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The Economics of Touring Artists and Musicians.

Andy Robertson

Performance artists and session musicians can make a liveable income by touring but what are the challenges in pursuing this route. Very few artists earn money from recording their own material but if they can build up a loyal following from playing live on a tour it may provide a steady reliable income source.   

Making money from recording material very rarely provides a reliable income and with so many organisations involved in the process it can end up being an expensive exercise. Record labels, producers, distributors and agents all want their cut. Arranging a tour for an artist who can put on a good live show is potentially a good route to earning revenue from their chosen profession.

Earning Revenue.
A performance artist or musician can earn revenue from generating ticket sales with prices dependent on numerous factors like popularity and venue size. Committing to a touring format can increase this revenue and some lesser-known artists can easily manage up to 50 live gigs in a year with typically 2 or 3 gigs a week if a single country is chosen. Additional revenue can be generated from merchandise and other branded products on sale at the venue. There may be other potential sources of income if the artist can arrange sponsorship or endorsement deals plus revenue from potential licensing arrangements. If the artist is employing session musicians, they will be subject to contract terms that may specify an amount per performance plus a share in ticket sales revenue. Incorporating a selection of festival appearances can significantly boost revenue as this is usually done for a fixed fee and many expenses can be passed onto the festival organisers.

Touring expenses can vary depending on venue size along with the number of session musicians and support crew required. Smaller venues may do a deal where they agree to a booking at no cost if they can take all the revenue from food and beverage sales. The variable costs that need to be managed carefully are associated travel and accommodation expenditures plus agents and managers commissions. Good planning can help determine how profitable a tour may be in advance by estimating ticket sales revenue and accurately calculating all likely expenses. An up-and-coming artist may struggle to break even on an extensive tour but for an established artist it will often be easier to estimate potential revenue and expenses. Public liability insurance will be required along with insurance against unforeseen cancellations for example, premiums can be quite hefty for adequate coverage.

Risks & Challenges. 
Arranging a tour is fraught with risks and challenges as there are so many unknown variables that need to be considered. If the artist is employing session musicians it is preferable that they are available for the entire tour to ensure consistent performances. Revenue from ticket sales can vary from venue to venue and may even vary between cities and regions which can be subject to differing demographics for example. Embarking on an extensive tour can be physically and mentally demanding on artists, musicians and crew and making allowances for sufficient breaks between performances is essential.

The economics of touring musicians involves balancing revenue generation, controlling expenses, diversifying income streams, and strategically managing the complexities and risks associated with live performances.

For festival organisers planning their events using a software management platform like Festival Pro gives them all the functionality they need manage every aspect of their event logistics including a dedicated artist management module. The guys who are responsible for this software have been in the front line of event management for many years and the features are built from that experience and are performance artists themselves. The Festival Pro platform is easy to use and has comprehensive features with specific modules for managing artists, contractors, venues/stages, vendors, volunteers, sponsors, guestlists, ticketing, cashless payments and contactless ordering.

Photo by Tuur Tisseghem via pexels

Andy Robertson
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