How much does it cost to tour?

August 6th, 2012
contra, money, tour
The Free Raisins just got back from a week-long tour. While most of the compensation in playing for dances is non-monetary, paid in fun and appreciation, you do get money too. Which prompts questions: do you lose money touring? How does it compare to other low-paid but potentially highly fulfilling employment opportunities?

We were gone Thursday night through Sunday afternoon, playing seven contra dances [1]. We drove about 2500 miles. We traded cars with my parents to get a larger one with AC, and we reimbursed them for mileage [2]. Various kind dancers put us up, and fed us breakfast and occasionally other meals. The rest of our food was from the supermarket.

Expense Amount
Housing $0
Food $68
Car $200
Gas $235
Tolls $40
Total $543

Total payment for the seven dances was $2,520. Subtracting expenses that's $1,975 in income, or $659 each. Per person per working day it's $82. While it would be impractical to tour full-time, both in terms of finding enough dances and that it's kind of exhausting, for comparison's sake multiplied out to 50 weeks a year you have the equivalent of a $20K/year job with no benefits. So the traditional "we're not doing this to get rich" seems justified.


[1] Glen Echo Friday, Glen Echo Sunday, Knoxville, Winston-Salem, Baltimore, Rochester, Ithaca, and Syracuse

[2] We paid them $200 for putting 2500 miles on their 2004 Corolla. Even after including our $235 in gas, this is well under the IRS reimbursement of $1253 at 50.5¢/mile. On the other hand, starting at 140713 miles, those additional ones bring the bluebook value of the car down $75 from $4875 to $4800. Another way to calculate it is to compare to buying a new car and driving it until it dies. A new Corolla would cost $15K, and would probably last 200K miles without major repairs. Add $5K for maintenance, and you get 10¢/mile or $250.

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