Despite what you might hear from others around the grapevine, the future of live music isn’t in question. It is becoming more difficult, however, with the rising costs of basically everything. A band losing thousands of dollars on an overseas support tour is nothing new, either. It’s true that said touring climate is more difficult than ever, with streaming services paying peanuts and album sales being LOL-worthy. It’s also forcing musicians to take on extra jobs (even while on tour), and the fact is that not all of them are able to have day jobs that are flexible enough to tour regularly.
For Nuclear Blast metal band Irist, though, you have to feel at least a little bad for them. Their debut album dropped in March 2020, just after the COVID-19 pandemic curbed touring for basically any non-Trapt/Seventh Day Slumber in existence. If musicians like Devin Townsend are struggling, what does that mean for bands like Irist who are trying to establish themselves? From a financial standpoint, the damage is quite ugly.
Between spending 120-150 dollars in hotel rooms a night and not making nearly as much on merch as they expected, things didn’t go too swimmingly for Irist when they supported Elder and Pallbearer in Europe for 6 weeks recently. It’s not like the band is untalented, mind you. Their 2020 debut album Order Of The Mind received high praise from a variety of tastemakers. But the fact is, in the genre they play in, it’s difficult for even mid-level bands to find sustained success of the financial kind.
They’ve also apparently never toured North America (despite being based in Atlanta, Georgia), yet they’ve toured overseas multiple times. To be fair, even many of their scheduled home state performances were nuked because of COVID-19, and 3/4 members of Irist are of international origin), but that being said, it likely would have been wiser to build up more of a fanbase in their home country first. Obviously, that decision is their choice. How could they have known a tour planned many months in advance would end up costing a lot more than they thought? After all, what’s right for one band isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.
It’s so bad for them that Irist had to make a GoFundMe, and as the band also notes, it’s not likely they’ll tour for a very long time after this. Which is sad, because as we mentioned before, they are quite a talented (though under the radar) band.
What can be done about the problems touring musicians face, though? Sometimes even extreme frugality isn’t enough, but then again, some bands have still been able to weather the storm. Whether it’s scaling back and doing regional tours, having jobs that allow musicians to take time off and not have to quit their jobs, or practicing a “bare bones” approach to touring and taking only the minimum needed, it is possible (as many noted during the story’s discourse on social media) to even make money on tours. But undoubtedly, it’s more difficult than ever. And not everyone has these luxuries. The better question is, what advice would YOU have for bands to cut costs?
As bassist Bruno Segovia noted: “The cost of living has gone up exponentially, I think everywhere in the world. Everything is just way more expensive and, at least here in the States, wages are not going up in the same manner.”