GOD FORBID’S DALLAS COYLE ON HOW TOURING BANDS CAN DEAL WITH THE INSANE PRICE OF GAS
The Touring Problem
After doing the open letter to Light This City, which I don’t consider a true blog, I saw that The Fresh Meat Tour that Metalsucks sponsored was canceled. It didn’t surprise me at all considering the money problems we had on the latest tour we just finished. In my past blogs, I talked about how we went over budget on tours because of dumb mistakes. On this tour I can say we didn’t make any dumb mistakes. We were totally on budget but what put us over budget was the fact that gas went up about 50 cents a gallon in about a 5 week period. Diesel actually was close to 5 dollars a gallon towards the end of our tour.
One night on the road I was HAMMERED and we stopped at a rest stop to go get food after a night of drunken shenanigans. It was daylight and as I stepped out of the bus I looked at the price for diesel and I immediately became sober. It was like getting hit by a fucking car. This was two weeks ago and gas was cheaper then than it is now.
At that point, I realized that the touring world and the metal touring world specifically was in a very shaky position. I knew that God Forbid was not going to be able to tour. We’ll go on tours if we’re a little over budget these days because we generally do well enough on merch to balance out those sorts of things but with the oil market it’s just too much of a risk to go out there and piss in the wind. Now imagine going out as a band who doesn’t have the name to be able to go out and headline and must rely solely on support tours?
The last three shows of the tour were solo. We played 3 DVD release shows in New Jersey, Rochester, NY and Portland, Maine. We moved from a bus to a van. The gas was cheaper because we were using unleaded fuel instead of diesel. As we filled up the tank every 3-4 hours the tally at the pump ranged anywhere from 103 dollars to 116 dollars. Going from New Jersey to Rochester cost us about 200 bucks. Going from Rochester to Portland cost us another 350. Luckily for us we had good guarantees and we sold a lot of merch but my concern isn’t for us, it’s for younger bands. I feel like Lars Ulrich compaining about Napster before it was too late when I talk about this gas problem.
Most support bands get anywhere from 100-500 bucks a night. With a 6 hour drive, the average for a tour, those bands getting 100 dollars might as well stay home. They are spending a hundred dollars a day between 5 people to stay on the road because the gas is more than their guarantee. Those bands getting 500 bucks a day are only making about 200 bucks a day after the drive. What about a hotel here and there? They won’t be able to afford it. Before this gas crisis we’d make 500 bucks a day in a van and be able to make some good money if you went by our frugal standards of living. Those days are now gone. I believe Light This City broke up because of this to a certain extent and I believe you’re going to see a lot of bands dropping off a lot of tours. Especially the Thrash and Burn and Summer Slaughter tours. Those tours have so many bands that some aren’t going to be able to compete. It’s like politics. Imagine what the presidential election looked like 8 months ago compared to now. It’s a 2 person election now but 8 months ago it was a 16 person race. Only so many can compete.
It’s Darwin with these conditions.
Now, how to fix this problem? I wish I had any kind of real answer. I don’t. I do have some ideas about making the circumstances better.
First, it’s up to the bands who are in a position to tour. It is YOUR decision to say yes and no to tours. I know how labels and agents will pressure you into doing shit you know you don’t want to do or just can’t do. If that’s the case tell them to FUCK OFF! Seriously! Agents and labels want you to do those things because they make money when you do what they want. 10% for the agent and record sales for the label. It’s not hard to figure out.
Second, if you do decide you want to tour make sure there aren’t more than 4 bands on a package. Hell, if you can get it down to three, do it with three. Why? When people come to a show they only have X amount of dollars. If they have to decide which bands they want to spend money on because there are 5 bands they like, somebody will lose. That’s not conducive to touring these days. Maybe it was back when we started but now it’s a not even a gamble. It’s a lose-lose situation.
Third, if you happen to go on tour with a band almost the same size as you don’t act like the burden is just yours. Instead of having your one van and working with your one crew, see if there is any way for you guys to split things down the middle between the two of you. This is actually a great way to go about it. Have one merch guy everyone pays. Have both bands ride in one van if you’re not hiring any crew to save money on gas. The smart way of doing business wins in these times.
Fourth, look into bio-diesel touring. On the last tour, Brian from Light This City gave us the run down on it and we’re seriously considering it. He let us know they make these new types of diesel conversion modules that cut your cost on gas from 5K a month to 250 bucks a month. I looked it up and sure enough the technology is out there AND it’s been around for a long time. You need a diesel van and 3000 bucks to convert to this standard.
Here’s a website for you to check out: http://www.goldenfuelsystems.com/
Fifth, look at this gas crisis as a positive instead of a negative. Touring is not the only way to get your band exposed. Instead of spending the money on gas, spend your money on viral marketing, spend 100 bucks a month to service your myspace, facebook, etc. Fuck it, spend your money on making a video on your own. With the technology surrounding us and the mind it takes to make good music there is no reason why touring is the ONLY way to get your band bigger. To tell you the truth, I’m kind of happy about the gas prices for our band because FINALLY there is something giving us a reason to say NO to a tour. In the past, we haven’t had the will to say no.
Remember, live shows should come once in a while. Not every day. Have you ever gone to a show and seen everyone just apathetic about being there? The market is over-saturated and this might be a sign for bands like us to say, ‘you know what? Next time we play, we know you’ll be there because you don’t know when you might get a chance to see us again.”
That’s how it was back in the day and it seems like history could repeat itself — Under different circumstances of course! How can things be so advanced but it seems like we’re sent back in time?
No one will ever know!