So last week there was a whole lot of hullabaloo about how the singer of Thy Art Is Murder has only made 16-18 grand in the last 6-7 years. I mentioned this in an earlier piece – but I think it might be good to go into how much you should be making off of your music. As odd as it might seem, there is indeed money here – you just need to be able to embrace certain financial realities and realize what it stands for. There are indeed ways to make reliable money with performance too – but odds are you don’t have the musical background to do that – that’s fine though, I hope to get into what being in a band can mean for your financial situation.
There is a prevailing belief out there that your band is going to lose you money. While this is often the case – with a little bit of financial planning you might just be able to make back what you put in and then some. Your number one priority when considering any investment for your band should be ‘Will it pay for itself?’ This applies to merch, PR, and just about anything else. When you ask for money to play shows, at least initially, you should just be trying to cover the rather considerable costs that come from being in a band. That’s before even paying band members.
One strategy that I’ve found is very helpful for bands who are trying to pay for their work with band funds rather than their own money is to have an expense sheet, and then as a result of that figure out how much money they need to be making per show, combining merch and the guarantee to keep making a profit. If you’re not meeting this then you know how much you need to be putting into your band from your own pocket. The thing is though – after initial start up costs the money you put into your band really should be minimal. Once you start to become at least somewhat established as a band it should be fairly easy to be making upwards of 200% profit on shirts and CD’s. If you can find other good branded merch (Bandanas and patches are a good start) then you’re really getting somewhere.
What I think that bands don’t realize is that having a band fund is the best way to circumvent the sticky situation of band finances. What you need to do is keep a detailed spreadsheet of everything going in and out of your band so that when you actually do start turning a profit on your shows then everybody can see that they are starting to gt paid what they are worth. While it definitely is a while before you hit this point You probably need to be reliably making around five hundred to a thousand dollars a show when not on tour to make it work – I know that sounds like a lot – but when you consider that the costs for PR, good management, a booker and general travel expenses among other things (Van breakdown emergencies anyone?) can run a few hundred bucks a show it suddenly makes a lot more sense.
The point being, THIS is an excellent breakdown of how much money a band on Thy Art Is Murder’s level should be making. In all honest – you will probably never get to that point. But, finding a good manager who can set you up to a point where you’re reliably pulling two grand a month when on tour? Any band with a hundred thousand Facebook fans and a can do attitude can do that. Of course – building up that touring infrastructure can take a while. Only a handful of bands make it that far for a reason – but it is still very doable. Still, you can profit on tour even when pulling tiny guarantees, of course – this isn’t an article about saving money on tour (That’s a story for a different day) this is an article about how you too can achieve, how you too can rise up above the crap that defines so much of the industry and makes this so hard for us.
The myth that independent bands are a hobby that are only going to lose you money isn’t really true. I mean yes, it will not make you as much money as if you had a real job, but lets be real – if you’re an independent band who is touring a lot you’re probably not in it for the money as much as you are in it for the life experiences that it brings. You need to remember that if you are making any money off of music then you are one of the lucky few. Remember to be eternally grateful for whatever your band brings you – as hard as you push and as much as you strive it’s always going to be a challenge to survive in this industry. There are no salaried musician jobs until you get to the point that you are literally legendary. Yet you can keep on striving, hping to eventually ull in enough that when you are off the road all you need to do is plan the next tour. The future is now and you may already be closer to this goal than you ever thought possible.