Balance Sheet is our effort to break down taboos around money in the music industry. Today, Bella White goes through the income and expenses from a 17-date headlining tour.
The Canadian child of a Virginia bluegrass player, Bella White has always felt the call of far-off places. Just Like Leaving, her breakthrough 2021 album, interpreted classic Appalachian sounds through a thoroughly modern sensibility, with songs of love and longing that could appeal not just to teenagers her own age, but also their grandparents.
Now she’s 22 and readying the release of her major label follow-up, Among Other Things, due out April 21st on Rounder Records (pre-orders are ongoing). With singles “The Way I Oughta Go,” “Rhododendron,” and “Break My Heart” she’s also expanded her sound, taking in indie folk and windswept country without losing the bluegrass roots she inherited from her father.
As a Canadian artist with American fans, White faces unique challenges when it comes to touring, especially since she lives on on island, “which does not help with convenience or cutting down costs,” she tells Consequence. In February she embarked on a 17-date headlining tour, and travel costs presented one of her biggest barriers to profitability. But with the aid of a $5,000 grant from the Canadian government, White came out in the black. Read on to learn how she netted $2,116.48 from the trek.
We usually end up flying in and meeting in the city that our first show is in due to the nature of me and my bandmates living spread between western Canada, eastern Canada, and the USA. Also, I live on an island, which does not help with convenience or cutting down costs. Our flights usually end up ranging between $250 – $1000 (worst case) — clearly if there are 3 or more of us that adds up pretty quickly. On top of that, we usually have to fill the gas tank daily which is another $100 or so every go around. On a 3-week tour that gets pretty expensive. Not to mention tough on the planet!
Vehicle Rental and Gas: -$2,954.58
We’ve become more of a hotel band over time! As much as I’d like to save money by crashing on couches and with friends, the need for personal space when spending a huge chunk of your life on the road becomes pretty necessary, though we do share rooms and sometimes beds if need be. We try to keep our hotel rooms in the $100-a-night range as much as possible, sometimes splurging on a nicer option if we’ve had an especially long drive that day or are needing a morale boost. Staying at an Airbnb when you’re somewhere for more than one night can truly feel like heaven on earth!
Subtotal: – $2,108.16
We are definitely a health-conscious group and all fare a lot better on the road when we are eating less fast food and more fruits and veggies and all that jazz. We often seek the healthy food store and salad bars when we can. Sometimes I will even buy a bag of spinach and eat it by the handful just to ensure I’m getting some nutrients. We like to cook meals when we can but most hotels don’t have kitchens, so it’s a bit of a luxury when the opportunity arises. My band has a handful of food allergies, making eating on tour challenging — especially finding a restaurant that we can all eat at together. Of course, we love to buy snacks at the gas station.
We love a good museum, we love a good swim, pretty music, anything that gets us outside if the weather is accommodating. We are lucky to not have to spend too much money in this category!
I hire each of my band members (who I love!), and a tour manager, so those are the first costs that are tallied when preparing and routing tours. Each of them gets a day rate plus a per diem to help offset the cost of meals.
The money I am making at shows ranges depending on the gig. Sometimes it’s $250 and sometimes it’s $5000. If I am opening the show, it’s always less. We make most of our money through the merch table selling apparel and records, though we do have to pay for those things to be produced and designed, with higher quality products lessening profit margins. Luckily being Canadian I have access to the grant system which is the biggest blessing an artist could ask for – I’m so grateful!
Concert Revenue: $6,685.00
Grant Offset: $5,000
Merch Revenue: $6,034.14
Music Expenses: -$6,715.00