your membership. Check out the member benefits here.
Rent equipment instead of hauling your stuff
Sometimes, it might make sense to rent equipment at your destination instead of traveling with your full set of gear. Look into renting what you need from places like Sparkplug (*Sparkplug seems to be out of business – 2023 update), or local music stores. You can also put in your rental needs as part of your contract. Lots of national touring artists do this. That means they can cut costs when it comes to transporting people and gear. If you can eliminate an extra van or a trailer full of gear, then that means you can cut your gas costs. Plus, you won’t have to worry about your gear getting stolen on the road.
Sharing is caring
One thing that works well is sharing gear while on the road. This can work well if you have a tour set up with another band or a bunch of dates. Lots of time, the bass player in your band plays a similar amp to the other band’s bass player. The same thing can be true with drummers.
These are two places where you might be able to eliminate gear and save space in your tour van. Offer the host of the equipment something for letting you use their stuff. Maybe tell them that when they play your town, you’ll return the favor. Even offering to buy them a drink is sometimes all you need to secure your sharing deal.
Don’t be upset if people don’t want to share, however. Remember, this is their way to make a living in some instances and they can’t take the risk of having their gear damaged. It is always worth asking though.
Couch surfing USA
This isn’t a Beach Boys song, but a way that a ton of bands have saved some money. Sometimes this tip will make or break your profit margins on a small show. Sometimes life on the road isn’t glamorous, and sometimes you need the kindness of strangers to get by. I know I have offered up my couch, and floors, to a few bands over the years. I have made a lot of friends over the years this way. I know that those bands would have lost money if they had to pay for a hotel room. If you feel good about your crowd that night, ask if anybody has a place for you to crash. You might find some weirdos, but you also might meet some new friends.
Get creative with saving money
There are tons of ways that you can save money when you think of new ways to do the things you need to do. One band took a look at their gas costs when they took their tour bus out on tour dates. It was a huge expense. Instead of just living with it, they decided to figure out a way to lower their cost. What they did was convert their bus to run on used cooking oil. Now they can get to their shows for very little to no money. What was going to be thrown away at the local restaurant has now become to thing that keeps their tour bus going. Find out how they did it here.
Using biofuel also has some environmental benefits. Heck, Willie Nelson converted his tour bus to biofuel for this reason. Read the story here. Here are some resources to check out BIOFUEL FOR BANDS. Take a look at what costs you a lot of money on the road, and figure out a way to change it into a low-cost hack.
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Photo credit: Nubia Navarro