It's Hard Being the Opener On Tour...
So there's this thing I do whenever I notice a band I'm familiar with is coming through town on tour. I invite them to stay at my house. We give them the whole basement to themselves, let them do laundry, cook them breakfast in the morning, etc. The only thing in exchange I really ask is to get Lindsey and I on the guestlist for the show (assuming we can make it, because sometimes we can't).
There's a reason I do this. It's because a lot of the bands out there are touring on shoe-string budgets. Especially if they are the opening act, which most of my touring experience often was. Now, for the moment I'm brushing larger budget tours where everyone is making good money aside, because a very huge part of the touring world is filled by bands barely scraping by, and it can be really tough. So, say you just released your first or second album, you've got some fans and some press, but not enough to fill 300 cap. venues in twenty cities across the US. You're pushing for it, though. You wanna get on the road, because that's one of the best ways to make it happen. Well, so you probably hop on a larger band's tour as their opener. And you know, maybe it's decent pay. But a lot of the time, opening bands are getting anywhere from $100-250 per show. Once you add up the totals for gas, food, and lodging, that money disappears almost instantaneously. So you're left with merch money. If your record label is taking half of the cut from your album sales, and your booking agent is taking 15% of your guarantee at the end of the tour, you've got those expenses, too. It's not uncommon to actually end up in the hole if you don't sell a shit-ton of merch or find some creative way to make money in addition to shows.
My band realized the struggle. We lost money on several tours. We had to figure out how to reduce costs in any way possible. And the easiest of those was finding places to stay on the road. We really relied on couchsurfing.org (check out my profile here and you can see a lot of the reviews/interactions we had with people we stayed with on the road- ALL positive!) as well as friends and family while we traveled from city to city. On some tours it made the difference between losing money and not. It also gave us something a little more special in each city- a person who called it home, to become friends with, and share stories with. I feel a lot more connected to some places because of the people we stayed with while we were there. Sometimes it was a little rougher and dirtier, but other times we literally walked into a miniature mansion and were treated with surreal hospitality by our hosts.
So this is what I do now that I'm not really touring. I look for the opportunities when our family can host a band and help them save a little dough. In a sense it's paying back the good deeds of all the wonderful people that helped my bands not lose their asses touring, but it's also because I know the struggle is real and I think that every city needs a community that helps out touring bands.
If I ran a venue, I would make a significant effort to set up a community of band hosting volunteers. People whom I would vet- no creepers trying to get with girls in bands (because there were two girls in Races and that was a thing we had to watch out for), no party-whores (It's horrible when your host thinks that bands like to party until the sun comes up, when all you want to do is fucking sleep because you just drove for ten hours straight, just to barely make it to load-in and you have to wake up in six hours to do it again tomorrow) and make sure they had suitable accommodations for the band (it can actually be pretty demoralizing to find that your lodging for the night is a rollout on a dirty carpet). All the opening bands, who you know are basically making squat for their guarantee, could always be taken care of at least on lodging, if there was a solid rotation of people willing to host bands as they toured through the city.
I think little things like this would mean a lot for many of the touring bands struggling to make ends meet on the road. Of course, we all aim to get to the point where decent hotels are just part of the expenses and are no sweat, but it can sometimes be a long and hard road to get there, and getting a break on hotels can really make a difference.