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How much $$ do touring musicians make?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by hensonbass, Nov 23, 2006.

  1. hensonbass

    hensonbass Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2004
    Atlanta, GA
    I am curious what the average weekly pay is for a touring musician on the road?

    To set some parameters:

    1. Let's say the act is a low overhead show that is successful and makes great money (5 - 10K gross a show), always in the black and it keeps growing. The band will consist of a leader and two sidemen maximum. They travel by van and will have to hump their own gear. The crew and leader are easy to get along with.

    2. The leader wants a mature, high-quality and versitile (multi-intrumentalist) musician. Not a kid who just looks cool and can play a steady stream of eighth-notes.

    3. The music quality is decent. Not great by musician standards. I'm sure a "jazz" cat would slit his wrists. But the gig does require an accurate and musical player.

    My opinions right now:

    I personally cannot justify going on the road for under $1,000 a week if you can make close to that figure in your home town just freelancing. I know I won't get my mug in BassPlayer mag. for playing weddings and club dates in my hometown. But I do enjoy a variety of gigs in town (classical, jazz, rock, ethnic, broadway shows). The only way I'd go out for less than a $1,000 is if it were my own music I was playing.

    At the same time I know there is a limit to what can be done in my hometown marketing high quality music. It is a sad reality that I make a fair amount of money performing some overall poorly played music. I'd rather take gigs that hold me to a higher standard of professionalism.

    So where is it at? Have I priced myself out of the touring market?
  2. csholtmeier


    Feb 8, 2004
    omaha, ne
    When my drummer was doing the "Pearcy's Ratt Bastards" gig he was getting $850 a week. That's after taxes. The venues ranged from 3,000 to 30,000 people. Some big shows.
  3. cheezewiz

    cheezewiz Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2002
    LOL. Pearcy recently played in a little Village in the area in a bar that holds like 60 people. (OK..it may hold 100, but you get my point!)
  4. markjazzbassist

    markjazzbassist Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Cleveland, OH
    sounds like you should sign on or get work with a established Pop act. They would treat you like a Pro and would make good money.

    If you're in Atlanta, you should try to get on with all those Hip-Hop, R&B, and Rappers down there. There's a whole slew of em.
  5. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups

    I'm sorry, but here's the sad reality of the business...if you are a sideman, you are completely at the mercy of the bandleader as to what you get paid. There are a select few who are willing to pay you extremely well. For example, I hear that Eric Clapton pays $25,000 a show for his top guys. And there are some acts that will split what they make with you and everyone else evenly. More often than not, though, the leader takes the lion's share of the money and the sidemen get paid a working wage. For example, Stephen Pearcy paying his band members $850 a week. You can bet your ass that Stephen Pearcy is getting anywhere from $7000 to $10,000 a show at the very least. If they do two shows a week, then he's still making a fortune. Which is his right. He's the one drawing people to the show, not the sidemen. And that fact will be thrown up in your face a million times whenever you ask for more money.

    I'm in a similar situation with Bowzer. Bowzer makes all the money, and I get paid a working wage when I work with him. Which I'm cool with, because they're not coming to see me, they're coming to see Bowzer. I would like to see my pay increase substantially, but the gigs pay what they pay and I can refuse them if I want.

    As for what you should get paid to do a gig like that, nowadays I wouldn't even entertain the notion of going out on tour for weeks at a time for less than $350 a show with at least 5 shows a week. But unlike the original poster, I've gotten way past the point of caring about making a musical statement and I just care about making money, and I can make close to that money at home and I don't give a crap that it's not "advancing my artistic side."

    I agree that someone on tour doing 5-7 shows a week shouldn't be making less than $1000 a week. But the harsh reality of the business is that bandleaders will pay you as little as they can get away with, and if they've got a big enough name, there will be a list of people they can call if you don't do it. The music business has been and always will be a buyer's market, and the musician looking to turn a buck is at the mercy of who he/she knows and how much they're worth to the people they know.
  6. Tim Cole

    Tim Cole

    Jun 12, 2002
    Findlay, Ohio
    That gig paid $6500 plus ryder, and expenses as well.
  7. Tim Cole

    Tim Cole

    Jun 12, 2002
    Findlay, Ohio
    Your math is severely flawed. Take into account, a $4,000 a month bus lease, $1000-$1500 a week sound men (x2, FOH and monitor mix), and countless other expenses no one else is taking into consideration. I too, thought the same thing.....but a good friend who is a MAJOR league sound engineer set me straight on that. Aint hardly anyone getting rich.
  8. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Actually, no, my math isn't severely flawed. If he's taking on two soundmen and a $4000 bus lease while making $6500 a show (btw, I wasn't too far off the mark with that prediction), he's living beyond his means unless he's doing 4-5 shows a week. Which he probably was while he was on tour. I don't know how his tour dates lined up, but a guy like Stephen Pearcy should easily be able to clear half of the total pay of every gig, even with the bus, the soundmen, and the band. That to me is making a fortune.
  9. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    Subscribing. Very interesting.
  10. Tim Cole

    Tim Cole

    Jun 12, 2002
    Findlay, Ohio
    We're talking different situations here. Pearcy had no bus, sound men, etc. The situation I was just referring to applied to bands I just saw last week with the sound guy I mentioned....Skid Row, and King's X. Then again, I am sure the SR/KX show cost the promoter a lot more than $6500
  11. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Probably not a whole lot more, though. It looks like they're playing all clubs.
  12. troy mcclure

    troy mcclure Supporting Member

    Mar 5, 2007
    Central Florida
    When I was taking bass lessons in the early 80's, my teacher auditoned for a very famous albino musician who offered him
    $75 a gig for regional shows in our area. My teacher laughed at the idea of making less than he did for for giving 3 lessons.
    He did give up the opportunity of maybe getting an endorsement deal or becoming a known sideman though...

    If the circumstances were right, I would love to tour one summer just to have the experience.
  13. There isn't an 'average'; I know guys working for new acts for as little as $200 a night and a select few who make $1500-$2500 a night for established acts.

    I know of at least two artists who hired their musicians for a straight one million dollars for a year; that was what it cost the artist to get the commitment from the guys he wanted to use. But that, as you can imagine, it pretty damn rare....

    The trick is to (A) be in the right place at the right time, and (B) remember that everything is negotiable.
  14. Hey, where can I lease a bus for $4K a month? The local lease companies around here are closer to $750 a day, plus fuel and a driver (who are, at a minimum, $500 a day without overdrives...).
  15. Not much... You'll have a better chance being able to pay all your bills if you are an accountant.
  16. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    As someone who just got back from a tour a few days ago; I can tell you it varies considerably. Andy pays OK when we tour, but we are treated well, the gig is very pro and everyone gets their own hotel room, 4 star minimum.

    I was actually making more money when I was music director at the Legends in Concert show, but it was for a LOT more work, and a much less pro environment. I don't regret leaving Legends, and I am very happy to be playing for Andy.

    Having said that, I would never suggest anyone go into this business "for the money." There are much easier ways that are far less frustrating. If you're looking to make money, I would steer clear of being in the entertainment business and definitely of being a sideman for hire. Trust me, when we play a road date, Andy is making 100 times or more what the sidemen are...really.
  17. MSH


    Sep 4, 2012
    Dave Arcari on touring – tips and advice

    With more than 100 UK dates a year plus regular shows all over Europe and America, Dave Arcari is one of the hardest gigging live artists on the circuit. A series of shows with folks including, Alabama 3, Seasick Steve, Toby Keith and Jon Spencer along with his relentless UK and European tour schedule have established Arcari as a formidable international solo performer who is fast building a media reputation as a ‘hell-raising National guitar madman’.

  18. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    A lot less than you might think.

    I have heard of tours where the tech folks, tour manager and other "behind the scenes" people are pulling down more per show than the musicians. In fact, there are big-name national tours out there right now whose sidemen aren't pocketing much more on a per-show basis than I'm making right now in my regional weekend warrior cover band. True fact.
  19. scotch

    scotch It's not rocket science! Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2006
    Albany, NY USA
    Please see Profile for Endorsement disclosures
    Yeah, compensation is all over the map! Bottom line, of the extremely small percentage of working musicians that manage to go full-time there's an even smaller percentage making more money than a mailman!

    I have worked, and continue to work for a variety of signed, unsigned, up & coming and 'legacy acts' as well as being a member of a band getting percentages. (my website has a sampling of my resume on the first page below)

    While I'm unwilling to discuss specifics of which of my clients has paid what, I can tell you there has been a surprising gap & you would not be able to guess who pays the best based on the scope of the artist!

    JimmyM is right on track, imo and ime. He is leaving out management, booking agent, accounting and insurance percentages though (which can all approach 25% of the gross rather quickly!). Travel, fuel and lodging eat up a lot of the gross, then musicians and crew. The Marquee artist still stands to make a lot of money, but they also carry ALL of the risk along with the promoter. Keep that in mind.

    I, personally, wouldn't even consider packing my toothbrush for less than $300 a day (but there better be a bunch of shows to make that profitable). I'll play for a lot less at home though. I have had some 4-figure pay days too (as a sideman), but they are rarer opportunities. Travel is rough on your body & soul. A thousand a week doesn't sound worth the chiropractic trauma! Still, starting out, I went on tour for less- you have to start somewhere to build a career!

    Bottom line? You have to work hard to make a living playing. The people who manage to do it long-term are few. The people who 'get rich' are an even smaller percentage of those few. You have to really love playing & music. And I mean love it like a dog loves an abusive master. Harsh, but true.

    Oh yeah- one saving grace to sidemen doing tours with national acts is that you have virtually no overhead. Other than your gear, insurance (if you're smart) and cell phone everything else is paid for. Food, per diem, lodging and travel expenses do not (or at least should not) come out of your pocket. Even "entertainment" is usually free (satellite movies, games etc on the bus or hotel; alcohol and snacks & new people to meet). Years when I'm doing extended tours helps me to spend less money than if I were staying at home working (believe it or not)!
  20. Levin S

    Levin S Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2007
    Charlotte N.C.
    Nothing like getting perspective from guys who are out there working the sideman role with touring acts. I absolutely love TalkBass for threads like these.
    AwesomeX and briezie like this.