Life Of A Touring Band

doing gigs Feb 22, 2023

Life on the road for a professional touring band is a mixed bag of excitement and challenges. It is a lifestyle that offers the chance to see the world, perform for thousands of fans, and experience the thrill of live music night after night. However, it also involves long periods away from home, endless hours of travel, and a grueling schedule that can take a toll on both physical and mental health. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of life on the road for a professional touring band, the rates of pay for headlining and support acts, the challenges of maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine, and how to avoid burnout.

Pros and Cons of Life on the Road:

One of the most significant advantages of being a professional touring band is the opportunity to travel the world and perform for thousands of fans. The excitement of being on stage, the energy of the crowd, and the adrenaline rush of live performance are second to none. Additionally, touring can be a great way for a band to build their brand, expand their fan base, and establish a reputation as a must-see live act.

However, life on the road also has its challenges. One of the biggest downsides is the long periods away from home and loved ones. Touring bands can spend weeks, if not months, on the road, which can be a significant strain on personal relationships. Moreover, touring can be physically and mentally exhausting, with long hours of travel, sound checks, and rehearsals, coupled with the pressure of performing live night after night.

Rates of Pay for Headlining vs. Support Acts:

The pay for touring bands can vary significantly based on several factors, including the size of the venue, the popularity of the band, and whether they are a headlining act or a support act. A headlining act is typically the main attraction of a show, and they play for a longer set time. Headlining bands are generally the most popular and established, and they can command higher fees for their performances.

On the other hand, support acts are bands that open for the headliner, and they usually play for a shorter set time. While support acts may not earn as much as the headliner, touring with a more established band can be an excellent way for an up-and-coming band to gain exposure and build their fan base. Support acts can earn anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per show, depending on the size of the venue and the popularity of the headliner.

Examples of Headlining and Support Acts:

There are many examples of headlining and support acts in the music industry. Some of the most popular headlining acts of all time include The Rolling Stones, U2, and Beyoncé. These artists are at the top of their game and can command fees in the millions of dollars per show. Other headlining acts include Radiohead, Coldplay, and Foo Fighters, who are also hugely popular and successful in their own right.

Support acts can range from emerging artists to established acts who are not quite at headlining level yet. Some examples of support acts include Hozier, who opened for Florence + The Machine, and The Lumineers, who supported U2 on their 360 Tour. These bands were able to gain significant exposure by touring with more established acts and were able to build their fan base as a result.

Hotels and Tour Buses:

Here is some footage of a gig I did with in 2019 in Wynn Casino, Macau. The only time I've ever had 6 Star accomodation. I can assure you this is definitely NOT the norm for most away gigs! :)

One of the biggest challenges for touring bands is finding suitable accommodations on the road. While headlining acts may be able to afford five-star hotels, support acts are more likely to stay in budget hotels or motels. However, regardless of the level of success, most bands will spend a significant amount of time on tour buses, which can be equipped with sleeping quarters, a lounge area, and even a kitchen.

Sleeping on the Bus:

Sleeping on the bus can be a challenge, especially if the bus is moving or if there is a lot of noise from the road or other passengers. Many tour buses are equipped with sleeping quarters, which can include bunk beds or single beds, but they can still be cramped and uncomfortable. In some cases, band members may choose to sleep in a hotel room if the schedule allows, but this can be expensive and logistically challenging if the venue is far away.

* Here's a photo of the Shout! bus when we were touring Australia all the way back in 2002. Because this was an extended tour we had the full "bus wrap" but again, most times you're just hopping in a hire van and off you go.

Maintaining a Healthy Diet on the Road:

Touring can be a significant challenge for maintaining a healthy diet. It is easy to fall into the trap of eating fast food and junk food, which can lead to weight gain and other health problems. However, there are ways to eat healthily on the road. One way is to bring a blender, such as a NutriBullet 800, and make smoothies using fresh fruits and vegetables. Another option is to pack healthy snacks, such as nuts, seeds, and fruit, and to avoid vending machines and convenience stores.

Getting Exercise on the Road:

Getting enough exercise on the road can be a challenge, especially if the band is traveling for long periods. However, there are ways to stay active even if there are no gyms available. One option is to go for a run or walk in the city or town where the band is playing. Many bands also bring portable workout equipment, such as resistance bands, yoga mats, or weights, to help them stay in shape. Additionally, some bands opt for group exercise activities, such as yoga or Pilates, which can be done in a hotel room or on the bus.

How to Avoid Burnout:

Burnout is a common problem for touring bands, and it can be caused by a variety of factors, including long periods away from home, lack of sleep, and a demanding schedule. To avoid burnout, it is essential to take care of both physical and mental health. This includes getting enough sleep, eating healthily, exercising regularly, and taking time for self-care activities, such as meditation or reading. Additionally, it is important to maintain a support system, which can include family and friends, as well as fellow band members.

Touring with a Family:

Touring with a family can be a challenge, but it is becoming easier in some ways thanks to technology. Video chat and social media make it easier for band members to stay in touch with their families while on the road. However, it can still be challenging to balance the demands of touring with family obligations, and some band members may choose to bring their families along on the road. This can be a significant expense, as it requires additional hotel rooms and transportation, but it can also be a way for band members to stay connected with their loved ones while pursuing their musical careers.


Life on the road for a professional touring band is an adventure full of excitement and challenges. While the opportunity to travel the world, perform for thousands of fans, and experience the thrill of live music night after night is a dream come true for many musicians, it also involves long periods away from home, endless hours of travel, and a grueling schedule that can take a toll on both physical and mental health. However, with careful planning, healthy habits, and a strong support system, touring bands can overcome these challenges and continue to pursue their passion for music while living life on the road.

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