The economics of touring

I go to loads of gigs but know nothing about the economics of gigs.

If a ticket cost £10 at a smallish venue like The Shacklewell Arms, how much would the band get?

Also, same question but if they were selling t-shirts for £10?

Depends on if the promoter has agreed a set fee for the band to play or if it’s a ‘share of tickets’ type deal.

1 Like

We just did a gig (Ditz) that sold out. Paid them £250 and £50 each for both supports (solo artists). Then some food and drinks. That was our breakeven.

1 Like

I did some back in the day that were a hybrid, ie the band were guaranteed £x, or got x% after costs were covered, whichever was higher.

Didn’t really mind the latter (because I knew I wouldn’t be out of pocket) but the former was a nightmare if eg the label stuffed the promo for the album and nobody turned up to the tour.

1 Like

That Stereogum article is really good. Properly skewers the ‘bands make all of their money from touring these days’ lie that people seem to trot out to justify artists receiving nothing from album sales any more.

Probably showing my age a bit, but the idea that venues can somehow justify claiming 40% of merch sales when they have literally nothing to do with the production and transportation of the products is pretty sickening. Is this a new thing?

Really feel for bands coming through these days. Seems like such a shit time for them.

Yeah if youre paying an agreed fee I’d be wanting some guarantees that the label and/or band actually do a bit of promo for it, plus it means having to be a bit more effort in pushing the gig so you dont lose out.

depends on the venue cost really, and the ethics of the promoter.

Whenever i do gigs it’s split between bands after the venue has been paid and any other costs (if any equipment was needed, food for the bands etc) If someone has come further then try and give a bit more if petrol is an issue. Share of tickets/making a profit and any of that jazz can get in the bin. Promoter keep a little if its to be reinvested into putting on bands.

I was far too naive and a pretty bad promoter tbh so I mostly lost money :smiley:

(Not really a :smiley: tbh, it’s a shit industry all round)


Presumably a lot of venues are screwing bands because landlords are screwing them for rent?


All the best promoters do :smiley:



One of my mate’s brothers is in quite a well-known up and coming band. They’re signed to a major label, have been doing all the big domestic festivals and a few overseas, they’ve had quite a bit of radio play, lots of coverage in the music press, have supported some good bands and headline small-medium sized venues up and down the country.

Haven’t received a single penny. Any cheques that have come in have gone to the label. He can’t even afford to rent a room in a house and just couchsurfs.

Anecdotal stuff that will surprise nobody, I appreciate.


(Which is another interesting point because I definitely felt that there was an expectation for indie promoters to be fine with the risk and losing money, which is a pretty grubby facet of the industry. Would be fascinated to find out how many are actually able to not just break even but actually pay themselves for their labour at the end of the day. I suspect not many.)

Yeah, that’s true. I suspect hardly any at all. It’s like they’re happy letting everyone muck around down below making fuck all then cherry pick the people (artists/promoters/all of us) who they think they can make the bucks and pull them up, and are totally fine with that bottom tier struggling.

but surely putting 10p on every drink will net you far more than nicking a big chunk of a few tshirt sales, especially at somewhere like Brixton Academy (capacity of 5k)

for anyone who hasn’t read it, Steve Albini’s classic essay is relevant here… tho this was written in 1993 and I assume things are twice as shit now


Girl Why Dont We Have Both GIF


It also omits how much is invested in live and often how success in one country funds investment (or losses) in another. Or using a big London or hometown show to cash flow the rest of the tour or support dates. Or doing a festival like SXSW.

By the time acts get to academy level, they’ve probably invested £100k, including all the hours worked unpaid and if they want to do any kind of exciting visuals or production, that’s more investment…

That’s probably because the label have loaned them the money to tour. This used to be called “tour support” but it’s now often part of a “360 deal” (hence the silly Roman numeral CCCLX name for my consultancy company)

This means a lot of artists are often expected to live off of their record deal advance (another loan) or a publishing advance (against songwriting and performance royalties such as at gigs and radio play).

I’m thinking of doing a music industry explained series of Twitter spaces / podcasts. Feels from this thread like this idea might make sense? I can bring people in who really know this stuff, rather than my generalist knowledge and experiences of elements of it all.


I reckon ten times as shit. The 1990s were a golden utopia for artists compared to how things are now and they were still getting ripped off then

1 Like