Touring in a band is great. You know why? Mostly because you get to live with pretty much zero responsibility. All you really have to do is make sure that you hydrate yourself and show up to play your set on time. After that, it’s all gravy. Just kidding! Maybe if you are The Black Lips, tour is just this whirlwind of riders stacked with fancy booze and deli sandwiches, but it takes time, good PR, and an even better booking agent to get there. The rest of us lowly musicians start off doing the whole punk-without-a-cause thing, which means just shoving your gear into a van and living off of Taco Bell and beer for three weeks (Ed Note: Not sure what part of this is BAD) . Musicians make no money. That’s just the way it is. However, since we are creative by nature, we get creative in other aspects of our lives, including survival. So in that spirit, here is how to survive very, very cheaply (financially and morally) on tour.
1. Pack light, but bring a big bag. You never know what kinds of things you will acquire on the way. My friend Seth who is the front man of Hunx and his Punx taught me this really great trick. When you are with someone, say in their house looking through their amazing collection of 90’s girl band trinkets, and they have something you want, as you inspect said cool thing you just cutely say, “This is so cool. Can I have it?” You will be surprised at how many rare 7 inches and charming hats you can collect.
2. Order sides but fill up on free stuff. If you are on the West Coast, especially California, Mexican restaurants are everywhere and they are delicious. While your band mates may be spending $6 on a vegetarian burrito, you can save $4 and fill up with the same intensity. A side of rice and beans is never over $2, but the salsa bar is always free. Pack your plate with the free stuff like salsa, cilantro, tomatoes, hot peppers and pickled items. Boom. You’ve just invented a deconstructed burrito. Don’t forget to steal a bunch of limes for later. They will come in handy when you are mixing your own gin and tonics in your rinsed out coffee cup in the back of the van.
3. Sleep around. Sometimes making out with a six in his bed is better than sleeping on the floor, alone. My friend Hether Fortune has the best pick-up line for touring musicians: When the night starts to end, just turn to the nearest, cutest person and go, “Look man, I really don’t want to sleep on the floor tonight.” Stage power is pussy power, ladies.
4. Cigarettes are like water. When you are in a new city every night bumming cigarettes is easy. It’s not like you are going to get a bad reputation. Just make sure that you say thank you a lot, and next time you go to that city with some dough, repay the favor.
5. Trade. What’s the one thing you have at your disposal? Merchandise. Make trades. Don’t tell your band mates. Don’t mark it in the merch book. Pills and records are on par in this world.
6. Priceline hotels. Priceline was invented for bands. I mean, I don’t know this for fact per se, but I like to think it was. You want a nice hotel for a night? Are you sick of Motel 6? Use Priceline. You can bid on swanky, salt-water-pool-included hotel rooms for half the price. So worth it.
7. Ask for stuff, and you will get it. Last year I was very, very broke on tour. I had no money. I even pathetically phoned my father asking to borrow a hundred dollars and he turned me down. It was an all-time low. I wanted to get my boyfriend gifts, but I couldn’t afford it so I started requesting for things through my band’s Facebook page. I got everything I asked for, including a vintage Blue Jays hat. These wonderful moments just remind me to be thankful that I live in a time where booking tours is done via email and not through the back of a pen pal column in Maximum Rock n’ Roll.
8. Steal. Only from big venues that treat you like shit or chain stores with millions of dollars. Never steal from the kind people who lend you their floor for the night. Your van will crash and you will die and no one will feel sorry for your bad karma.
Baby wipes always beat toilet paper.
Baby Powder always beats a lather, rinse, repeat and blow dry.
Eat an orange every day to prevent constipation.