How To Stop Touring Without Going Broke

Touring is one a great source of income for artists. But it's not for everyone. Here are some alternatives to the road that won't put you in the poorhouse.
July 26, 2018

While touring remains a reliable source of income for serious musicians, spending night after night out on the road comes with plenty of costs and risks, including health, relationships and, in some cases, careers.

Routines that are crucial for maintaining relationships and a healthy lifestyle are upended every time an artist embarks on a tour. Touring can be especially detrimental when a cycle emerges that keeps musicians out on the road for months at a time and away from the studio. And for some artists "of a certain age," touring just becomes can cause too much wear and tear.

So for musicians working in today’s complex and competitive music industry, figuring out ways to earn an income from home is becoming more of a necessity for personal and creative survival than a luxury.

Here’s four ways you can earn money without touring:

1. Create exclusive content

If you’re earning a living exclusively through writing and performing music, it means there’s a big demand for the unique creative contribution that only you can give. One of the best ways songwriters can earn money without touring is by selling exclusive content to their most devoted fans. Live-streamed living room concerts, covers by request, or original music that can only be accessed through a monthly subscription—your creativity is the limit. Offering exclusive content to your fans can keep you off the road and in a healthy financial position.

Some traditionalists might be leery of spending their time and creative energy making music that only a small section of their fans will ever get to hear. But serious musicians need to face the fact that the industry has rapidly changed. Adaptation isn’t an option, and many artists can benefit from setting aside some of their music for fans who’ll appreciate—and pay for it—the most.

Platforms like Patreon give artists an easy way to set up exclusive content campaigns for their fans.

2. Take merch sales into your own hands

Artists lose out on an easy way to earn a passive income when they only give fans the chance to buy their merch while they’re on tour. With high-profile venues taking a massive 30% chunk out of merch sales on average, serious musicians should take another look at other ways to sell their t-shirts, posters, and other fan-favorite gear.

Setting up shop directly from your website or through platforms like Etsy, Shopify, MerchDirect or MyMinto lets your fans buy your merch while you’re off the road, while giving you a much bigger cut of of the profits at the same time. And the fees Etsy are a mere fraction of that nasty 30% cut venues take. Some music-specific website building services (like Bandzoogle) even offer merch-specific modules.

Sure, it takes a little work to set something like this up. But once you do, you’ll have an easy way to earn money from home.

3. Taking on commercial projects

Writing music for film, TV, and commercials might have once been considered “selling out,” but it’s becoming less and less of a stigma in today’s music industry. In fact, a good sync placement can be the road to more people discovering your music.

These sorts of projects usually pay well, allowing songwriters to work from home and give musicians a chance to flex their creative muscles in a way that reserves most of their time and energy for their own music. Opportunities like these aren’t easy to come by for new, unestablished musicians. But songwriters who’ve found success are often sought after again and again. Check out Songtradr, MusicBed, or other online placement services if you’re looking for an easy way to explore commercial opportunities.

If you’ve never done this sort of work before, don’t worry if your music will fit commercial projects or not. Producers and music curators are often looking for music from independent songwriters because what they do sounds fresh, relevant and non-formulaic.

4. Sell your old songs

Music royalties are a great opportunity for investors looking for alternatives to stocks, bonds, and real estate. Even if you're just making a few thousand dollars a year in royalty income, there are investors willing to pay for just a portion of your royalties.

Royalty Exchange is an online marketplace where songwriters can find these investors. Through their platform, connecting with potential investors is easy. You keep all your copyrights, and you decide how much of your royalty income to sell, and how much to keep.  

Rather than anxiously waiting until the next advance, songwriters can take charge of their financial futures with Royalty Exchange by earning a great income on their own terms. If over-touring has started taking a toll on you and your career, consider selling some of your royalties through Royalty Exchange.

Touring is essential for most active musicians, but it doesn’t have to be something that takes away from your life. We’ve mentioned four examples of ways to earn money off the road, but there’s plenty of other options to explore if you look for them.

Financial literacy and empowerment aren’t talked about nearly enough in the music industry, but here’s the thing—every songwriter will have to come to terms with their unique financial situation eventually, whether it’s proactive planning or reactive necessity.

The choice is yours, but if you love what you do and want to get the most out of your career, facing your finances now and building a healthy, sustainable life on and off the road is mandatory.

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