Bassist Andrew Abbott of the band Left & Right works the merch table at The Basement in Nashville. Photo by Emily Maxwell.
The financial reality of life on the road during an independent artist’s first tour is often bleak: most nights, door money won’t cover the cost of gas to get to the next show, let alone a fast-food value meal or a new pack of strings. That money — the money that keeps a tour going — is made at the merch booth, not onstage.
“Back in the day, we’d play shows at someone’s house where we’d play to like 20 people, so we wouldn’t really make any money from the door, but we’d make $300 to $400 from merch because the kids that came would all buy a bunch of stuff,” says Matt Chevalier, bassist for Minnesota emo band Tiny Moving Parts, a trio that spends more than 200 days a year on the road. “That happened a lot when we were first starting out.”
The band embarked on their first tour in the summer of 2012 with DIY screen printed t-shirts and spray painted, home-burned CDs in cases made from cut up beer boxes. “We knew a friend who had a screen printer, so we ordered shirts and helped him do it,” says drummer Billy Chevalier. “It was good having that hook-up.”
Tour manager Sabrina Rush, who has hit the road with the likes of Angel Olsen, Torres and Bill Callahan, says she’s seen artists bring homemade merch of all kinds on the road. “Some of the bands... Sign In to Keep Reading