Expensive Notes: Economic Inflation in the RGV Music Scene

Words by Jacob La Follette

Edited by Abigail Vela

An RGV band, Blow Up Dollz, driving an orange van down towards a crossroad with a sign to the left that reads ‘Touring Expenses’ and a sign on the right that reads ‘Lost Wages.’ Question marks above the van.
Illustration by Sandro Galicia, aka Face 2 Face Art.

In an inflated economy, everything is getting increasingly expensive. Between rising living costs and skyrocketing rents, nothing is out of the reach of changing prices. 


Musicians are definitely not out of this equation. Bands coming from and going to the RGV do not only have to take care of instruments, rehearse, and have a good performance. They must worry about transportation costs, lodging for the night, and basic living necessities. 

Gag Booking: Bringing Bands into the Valley

Regarding bands going into the Valley, Gibran Espino has a grip on a handful of them. He runs Gag Booking, a local promotion entity focusing on hardcore punk and metal shows. He’s brought down such out-of-town groups as Ritual Abuse (from Dallas), Sanity Slip (San Antonio), and Two Piece (Florida). Although Gag officially has only been around for four months, he’s been booking shows for almost 2 years. 

A black-and-white image of a bassist playing on stage, booked by Gag Booking.
Sanity Slip. Photo courtesy of @pearsarchive on Instagram.

“Considering all the effort, energy, and resources that go into keeping up with a social media page, promoting, booking, and taking care of everyone that is involved with any show of mine,” Espino stated,  “I absolutely consider it like a full-time job that I take a break from sometimes.”

This job is a streamlined, “pretty straightforward” chain of events. “I reach out to a band with a date in mind,” he shared, “confirm if it works for them, talk about a guarantee whether it is set or negotiable, look for a venue once the band is confirmed, take care of getting sound, locals, flyer, and other miscellaneous things squared away, promote the show as much as possible, and settle with bands and people involved after the show is over.”

That settling includes payments towards everyone involved. Regarding personal profits, it all goes back to the business itself. “There have been a few occasions that I have lost out on money and other occasions where I have actually made more than the goal I need to meet to break even,” Espino said. “Anytime I have made a profit after settling, I use it to invest for the next show I do, which is recycling it back into the scene.”


“Considering how the economy of this country is making it difficult for people to live comfortably,” he expressed, “I definitely have been reworking my show budgets to ensure I can break even and take care of everyone.” 

Blow Up Dollz Tell All: Touring out of the Valley

An RGV musician in a black spikey mask singing into a microphone. The words ‘Blow Up Dollz’ in punk red font.
Illustration by Sandro Galicia, aka Face 2 Face Art

With people like Gibran, it’s easy to see a communal financial concern in the RGV for musicians local and beyond. How is it for Valley bands when they perform out of town, though?


The Blowup Dollz are a punk rock quartet based in McAllen. Consisting of Mya Taylor, Alexandria Rodriguez, Jazmin Gutierrez, and Amy Valdez, they started in April 2022 and have created a cult following in the RGV due to their energetic performances. This recognition, however, doesn’t always translate to smooth sailing. 


“We never make money for ourselves [playing shows],” stated Jazmin. “Being a ‘musician’ is not paying any bills at the moment, but the money we make goes to our gear and out-of-town shows and merch.”


These shows out of town aren’t always easy trips. On a trip to a show, Amy stated, “One time [the car] overheated… I think it was 111 degrees one time, and my car doesn’t have a lick of AC. I felt so bad because Alex and Mya sat in the backseats where the windows don’t roll down.”

@theblowupdollz instagram 

Expenses to Keep in Mind for RGV Music Scene

Just like how Gag Bookings has a streamlined booking process, they have something similar when playing in places like San Antonio and Austin. Their momentum has led them to an easier booking situation and cemented connections in other cities. The expenses to get there still remain, though. 


“Usually [expenses are] around $100 in gas,” Mya stated, “and if we can find a place to stay, that’s normally it! We all spend our own money on food and other expenses because we really want to save our band money for touring.”


“Inflation and job cuts make it so hard to get friends to come out and support shows when money’s tight,” Amy stated. “I feel like I keep passing around the same $20 going to friend’s shows and them coming to mine.”


Beyond these expenses, there is still optimism about being in a band in the RGV.  “I think once people really realize what truly matters aside from superficial things,” stated Alex, “then we can really nurture the community to grow even more than it has these past few years. The valley has a lot of great artists that deserve to be heard!”


Next time you enjoy a show in the RGV music scene, consider how the cover fee goes towards that scene cultivation. It’s split between the bands, promoters, and venue, and it’s usually reinvested towards the next show if not used for other finances. Although expenses increase, transparency is the first step towards a more even playing field. Remember that next time you buy merch, buy an album, or go to a local show (aka the best ways to support an artist.)

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