Gas Prices Will Stifle The Music World Too

February 24, 2011 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  38 Comments

(Oil prices have spiked over $15/barrel in the past week amid turmoil in the Middle East, with gas prices to follow. This is a guest post from Jeremy Mackinder, the bass player and manager for the honky tonk band Whitey Morgan & The 78’s)

So, everyone is feeling the pinch at the pump today. I’m going to do my best and avoid the politics of this here, because there are a ton of them, but, this is how it directly affects the music you are hoping to see this summer.

Gas prices are expected to reach a national average of $5 per gallon by mid-summer. Even at $3.25 (which is what I paid this morning), it’s still hard. As my band budgeted this last tour we got hit by it. You work out your estimated gas cost, overestimate a bit and hope nothing on the van breaks so you come out a little ahead. Of course, that didn’t happen this time as gas prices shifted throughout the week, and like everyone else, we have to reassess summer tour plans over the next few days.

To put it in perspective, we’re based in Flint, MI. To hit the road from Flint and play in Chicago, IL where our label is based and we play frequently, its approximately 275 miles. According to Mapquest.com at this moment with our van and trailer, it comes out around $110 to get there. That’s just to get to a show in the next major city west of us. By the middle of the summer, we’d be looking closer to $170.

A $60 increase is huge. It’s the cost of a hotel room. A cheap motel room after taxes actually. When you consider that into your budget, doing a 30 date tour will cost the typical band at the level we are (bands not in a bus, traveling by van and trailer) you have to find another $1800 in your tour plans to stay at the same level you were at.

We don’t exactly live in the lap of luxury on the road. It isn’t caviar dreams and champagne wishes. It’s cheap whiskey and sharing an edge of a bed with a bandmate, hoping the room isn’t disease ridden, and that’s if you can afford a room and aren’t sleeping on a generous fan’s couch or floor.

This will stifle tours. Bands will have to reassess the idea of how far out they travel to each gig. Hell, it even invades your income at home as it costs you extra gas to get to the show that you had hoped you’d make a little extra cash at. Like everyone else who goes to work, this is our livelihood and it just took a major blow.

That’s not to say that the “big” boys won’t get hurt by it either. Imagine doing a big elaborate tour such as Kid Rock’s or Kenny Chesney’s summer tour. A convoy of semi’s and busses running across the country, with their big gas sucking engines running hard all day, and running hard all day at a 50% increase of the original planned cost. They’ll feel the pinch as well, and most major label acts are struggling to keep their income anywhere near where it was a few years ago.

I’m not saying there’s any sympathy to be doled out here, and I’m not complaining. I play music for a living, it’s the greatest job in the world, if the rewards I lived for were monetary, I would have found something else to do long, long ago.

Each and every person in this country will feel the impact of gas prices increasing. Your food prices will go up, your travel hopes will have to be suspended (think of how many of you have to reconsider what festivals you can afford to travel to) and jobs will disappear as companies try to maintain their business with increased expenses.

This country has been through this before. It will again. But, everyone was already hurting pretty badly before this and as far as touring acts go, you can expect to see cancellations or just shorter, smaller tours. The big bands and the small bands will have to assess the value of touring this summer in the wake of this.

The real losers here are the fans who won’t get as many of the acts they are hoping to see in their towns this year. The real question I guess would be, even if the acts came, could their fans afford to see them?

38 Comments to “Gas Prices Will Stifle The Music World Too”

  • If you ask me, more reason to make sure we all support these artists. Don’t steal their music, buy it, preferably from them directly when possible. Go out to see them live when they’re coming through your town, carpool with a bunch of friends and drive to the next town over to see them when you can. When you get there, buy their merch, their T-shirts, stickers, koozies, whatever. And if you can’t afford to, wait till after the show when they’re walking off stage, look them in the eye, shake their hand, and thank them. And if you can’t see them live or even buy their CD, tell a friend about them. The difference between US and THEM is YOU, the fan. We’re better, we support our artists through thick and thin. This isn’t a fleeting fad to us, it’s a way of life. We listen to this music to stay alive.

    • A thank you from a fan goes a very, very long way.

  • And Jeremy may not want to get political on your ass, but I will. Though don’t blame Reps or Dems, or Libs or Cons.

    These rising oil prices are happening because of two things: SPECULATION and FEAR. There is NO economic reason for oil to be at $100 a barrel. We have the largest domestic surpluses of oil EVER right now, with dwindling demand. If economics were involved, oil would be $45/barrel and gas roughly $1.75/gallon.

    If you have a 401K, an IRA, a retirement investment fund of any sort, any type of money invested in a diversified savings/retirement situation of any sort, then YOU are helping to fuel rising gas prices. This is not an accusation, because most people don’t realize this. Your money is being taken to buy oil futures, which is an investment against yourself, you family, neighbors, friends, and favorite bands, because in turn you will have to pay for it at the pump, and the profits go to big oil companies.

    And don’t just blame big oil companies either, even they do not want prices like this, because it will just motivate people more to consume less. They may want $90/barrel, but not $100/barrel.

    And don’t believe the FEAR that we are out of oil. Yes, it is a dwindling resource and we must find alternatives, but this is far from true. There’s plenty of oil. From an economic standpoint, there is too much oil right now in domestic reserves, so much they don’t even have anywhere to put it.

    When FEAR wins, the rest of us lose.

    • Amen!

  • I can kill that 60 bucks for hotel in Orlando. Travelodge Downtown supports local and underground music. If touring bands do a SCM-Live spot free room. 45 for all other bands. Also I have a discount I can use if need be. Everybody can find a way, try and help the most we can.

    • TOO KOOL Rev Nix! If I were a musician or a touring band I’d be sendin you a great big “tHANKS!!!”!

  • Just to be clear, I was not sayin our tour plans would change. We have to look at costs differently, which I’m working on right now. We’ve been doing this a long time, and do a little better than most at managing the storm of these sorts of things.

    I also wasn’t looking for a handout, though we’re always happy when someone knows the right place to stay and where discounts are and what not. It really wasn’t about us—but all bands in general. Just want to make that clear as well.

    This was all a statement on the reality that gas is a huge, enormous and painful expense as it is for touring acts—and it just got a lot worse. Its kept me awake the last few days, that’s for sure.

  • Diesel prices have risen30 cents this week. I drive a 21 and a half foot long 3/4 ton 4WD pickup that gets 18 miles a gallon, and a son in college and one in high school, and I am now counting pennies. Paying insurance on all vehicles, plus fuel and maintenance, as well as running a household, I can only say that I will play artists music that matters and do my best to inform my “tribe” about who is out there and doing what……I’m paring back on my trips to the venues I go to, simply, because few in my area, and fewer playing stuff that matters…

  • There is a ton of directions to go with this article. I will go one…

    Gas at $3.30/gallon sucks. But it won’t ever get to $5/gallon. They have been tossing that $5/gallon out there as a threat for several years now. Not saying $3/gallon is good, but they are conditioning us to think anything under $2.99 is.

    Triggers right, the oil prices are all speculation. They have some uprisings in the mid. east and all of a sudden, up we go. We saw just 2-3 years ago gas drive up to $4+/gallon. Then it came back down. So it goes again.

    • A lot of it is sensationalism in the media too…they talk about it incessantly to garner ratings on the evening news. I generally ignore it–but feel that we are actually closer to that reality than we’ve ever been.

      I was on the road when gas was over $4.00 a gallon. The anxiety we all felt then was very high—but, the supply of cash we had back then was better too as the tours were shorter and some people in the band still had “day” jobs. Nowadays, there just any many day jobs to have here—not that we could anyhow with the tour schedule the way it always is.

      Gotta do it for the love of it–but, budgeting will be very hard this summer for all travelling folks—from salesman, to consultants to musicians. Gonna be a rough go.

  • That’s when I lost some respect from George W. He told us all to stay home more. But I like to go do things when I can, don’t y’all? There is no reason gas has to spike like that when people are trying to recouperate from rough living. I may not know the answer to the situation, but I do know it ain’t working the way they got it working.

    • Well, back then there was an actual supply issue and conserving gasoline was one way that prices could be lowered. Right now inventories for gas and oil are as flush as they can be. We could conserve all we want, it won’t effect prices.

      • Yes, but as a taxpayer who is entrusting my contribution to running the country I’d like to think that the quality of how I can consume life is a huge denominator in my small little fraction of life. I know that America is the greatest country to live in for freedoms and such, but I don’t want to place my trust in men and women who are wasteful and propelled by lobbyists working to help dig the hole deeper. Thank the Lord, I rely on my faith to see me through.

  • This whole thing pisses me off! We need to stop importing oil from outside of this country! I realize we are unable to just flip a switch and stop immediately, but if there was a conscious effort to stop it we could get there. Between our own oil reserves, natural gas, and bio diesel production we could be independent. Not to mention adapting to automotive technologies that could double out fuel economy. (which do exist) I sure hope this will get figured out someday soon!

    • We can release dependency on foreign oil all we want, but since this price run up has nothing to do with supply, it won’t matter much. You could set oil at $200/barrel. Why not $500/barrel. When it has absolutely nothing to do with economics, it really doesn’t matter.

  • Nice article. Speaking for a lot of people, we appreciate what you and other touring bands sacrifice to come play. And, if you ever wanna forgo a hotel room in Chicago, there is always my basement. many artists sleep there when coming through town.

  • Let’s all go solar and electric.

    • I do know a few bands that have gone the fry grease way.

    • Sure, if I had $30,000 to spend on an electric car, and $15,000 for a solar grid, then I’d already done it. Then the government would help me pay for it after the fact as well, with income tax collected from people living below the poverty level like me (self-employment tax, yay!)

      Going green is not a choice, it’s a privilege. The way I’ve gone green and saved money is by NOT BUYING ANYTHING. We have plenty of shit.

      • I agree with most of all of this. And I agree, not buying anything is the way to go. I’ve been on vacation for about 5 days and haven’t bought shit except for food and drink.

        Seattle is ahead of the game in many ways. Solar and electric are for sure the way to go. Freedom is not participating in their game. Whenever I can, I will join you in this.

        Carrie is on her way to pick me up now. We are going to carpool to two Biram shows this weekend. Just hope he gets his damn voice back!!!!

        • Oh, and just so you know, I intend to buy shit at the shows…money well spent rather than money wasted on tourist bullshit.

  • Oil traders live for this type of price manipulation through over speculation. While the situation in Egypt developed they were drooling waiting for things to escalate. Had things gone from bad to worse there and the Suez Canal had been closed, you can bet we would of had $5 a gallon in the spring not the summer. Unfortunately for the traders, the situation has been resolved peacefully (for now) and they could only justify a slight increase. A knock on the door from Libya is just what they were waiting for and they are going to milk it until the situation is resolved.
    With oil traders, just like people pulling strings in any market, there is always something that can justify ups and downs. Look at the stock market, a report on Monday says un-employment is up, market comes down. On Thursday a report comes out saying the housing market did better than expected the previous month, market goes up. No real change in the economy in 3 days but still the market moves.
    The price at the pump can be affected by so many factors that the traders have a blank check to bounce the market. Hurricanes, blow outs, pirates, low/high reserves, explosions, war, colder than normal winter, holiday weekends….None of which makes a bit of actual difference on the larger scale. Like Triggerman says, there is enough black gold to go around for a good long while as we search for alternatives.
    I live about an hour out of Philly and still see a bunch of shows. The gas might start to hurt, but I’ll by one less beer to make up the difference. Jeremy, I saw you in Philly on Sunday. Thanks for the great show. I was also at the show in Philly a couple months back. It amazed me at that time what a large amount of energy you guys put into it even though the crowd was sparse. Thanks for the good tunes.

    • Thanks Howard. We give it all every night.
      Funny, when on the road, I try to avoid the news, so riding home from NYC yesterday I was trying to catch up on Wisconsin stuff—and that’s when I started noticing the gas articles saying $5. Going back today, I found a ton of stuff about Egypt causing gas spikes.

      I entirely agree that they were waiting for an excuse. I prefer not to debate who they is.

  • Hell lets just all buy horses again and be independent and self sufficient. I have neighbors who are Amish..maybe they’re onto something..lol! But I’ll keep my deoderant and alcohol.

  • Jeremy,
    Great to see you at the Bloodshot Records showcase in Philly. Glad you’re writing up here. I hadn’t thought about the gas prices. You could probably ask a few bucks more for tickets, I’d pay.
    Keep rocking,
    (And what was the name of that artist you mentioned? BIlly Don ____?)
    Fast Charles

  • We are hostage to the illegal OPEC monopoly. The scumbag saudis produce a barrel of oil for $2 and sell it to us for $75 and laugh theirsick sand filled asses off at us. A rare oil spill in the gulf and traitor Obama shuts down drilling. We are beholden to these sick middle east fucks and I am livid about it. I tour also, and because of high gas, health insurance that I gotta pillage my nest egg for my family, and everything else I have kept my tours within the midwest. In the past when I was on the road and 3 or 4 hours from home I would get a cheap room. Now I down a couple red bulls, pop a no doze and drive home so I can sleep in my own bed. I a am tired as fuck, and it is time for change. Donal Trump has talked a great deal on what a bunch of fucks OPEC are and how he would deal with them. If all you musicians are happy paying $5 for gas and up the ass for everyhing else, and living in a country that doesn’t even look like America anymore becuase it’s run by a muslim sympathiser and appeaser, then go ahead and vote for this fuck again..if you want real change, vote for DONALD TRUMP..Oh, btw..did anyone know Obama sends hundreds of millions of American tax money to fund mosques in the middle east? Youtube the video..he’s doing it..there’s your hope and change.

    • I feel your pain, and I see your anger directed at Obama. I really think that no matter who got into office, they were facing insurmountable tasks to “fix” the country, and that one small mistake turns into another, another, and another. If we really want to lay blame, we might have to take it off the President and put it back to the Senators and Congressmen and women who sell our souls everyday with their greed and backstabbing and deal making. Politics are dirty, every one knows it, and we are all footing the bill for it. What’s the solution? I’m not sure beyond a total cleaning out of the houses and major reform and I’m not talking about cleaning out the taxpayer’s wallets. BUT, remember, you can always get someone ten times worse in their place. AS CONSITUTIENTS, we, the PEOPLE, are already holding up our end of the bargain. Obama is “saving” relations with the Middle East because we are a democracy and our hired and elected officials want to continue the slaughter of our economy at the price of big money. That is what it will always come down to . . . greed and money. Donald Trump might be a good President, then again might not. I don’t know. The President only has a very slim amount of power over the House of Representatives and the Congress and even then, they can override him(or her!) so the power of this country is and always will be in the hands of the State Represenatives and Congressmen and women. Write your state’s offices. Maybe musicians should get more political. Look at Rage Against the Machine. They stand up, with their music, and there you go. You have people who say musicians should not be political. Look at the Dixie Chicks. But hey, you have a voice, you can use it, and if you don’t want too, then that’s your right too. I hope things get better for you. I just want to say something and you can take it or leave it, but give up the redBull and the NO Doze. They are doing more harm to your body then you think. God Bless.

      * of course I don’t mean every single politician. There still are a few good ones. They are being overrun by the others, though, that will do anything for their almighty dollar.

  • didn’y really read this hole article cuase i’m drunk but bands should tour in a Prius

  • Thanks for bringing this up Jeremy…and this comes from someone who Jeremy and his lovely wife opened their house to when I was on the road with Hellbound Glory (well I ended up passing out drunk in the lawn, but I could have slept in the house!) . It makes a difference for fans and friends to open their homes and help out any way they can. It is rough on the road and it is really appreciated when you don’t have to shell out the $70 for a hotel.

    I don’t know if this came up in this thread (cause I was too lazy to read it all), but this is especially tough for west coast artists who want to get out east and vice versa. It sucks being out in Reno and seeing bands (like Whitey Morgan) playing Chicago 10 times and never able to make it out to the west. It just isn’t cost effective. Same goes for bands like Hellbound Glory trying to make it to the east coast. It is really tough and nobody is gonna make any money. Not really sure what the solution is, but fans need to know how much it means to buy merch and some drinks and maybe lend a couch or two.

    • yeah, man, you guys are always welcome at my place…we tend to put alot of folks up-and do it twice if they are good folks while there(and of course, if they’re fun)…
      which is something bands should all remember, behave when someone takes you in. drink up, have fun…but don’t leave a bad taste when you leave…

      i’ve had the pleasure of hosting hellbound glory, billy don burns, doc ellis, deadstring brothers…and countless others…have yet to have a negative experience..its fun, and we love takin care of our folks on the road-and appreciate it when its done for us.

  • Another great article Triggerman. Gosh, I’ve never even thought about how gas prices affect touring bands. Surely, it just has to be reflected in bumping up ticket prices a tad so they can sustain touring still? Living on the other side of the planet I am always just so damned grateful when artists I love (such as Justin Townes Earle) chose to jump on a plane in Los Angeles and spend 12 freaking hours to fly here and play a show.

  • The same shit is going on over here in germany and we’ve always had a lot higher oil prices than the US. The prices are still rising and there’s no end in sight.
    I guess we wouldn’t be able to play some of the shows far away, if we all wouldn’t have another income…

  • Sadly it’s affected the DBF NW event as The Scissormen won’t be able to make it. We’ve just about got a replacement act confirmed though.

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