Yesterday I posted this on my Facebook page:
I am looking for an opening band for the upcoming North American tour. If your band (2-3 performers) wants to be the main support for 3-4 weeks in April 2013, then please contact: email@example.com. This is a buy-on slot, but the buy-on is essentially a tourbus share, so you won’t need transportation/hotels, etc. – If you think you can go hard with The Lord and me for a month, hit us up!
Basically I am asking if anyone wants to pay to support us on 20 shows in April 2013.
This is a very normal thing and almost every support band you see on a tour is a buy-on band unless they are very close friends of the main act or are at a similar level of public recognition so that the tour is beneficial to both acts. And then you mostly have a 3rd band that buys on.
Within a few hours of my post I had a bunch of emails from random people saying “You capitalist pig! Charging bands to play is a crime!” and from some bands who are completely misjudging the costs of touring by thinking that the whole buy-on will be costing “around US$ 500 for 20 shows“. The real cost for a buy-on slot such as this is US$ 300 per show.
Why? It’s quite simple, because that’s just what it costs to travel. To express it more clearly, I took out my pen and paper and made this little infographic to illustrate the subject matter:
As you can see from the piechart at the bottom, the costs for tourbus and gas combined are approximately US$ 17500. And since there is room on the bus for more people than The Lord, me and our crew, it just makes sense to offer the remaining bus space to a band who wants to raise their profile by playing more and bigger shows than they usually could on their own. It’s not like they could play 20 shows cheaper in a van themselves and The Lord and I are buying mansions with the buy-on money (I wish!!) …
Tour buy-on’s are real because they help the newer bands gain a following from a more established band’s fanbase while they help offset tour costs. In more commercial scenes that means you pay big bucks on top of the tourbus-share/fee.
If you want to do that or not is up to you of course.