It Seems Bands Don't Make Money Off Touring Either
Popular opinion states that a band's business model in the current economic and technological climate is 'give the music away for free, make money on tour'. But, with rising costs and other factors, it seems even that is a falsehood.
Over at our friends at MetalSucks, there has been a debate of sorts spurred by Intronaut's Sacha Dunable posting that corporate sponsors may be hurting touring bands. Trap Them vocalist Ryan McKenney wrote a pretty in-depth rebuttal stating that being sponsored was what kept them afloat, and never once did the sponsor try to compromise their beliefs or output. But, at the end of the week Shane Blay of Oh, Sleeper posting a very eye-opening accounting of just how little a mid-level touring band makes on the road, definitely worth a read:
Why Mid-Level Bands Cannot Make Money.
Tuesday at 20:35
For the past 5 years my brothers in Oh, Sleeper and myself have sacrificed our lives, our time, relationships, birthdays, holidays, health(haha) to travel around and play shows for our fans. Not to say that isn’t been a fun ride!
I would just like to bring a few things to our fans attention:
I would like to show you guys an average day in finances for a “mid-level” band like us. Im going to breakdown the average monetary in and outs of a day on tour.
On tour bands have two ways to make money. Guaranties, and Merchandise.
On tour bands have big bills. The biggest are: Managers, Booking agent, Merch Rates, Merch bills, Food, and of course.. the Gas bill.
Our last headliner tour was an east coast run with 3 other bands. The average guaranty per band was 300$ per band, and around 300$ in merch. This was the average for all 4 bands, for the entire tour.
So we have a 600$ gross income per night. Now lets break this down.
Merchandise is bough, printed, and shipped on the bands dollar. We print most our shirts on American Apparel. They obviously offer the best fitting shirts, and kids are smart about looking good now days. They wont sell unless you have slim fitting, soft shirts. The demand for better quality shirts from bands is higher in last few years.
American Apparel shirts are very pricey to print. usually $7.50 a shirt. More for v-necks, 3/4 sleeve shirts, etc.
We sell our shirts for 15$ at our shows, UNLESS we are on tour with a headliner that demands we price match them.
SO $15 – $7.50 = $7.50. So half is profit. So out of the 300$ the band made in merch, they owe 150$ to the printer.
BUT HOLD ON! Merch rates!
Most nice venues have merch rates, we have seen them be as high 32% gross. Usually they are 25%.
So out of the initial $300 in merch the band made. 25% goes to venue. Thats $75.
$300(gross) – $150(merch cost) – $75(merch venue rate) = $75 (Net profit for the band.)
BUT the breakdown doesnt stop there. If the band has a manager, he takes 15% of Net profit of merch.
SO MERCH TOTAL PER NIGHT:
$75 X .15 = $11.25
$75 – $11.15 = $63.75( TOTAL Net profit in merch for the band.)
The breakdown in deductions from this money is: 15% to Manager, 10% to booking agent.
$300(gross guaranty) – $45(managers cut 15%) – $30(booking agents cut 10%) = $225
Average Gas bill is around $150. some days way better some days way worse. We have done 17 hour drives..leaveing show and showing up to next one right before we play…many times. Those are a bit more expensive. Most west coast tours we do the average gas bill is around 200–250…but ill use 150 for this example.
$225(guaranty after manage and agent deductions) – $150(gas bill) = $75
We have 6 people on tour, our 5 Guys, and our merch guy “The maze”. We give everyone $10 bucks a day to eat on. (This isnt enough when your 6 4 and 200lbs like micah and i by the way)
6 people x $10 = $60
$75 – $60 = $15
$15 Total net profit in Guaranties.
$63.75(Net merch) + $15(Net guaranty) =
$78.75 for the band for the night. out of $600 gross.
if you divide that 6 ways its $13.12 a day per band member.
This doesnt include hotel costs. which are usually 50–60 bucks. Most bands dont get hotels or shower to save money to pay for phone bills.
This does not include Tires/Van payment/Oil changes/Van upkeep registration bla bla/Trailer tires/Gear/etc.
This doesnt include taxes. This doesnt include ROAD TOLLS. Which in the northeast can add up to 20–40bucks a day.
Thanks for reading.
MERCH RATES HAVE TO GO.
STOP STEALING OUR CDs PLEASE.
WE DONT MAKE MONEY WHEN YOU BUY IT FROM STORES, COME TO SHOWS.
WE DONT MAKE MONEY FROM LABELS.
BUY MERCH FROM US AT SHOWS IF YOU LIKE WHAT WERE DOING.
thanks for reading.
Certainly that should be eye-opening to anybody looking to make a career out of being a metal musician. It's becoming very clear that what touring is is just a working vacation, as most of the time you end up just breaking even or even paying out of pocket to tour. This is certainly a bit depressing.
I don't understand about buying merchandise from the shows they aren't making any money from what I understood? I think it's time for that band to pack it in.
Who Used To Play, I don't know if it's cool to copy the entire contents of an article and post it here.
It's a shame that some people can work so hard to bring something great, or at least decent, to hundreds or maybe thousands if the tour has that kind of draw and yet walk away with nothing but an empty wallet and stomach after the vultures are done feeding.
It's a shame that music has come to this. There's no middle ground anymore. It's either a huge corporate production with tens of thousands of dollars in pyrotechnics and whores swinging around on wrecking balls or grinding up against a dozen sweaty gay guys while the studio recorded version of the song plays over a 5 gigawatt system or you can go to a dimly lit dive bar to see a local band struggle to play a half dozen cover songs through gear that looks like it was dragged behind a truck.
Tell you what though, I'd rather go support the local band in a dive bar than go to any of the large venue shows anymore. Those guys are playing because they love to play whether they get paid or not, usually not. Large venue ticket prices are outrageous, then I gotta pay parking too, which is usually another $20. Screw that, for $40 I can go see some guys jam their asses off and get a nice buzz and leave with an armful of merch. At large venue shows, $40 won't even get you an effin' T shirt anymore. Last time I saw a big name act, they wanted $65 for a small hoodie, $75 for extra large. Tour tees were $50. For a friggin' tee shirt?!!! No thanks.
This makes you think about how to do it, and make even a little scratch these days.
In 2008, I was in a nationally touring band. We had start-up management ( next to no $$ was taken from us by them ), and only some label "interest". We were sponsored for drum sticks, guitar picks and strings, plus some beverage merch which we could hand out. We recorded our album(s) ousrselves, then paid to have it mastered, as well as paid to have it pressed and our t-shirts printed. Almost all of us had regular jobs, which is how this stuff was paid for.
Then, we hit the road. Left our jobs and regular lives behind to live in an old Dodge van pulling around a 5x8 trailer for several months. All of these things stated in the above article are true- no showers, little food, etc etc. We got by on the kindness of strangers letting us crash and have a good time with them. Our average guarantee was less than what was stated above, so we were just scraping by. When we got home, we broke even for the tour only ( NOT the album or merch ). It was a fun, unforgettable, and life changing experience for all of us, and I wouldn't change it for a thing, but I could never do it again at this point in my life.
Now, I play all over the tri- state area ( mostly NYC and Long Island ) and sometimes make some money. Some gigs all original, sometimes I head out and play a coffee house or restaurant with a couple hours of covers and make even more money.
Seems the only way for a band to make $$ going forward, would be to be very well educated in the business, so as to manage oneself, including all of the contracts and legalities that would include, until you got to a point were you could afford management and booking agents and labels ( a "big" band so to say ).
Disheartening yes, but maybe I am slowly finding a way to do this for myself. I work a regular job, as well a teach private lessons, but everyday we are learning more and more, and finding ways to get ourselves out there. I hope one day things will be different for up and coming artists.
This is not new news. It is why I keep a day job and tour near home. The last year I truly toured was 1996, I played 250 dates and had made $25K before I paid my own expenses for food and strings, taxes etc.. Many of the shows were 500 miles apart. We had no driver or roadies. It was a lot of work done for the love of playing and hopes of getting our music to sell.
Man that is rough.
The reasons for my posting the whole articles here were
(1) to remove one extra step that would required leaving this forum and
(2) to allow easy ways of commenting by having the whole article in one spot, and
(3) to avoid any accusations of directing the internet traffic to some specific web-sites (marketing).
But, just per your personal request, I will stop posting the whole articles here.
Just, Peace and
However, rules aside, a synopsis of the article with a link would be much better. The synopsis will determine if we want to read the article and it will relieve the clutter.
I don't mean this as a smackdown of anyone, so please don't take it that way.
Posting a bite (like a paragraph or so) from an article is OK, as fair use. Posting a complete article is a copyright violation.
Besides that, I'd figure most TBers would be sensitive to the way ripping music deprives artists of revenue. Well, web pages depend on traffic for whatever income they might generate--more like cost recovery, for most.
So it makes sense to post links but not full text here. Let the web site get the traffic.
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