DALLAS WAS RIGHT: SUMMER TOURS ARE BEING CANCELED WILLY NILLY
Dallas Coyle a prophet? Maybe not — but his prediction that myriad summer tours would be canceled this year because of the prohibitively high price of gasoline has proven true. Day after day I see tour cancellation announcements dropping into the MetalSucks Mansion inbox and RSS reader, most recently the “Summer of Scum” tour with Shai Hulud and Full Blown Chaos. Inevitably these press releases include vague language such as “uncontrollable circumstances” or issues “out of our hands,” which is not-so-secret code speak for financial issues, aka gas money. If respectable, successful bands like Shai Hulud and Full Blown Chaos are being forced to cancel tours, it begs the question: what lies ahead for the touring industry in these tough economic times?
With gas at more than $4/gallon and a van averaging 15 miles per gallon (this is probably a generous figure), you’re looking at $80+ in gas to travel 300 miles (i.e. New York to Boston, Detroit to Chicago, Chicago to St. Louis), and that’s often a short travel day — bands are sometimes forced to travel 500 miles or more in a single day. Factor in meals for five band members and two crew ($5 each member [another generous figure] times 7 dudes times 3 meals per day = $105/day) and your average local, regional, or even lower level national act earning a $100-$250 a night is still losing money. And this assumes they’re lucky enough to have friends in each city willing to let them crash on their floor. And for the love of God, doesn’t even include a slush fund for that bastion of touring; BOOZE!
With the recorded music industry in decline and bands seeings less and less money from record sales (if any), constant touring has been heralded as part of the new model for being a successful musician. But with numbers like that it’s just impossible to make money as a touring band at any level below upper-middle class. And with record labels making less money, they won’t be throwing tour support at bands any time soon. So just where the fuck IS the musician supposed to make any money today?? Merch? Sure, but to sell merch en masse you gotta get out on the road.
In his article, Dallas made a number of suggestions for bands who can’t afford to go on the road that can help a band build popularity from the comfort of their computer chair. These are all fine suggestions, but the hole in that logic is that at some point, if the band is going to be anything more than a living room sensation, they are going to have to tour. And you can’t start off on a bus playing arenas no matter how many MySpace friends you have, especially in our beloved genre of metal which has a ceiling for popularity. Part of becoming a good live band is doing it night after night after night, and that is increasingly becoming an impossibility.
And so, finally, the elephant in the room: is there a future in supporting oneself as a musician, or is music going to be relegated to being strictly a hobby?