In part 1 of this series, we discussed the first stages of putting together a tour and figuring out the optimal route for the tour. In this installment of the series, you'll learn a basic DIY tour budget for bands. If you haven't read part 1 yet, go back and read it now.
Though you can read it on this page, it'll be a LOT easier on you if you download the free PDF version of The Ultimate DIY Tour Budgeting Guide for Bands with the included Excel spreadsheets. The book and spreadsheets make budgeting easier than you had ever imagined. All you have to do is subscribe to the mailing list to receive your copy!
Please note the text below is out of date. Click the button above to download the most current version of the guide!
The Ultimate DIY Tour Budgeting Guidebook for Bands
About this guidebook
This is a free guidebook to creating a DIY tour budget for your band. Please feel free to use the information however you wish, but you may not redistribute any of the content in any way, shape, or form. If you would like to share this content with others, please have them get an official download by visiting the page for the e-book.
I created this guide so that you can learn about and see where the money on your tours is going. It will help you identify unnecessary expenses so you can cut down on costs, and discover where your biggest income sources lie. My hope is that this will be the key to your success on the road!
One last thing – I think the spread of knowledge is far more important than perfect grammar or spelling. I’ve proofed the content of this book many times over, but if I missed a typo somewhere, sue me. You paid so much money for this book, right?
You may have already taken a look at the Excel files included and thought, “oh god, what did I get myself into?” Don’t worry! This is really easier than it seems, I promise.
You’ll find one file called “Sample Tour Sheets.xlsx”, which is already filled out with information so you can see what a completed sheet looks like. Feel free to experiment with the sheet so that you can see the relationships between different numbers (be sure to save an unedited copy first)! There is also a PDF version of this file so you can see a “printed” version.
The other file, called “Blank Tour Sheets.xlsx”, is for you to save a copy and fill in for practice or your real-life tour. As above, before making any changes, as before, save an unedited copy!
Section 1: Getting Started/Dates and Venues
There are seven different sheets in the workbook:
- Dates and Venues (your schedule)
- Estimated Daily Budget
- Expense Log
- Actual Daily Budget
- Profit or Loss Statement
- Commissions and Fees
Data in the Dates and Venues tab
We’ll start by filling in the dates, days of the week, and the city you hope to play on each date. For the date and weekday, just enter the date for Day 1 in cell B5 of the tour, and the rest will automatically adjust. At this point you won’t have booked the shows yet, so you won’t know which venue you’re playing – that will get filled in later.
The rationale column is for personal notes explaining why you chose the city in question for that day of the tour. It’s not required and can be left blank, if you prefer.
Routing and scheduling was covered in part one of How to Plan a DIY Tour on my website, https://pinnacleprosound.com. If you haven’t read the blog post, do that before reading on.
Once you have filled in the information mentioned above, it’s time to head over to Google Maps to get mileage and trip time information. To do this, you enter the city of Day 1 as the starting point and the city of Day 2 as the destination. Then enter the mileage in cell G5 and travel time in H5. Back in Google Maps, set the Day 2 city as the starting point and the Day 3 city as the destination, and repeat with G6 and H6. Continue on until you have all the mileage for your tour calculated and entered into your spreadsheet.[*]
Section 2: Estimated Daily Budget
There are two nearly identical tabs. This section is for the ESTIMATED Daily Budget. We’ll cover the Actual Daily Budget in a later section.
This is where things can get a bit trickier. Thankfully, your date, city, and venue columns will have auto-populated from the Dates and Venues tab. Ta-da! The city and venue fields in the Estimated Daily Budget tab will display the number 0 until the appropriate information is filled in on the Dates and Venues tab.
Now to get down to business: you have to determine a reasonable budget for each of the items in the daily expense budget. These seven categories of costs which you will be incurring every single day (or nearly every day), including:
Promotions covers a variety of items including online advertising, printing flyers, buying tickets for representatives of the media (print, online, and radio), and other related expenses. Ideally you will set an individual budget for each stop of the tour, all relating to the size of your potential audience, the size of the venue, and how engaged your fanbase in that city already is. A good place to start is between $25 and $100 per city, depending on what you can afford.[†]
You’re probably thinking how you’re going to get posters up in a city before you even go there. We’ll cover this later, but it’s probably simpler than you think!
The vehicle column can include many different items relating to your transportation. If you’re renting a vehicle, you would include the daily cost of the rental here. Whether you rent or own, most transport-related expenses belong in this column, aside from fuel and tolls. Items that should be included in the vehicle column include, but are not limited to:
- Replacement tires
- Emergency repairs
- Oil/oil changes
- Jumper cables (always have a set handy)
- First aid/safety kit
- And more…
This will be covered when we go over the Fuel tab, the fields in the Estimated Daily Budget Sheet will auto-populate when the Fuel tab is filled in.
Any tolls you expect to drive through should be entered here. A safe estimate is $10 per day.
This is where the lovely per diem comes in. A per diem (per day, often abbreviated to PD) is a cash stipend given to cover meals and incidental costs for people on the road. A stingy PD is $10, $20 is fairly standard for small tours, and the amount can be even higher ($50+) for major tours.
$20 is generally a good starting point unless you’re tight for cash, in which case you could cut it to $10. Expect some grumbles, though.
Your PD expenses will be the same for every single day of the tour, but will only be reflected in your accounting on the first day of each week of the tour (day 1, day 8, etc.).
To calculate the daily PD costs for your tour, multiply the number of people in your party (band members plus crew and management) by the value of your PD. If you are four band members plus a merchandise manager with a $20 PD, that would bring you to $100 per day (five people, $20 each), or $700 per week. Major tours vary PD costs between band members, management, crew, etc. but for a small tour keep it even across the board so it’s fair for everyone.
To distribute the PDs, give everyone their PDs for the first week on Day 1, for the second week on Day 8, the third week on Day 15, etc. Make sure you have them confirm in writing that they received their per diem. Having a check in sheet each week where every person in the party must sign their name when you give them the cash is an easy way to do it.
If you can find places to crash and not incur hotel costs, great! But just in case, it’s best to assume a small hotel cost for each night, say around $120 for two rooms in a crappy motel. That way you won’t go way over budget if you do have to stay in a hotel a few times.
You can cut costs in this section by using AirBNBs, finding friends or local bands to crash with, or sleeping in the van. Most 24 hour Walmart locations won’t have a problem with you parking overnight, plus you have easy access to snacks and a bathroom[‡]. You should always call ahead and ask, though.
As an extra reminder for anywhere you stay, be respectful of the environment you’re in. Don’t trash hotel rooms, friend’s houses, parking lots, or anywhere else. You don’t want to get hit with any extra fees at a hotel or have anyone out there who can truthfully say bad things about your band. Plus, you’ll want to crash with the same people again next time you tour!
This section is for any other costs incurred on the road, including but not limited to, tolls, oil changes (if needed), replacing drumsticks/heads and guitar/bass strings, and replacing the TV your lead singer smashed in the last hotel. Actually, just make sure no one smashes a TV and your budget will be a lot happier.
Section 3: Fuel
This might be the easiest tab to fill in. The date and mileage to next city columns will populate automatically from the information in the Dates and Venues tab. This section shows your estimated fuel costs. The actual costs you pay must be entered into Expense Log tab every time you buy fuel.
Fuel price is set to a default of $3 per gallon and the MPG (miles per gallon) column is set at 20. To get accurate numbers, adjust the fuel price to reflect the actual cost at the time you’re making your budget. Regional differences will come into play, too.
Adjust the MPG to reflect the vehicle you’re driving. Remember, loading a van full of people and gear and towing a trailer will burn a lot more gas than the advertised MPG for the vehicle, so be conservative when entering the MPG. Entering the MPG in cell F4 will adjust the MPG for the whole column, which works as long as you don’t switch vehicles during the tour.
Total Actual Mileage
At the bottom of the Fuel tab, you’ll see just a few more fields. This is designed to track your mileage on the tour. When you start the tour, pop the mileage of the vehicle into the mileage at start of tour field. At the end, enter the mileage into the mileage at end of tour field. Your total mileage for the tour will then fill in below. This is very important when driving your own vehicle since you can write those miles off as a business expense (consult with your accountant first!). If you’re renting, it has no monetary impact however it’s still good information to have[§].
Finding Cheap Fuel
By the way, once you hit the road, the Waze app is great for finding the best price at nearby gas stations. You can also save gas by using “Eco Mode” if your vehicle has it, reducing drag by having your gear and merchandise in the back of the van instead of a trailer if it fits, and by keeping your tires properly inflated to the correct PSI and engine well lubricated.
Section 4: Expense Log
The expense log serves three main purposes in your accounting because it:
- Allows you to see all your expenses as line items with the payment method, category, and reason for purchase.
- Provides a quick and easy way to add up your expenses for the Actual Daily Budget.
- Acts as a list of expenditures that can potentially be written off on your taxes. Check with your CPA.
Use of the expense log is extremely simple. At the end of each day (or throughout the day) collect all receipts for purchases made with band funds and enter them, one receipt per line. The payment method and category columns feature dropdown menus in each cell to ensure you are selecting the appropriate options. The reasoning column is to explain what you purchased, why, etc. It doesn’t have to be super in depth, but enough to make it clear what was needed.
The expenses here don’t always have to be purchases, but you should have receipts for all items – this document will be handed to your accountant for tax deductions at the end of the year.
For example, when you give per diems to the band and crew (and yourself), you have each person sign that they received X amount in cash for that week of the tour. You would then enter the date, Cash as the payment method, Meals as the category, and the total cash handed out as per diems for the week as the amount. The reasoning would be, “per diem distribution.”
Section 5: Actual Daily Budget
DO NOT EDIT ANYTHING IN THIS TAB. It is for reference only.
The Actual Daily Budget is practically identical to the Estimated Daily Budget. There are, however, a few key differences. For easy tracking, the cells in this tab are designed to highlight in red if you’re over budget and green if you’re under budget.
Each of the categories here will populate with expenses as you fill out the Expense Log. If you skip the date, category, or amount field in an entry on the Expense Log, the expense will not be carried over so it is vital that you fill out the Expense Log properly. To check if the numbers are adding correctly, compare the running total on your Expense Log with the actual total on the Actual Daily Expense Budget.
You’ll see your running totals each night at the bottom of the page. At the end of the tour you’ll have your total expenses for each category as well as your total including all categories. Again, the cells will highlight if you are over or under budget. Let’s hope they light up green!
Section 6: Profit or Loss Statement
This section is pretty easy and for the most part self explanatory, but just in case here’s a rundown.
The show guarantees field will populate from the Dates and Venues tab, and tour gross income will add your income sources together. You will have to fill in merchandise income[**] manually, since that will be tracked in a separate spreadsheet.
For expenses, you only have to fill in the merchandise expenses[††] field.
Daily expenses will automatically populate from the Actual Daily Budget tab and Commissions and Fees will populate from the tab of the same name.
Once all of the required information (including information in other tabs) has been added, you will see your total profit or loss. Fingers crossed you’re not in the red!
You’ll notice that the band in the “Sample Tour Sheets.xlsx” file took a fairly heavy loss. This is to illustrate that bands at this level usually will not break even or make a profit. It’s not impossible though, so if you create a realistic yet conservative budget, you might just swing it!
Section 7: Commissions and Fees
Some of you may need this tab and some of you may not. It all depends on if you have management, a booking agent, and crew. If you do have any of the above, you’ll need to fill out this section.
The tour gross income (TGI) will automatically fill in from your Profit or Loss Statement. The commission for your personal manager, business manager, and booking agent will calculate automatically once the TGI has populated. Adjust their fee by changing the percentage in each row to whatever cut they are taking. If you don’t have one or more of the particular members of your management or booking team, set the percentage of those members to 0% to bypass the deduction.
You may or may not have a tour manager, merchandise manager, or FOH engineer (sound guy). For any crew that you do have, fill in the amount you are paying them for the tour in the appropriate line.
Once you have everything in the tab filled in, you’ll see the total commissions and fees as well as your TGI less commissions and fees. This tab will in turn update your Profit or Loss Statement tab to reflect your added expenses.
I hope The Ultimate DIY Tour Budgeting Guide for Bands helps you along your journey to a successful career as a musician or tour manager. If you ever have questions, you can always email me at [email protected] and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
Everything in the spreadsheets was done in Excel, partly from experience and partly extensive research. I’m not an Excel wizard or even a numbers genius. I just wanted to make it as easy as possible for you to follow along and see the numbers for your tour adding up and with lots of trial and error figured out the best template to do so. I assume no liability for errors in this guide or the included spreadsheets. If you have any suggestions to further improve the spreadsheets, let me know! If I use your ideas, I’ll give you credit in a future edition of the guide.
Free Budget Consultation
Just because you made it to the end of the guide, I’ll also offer you a 30-minute consultation on your completed tour budget to help you try to bring costs down for your upcoming tour. Send me an email with your completed budget for me to look over and we will schedule a call from there.
Thank you to professors Julie Viscardi-Smalley and Jess White who helped me learn about tour budgeting when I was in school. Those budgeting basics really helped me harness the knowledge and apply it in real life, and in turn pass it on to the readers of this guide.
Additional thanks to Jamie Board, Aaron Gingras, and Jasmine Rose Fuentes who suggested some excellent ideas and helped proof this guide and the attached spreadsheets. Their contributions played no small part in the creation of this work.
[*]For your last show, enter the mileage and driving time from the city of your last show to your HOME CITY (or wherever you are taking the van and gear after the tour). This way you will be factoring in the costs of driving home from the last show. Ignore this if the van is staying in the final city.
[†] In a future blog post I’ll give you some great promotions tips to help keep your budget in check!
[‡] In some areas of the US, sleeping in a vehicle is considered illegal. Always check first to make sure you don’t get an unwelcome wakeup during the night!
[§] If you’re renting, keep receipts for fuel, oil changes, maintenance, parts, etc. as you can most likely write those off instead of the mileage. Check with your CPA!
[**] Enter your GROSS Merchandise Income here. This is the total amount of money brought in on merchandise sales, before any expenses are deducted.
[††] Enter your Merchandise Expenses here. Expenses can include cost of goods sold, taxes, inventory losses (due to theft or damage), etc. Any crew working merchandise for you should be entered in the Commissions and Fees tab, not here in Merchandise Expenses.