Tour Report: how we earned minimum wage as musicians for 9 days.
We launched a gig funding (gigstarter) site a few months back called OneCityPerSecond.com. The idea was to see if we could get some concerts pre-financed to reduce the financial risk of touring.
After one successful campaign for a solo gig in Gothenburg, Sweden, and two concerts with the full band in Zaragoza, Spain, which were indirect consequences of setting up the website, we decided to try and organise a tour in Germany.
The campaign itself was not really that successful but it did help us communicate the fact that we were ready and willing to play some shows, which resulted in some of our friends and fans providing us with some assistance.
Here’s a tour diary and some details on the financial and organisational side of things.
Day 1: Dikkenek Café, Lyon
We started our journey with a 6-hour drive from Toulouse to Lyon.
The Dikkenek Café is a fairly new Belgian bar in a popular area of the town. When we looked for the bar’s website on google, the first result was a blog that was set up by angry neighbours that provides instructions on how to get the bar shut down. We actually linked to that blog thinking that the Belgians have a weird sense of humour.
We later found out that the blog was set up 6 weeks before the bar even opened! Nice neighbours they have.
We managed to find a gig there through some old friends of Olivier’s (our drummer, who used to live in Lyon). They’re called Paloma à l’Orange and they were a really cool opening band. We quickly rehearsed a cover song by Deus during sound check with them and joined them on stage for a sing along. It was good fun.
There wasn’t much of a turnout but we weren’t expecting that many people as we don’t have that many fans in Lyon and no one really promoted the gig. We were happy to have a place to stay on our way to Germany to split to journey in half.
We ended up selling one vinyl and made enough from donations to put a bit of fuel in the car. We also got some nice healthy food before the gig (Pizza). :)
Distance traveled: 600 km
Finances after gig: -€141
Day 2: Hafen2, Offenbach
Hafen2 is a fairly big venue just outside Frankfurt.
Renaud and I had played Hafen2 two years previously and the gig had gone really well, so we were expecting a few people to come. We were wrong!
The people from Hafen2 take really good care of the bands though and prepare delicious vegan food (seriously, it was delicious!). There’s plenty of beer and a nice clean dorm to sleep in as well. The money wasn’t great but it was a good location since we were heading to Leipzig the next day.
We played with the Hungry Kids of Hungary, an Australian band on tour in Europe. They played a great show, albeit in front of a very small crowd. We were hoping that they would show us what proper rock bands do after gigs (partying until 5 in the morning, drinking themselves silly, throwing TV’s out the window) but they were a huge disappointment as not only were they really well behaved, they were really nice guys too.
We sold a few CD’s and vinyls that night. We also got the second strangest request for a drawing of the whole tour. Someone asked for a drawing of Angela Merkel with ex-President Sarkozy to her left, and newly elected President Hollande to her right. Weird!
The next morning, we spent an hour in a really large room (really high ceiling) behind the stage where we shot some videos. The people from the venue were unaware we were in there and locked us in! And the great thing about sound proof doors is that you can’t hear people knocking on them!
We managed to escape after hopelessly pounding on the door for a few minutes and then shot some new press photos outside the venue. Our current press photos are from 2008!
So all in all, it wasn’t such a bad start to the tour.
Distance traveled: 1,300 km
Finances after gig: -€132
Day 3: Essential Existence Gallery, Leipzig
1st June, we played in an old factory that had been converted to an art gallery in the second largest city in East Germany, Leipzig.
This gig had been set up by the netlabel who released our debut album in 2009 (Aaahh Records) and we got to play with Entertainment for the Braindead (aka Julia) who played a really great set, looping lots of different instruments (guitar, banjo, flute, etc…) and saying really witty stuff in German that I was incapable of understanding.
They had a pretty cool video projector there and a huge white wall behind the stage, so the visuals were awesome that night. We were a little worried that the echo in the building would be a problem but it was lovely to hear all that natural reverb on the snare and vocals.
The money wasn’t too bad either and we sold quite a bit of merch. We even managed break even that night.
The next morning, we had an awesome English breakfast in the Cantona Café with our dear friend Patrick.
After listening to almost all of the CD’s we had in the car, we asked Patrick to point us to a record store. We ended up in a strange looking place right next to the Cantona Café and picked up new records from Beach House (excellent), Spain (not bad) and Poliça (not so good). Little did we know it, Beach House was going to be our musical shadow for the whole tour.
Distance traveled: 1,750km
Finances after gig: +€16
Day 4: Aaltra Vox Festival, Chemnitz
Renaud and I played in the Aaltra bar in 2009 and had a wonderful time there so we were really looking forward to playing Aaltra Vox 2012, (a small outdoor festival with 4 bands), especially because we had to cancel our gig there in 2011.
Jörg, the owner, rented a big professional video-projector for the event, so we had a huge screen again.
We played a pretty good gig even though it was bloody cold that night. We were also rather successful at the merch table selling lots of CD’s and vinyl (with custom drawings on them).
The fee for the gig was pretty good as well, so after Chemnitz, we had some money in our pockets and were starting to feel pretty good about the tour.
Jörg has excellent taste in music and gave us a few pointers. Fenster and Wooden Peak (both from Berlin, both rather awesome bands).
Distance traveled: 1,865km
Finances after gig: +€530
Day 5: Zukunftvisionen2012, Görlitz
Sunday 2nd June, we headed to Görlitz on the Polish-German border. Robert, the gent who set up the gig is a friend of Jörg’s from Aaltra in Chemnitz. He reached out to us when he found out we were playing in Chemnitz and managed to set something up.
The gig took place in an abandoned house (there are quite a few of those in Görlitz apparently) that had been turned into a makeshift art gallery.
The natural reverb and the wooden floors gave us a really nice organic sound, which made the concert really enjoyable for us, even though the sound guy forced me to use a microphone I was unfamiliar with at gunpoint. He was right to insist though, as it was a pretty funky microphone.
We did rather well with CD’s and Vinyl again. The fact that people can buy a CD/Vinyl and get a unique drawing made especially for them, in front of their eyes, seems to go down really well and we started suspecting that there may also be a sort of viral effect going on. Once a few people start showing off their custom CD/vinyl to their friends, the queue gets longer and poor Renaud has to spend hours at the merch desk drawing Little Knights, Princesses, and even Politicians sometimes!
Our reward for playing a good gig? Junk food! Yeah!
We had a good long chat with Robert at his place after the gig. As Görlitz is so close to Poland, we decided to cross the border for a quick look.
Distance traveled: 2,045km
Finances after gig: +€808
Day 6: Morph Club, Bamberg
As most musicians know, it’s not easy to eat properly when you’re on tour so we did our best to find nutritious, healthy food whenever we could. Day 6 was no exception.
Once we knew we were going to play a few shows in Germany, we posted a message or two on Facebook asking for help to set up some shows. Armin, the booker for Morph Club contacted us via a guy called Daniel, who happened to be friends with one of the people who set up the show in Freiburg for us.
Morph Club was a proper music venue/night club with fancy lights and whatnot.
The turnout wasn’t great (it was a Monday night and we have very few fans in the region) but it was great show and we had a lovely time. We had made a sort of bet amongst ourselves to see if we could get someone in the crowd to ‘roll over’ on the floor during the song ‘Roll Over’. That night, our wish was granted when not one, but two people did some beautiful synchronized rolling on the floor during the song. Awesome! I wish we had a photo to show you but our hands were occupied when it happened.
The money was not too bad that night and we sold our last 5 vinyls. (damn, we should have brought more with us!)
As we didn’t have to get up too early the next day and the people there were so cool, we decided to stay for a few drinks. Renaud got to be the barman for a bit as well.
And we got the strangest request for a drawing ever that night from our new friend, Andy the sound engineer. Yes, that is a sausage you see!
Distance traveled: 2,525km
Finances after gig: +€1,032
Day 7: House-gig, Berlin
Next step was a house-gig in Berlin, organised by Julia, of Entertainment of the Braindead and broadcast live on the interwebs by Christian from Aaahh Records.
It was a little strange playing in someone’s apartment but the crowd was very friendly. There were two acts before us. A lad called Maxim Vaga, who played piano and sang with a voice that reminded me of an American singer-songwriter called Brian Straw. And then Phia, from Australia, who loops the Kalimba. Really funky stuff! Check her out.
We were paid with donations and sold a couple of CD’s.
One of our passports went missing… We called Inspector Derrick but he didn’t pick up.
On a lighter note, we had a really cool jam session after the gig where we probably wrote the best song in the world, ever, but then forgot it. Oh well.
Distance traveled: 2,990km
Finances after gig: +€933
Day 8: Ä, Berlin
Renaud and I played Ä in 2009 so it was fairly easy to play there again. They have some pretty harsh rules on noisy instruments so we couldn’t play with a drum kit unfortunately. Even the Cajon was too loud!
We were also a little tired that day and we were starting to miss our wives/girlfriends & families but you could hardly tell….
During soundcheck, they kept turning down the volume and I was literally unable to hear what I was playing. The gig went really well though and although it was like a 1950’s boxing match in there (full of smoke and jam packed with people), the atmosphere was great and we did quite well with donations and CD sales.
Distance traveled: 2,992km
Finances after gig: +€1,053
Day 9: Swamp Club, Freiburg
We had to get up really early to drive to Freiburg and with the (abysmal) state of German roads, we were worried we were going to get delayed. We managed to get there an hour early though, and then chill out for a bit at the youth hostel we were staying in.
The gig had been set up by the group of fans who were behind our vinyl campaign on Facebook (the one that started with a guy asking if we would kindly consider releasing our album on vinyl and that resulted in our crowdfunding the pressing of 250 copies).
Just after soundcheck, we were walking out of the venue to go and visit the city centre (in the rain) when a group of 6 people stopped us and asked us if we spoke French, and then if we were Uniform Motion. They had come all the way from Strasbourg to see us. Sweet!
The venue was fairly small and by the time we got back it was sold out and they ended up having to refuse about 40 people at the door, which is a bit sad for them but kind of cool at the same time! :)
This was our last gig and it was really special for Olivier because both his grandmothers were originally from Freiburg. The folks who organised the gig weren’t expecting so many people and ended up giving us, the sound engineer, and the opening act more money than they had originally offered, which was really nice of them.
Renaud did a lot of drawings on CD’s that night, and even drew a picture on Jack Bauer’s younger cousin’s t-shirt!
The opening act was a guy called Godot, really nice, mellow music. I’m sure the lyrics are great but as he sang in German, I couldn’t really tell.
Distance traveled: 3,832km
Finances after gig: +€1,513
Noteworthy: The people there were awesome and for the first time ever, the strangest thing happened. The audience sang along with us! Weird but nice feeling.
Day 10: Home!
Distance traveled: 4,852km
Finances after the tour: €1,258
If we factor in the money we spent on food during the tour (you have to eat, no matter where you are), we ended up making €522 each. (Minimum wage in France for 9 days work is roughly €457) - of course there are things like health insurance and retirement funds, and other benefits that make it difficult to compare, but it still means that we were able to tour for 9 days, and not only did we not lose any money, we actually made a decent profit.
It is very clear to us that we would have only just broken even if we hadn’t sold any merch during the tour. So CD’s and Vinyl sales were key to making our tour financially viable.
The main thing that we all took home with us was the feeling that we had really connected with the audience and that they had enjoyed our shows as much as we did.
That’s something Mastercard can’t get their grubby little hands on!