“I had a general question about touring and “buy ons.” Being a small band that has only toured DIY, I’m not really familiar with the whole concept and logistics of buying on. How common is this in the music industry? Is this something that every band has done at some point? Or, is this something that is generally looked down upon? Who actually makes the buy on agreement and monetary exchange?”
They are common but no not every band does them or even most bands. In general a more common occurrence of a “buy on” is that a band will get a tour offer but the headlining band will say if we take you can you pitch in for the marketing, this may be in the form of paying for an ad in a magazine or whatever else. This will be the case on most tours with established acts, since some of the expenses and promotion you receive will need to be paid for. This is much more reasonable and respectable than what is normally thought of in a “buy-on.”
Here’s what we say about them in our book:
“Buy-Ons - A headlining act sometimes puts a price on how much money they would want towards marketing their tour in exchange for a total unknown act to get to be on the tour. This “bribe” is called a buy-on. Usually, the buy-on act is the first of four or five acts in the night and play to half packed rooms and rarely get the value for the amount of money they put into this. If somehow you have crazy amounts of money to burn, this is a way to skip the line. But realize that it’s quite rare to buy on a tour and see results.
If you’re going to do a buy-on, make sure you negotiate a reasonable deal with terms that make sure you don’t get the short end of a stick, especially considering what money you’re going to be investing.”