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Old Post, but interesting - Pay for Bands


Dr. Ellwood

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This is a old post by GtrBass back in 2003, I think he put together a pretty good summary of how different kinds of bands are compensated:

 

 

This might put it into perspective. All $$$ amounts are gross revenue, before expenses:

 

1) Cover Band - If you're playing in a typical cover band, doing 3-4 sets a night, the average pay rate is about $75 per player. The occasional "special event" gig will net you about $150-$200 per player. You usually play sm/med sized clubs that hold 100-150 patrons. You're probably a totally self-contained unit. You book your own gigs, own and transport your own PA/lighting rigs, that you set up, tear down, and are mostly your own sound & light man. (Don't count your buddy who shows up at your gigs, might help you load in/out & tells you if the sound is out of whack in the back of the bar. He works for beer & bragging rights.) You have a day job and you gig 1-2 nights a week. You supplement your income with another $600.00 a month from your gigging. That's a nice $7K-10K a year on top of your day gig, and enough to keep the old lady off your back about all the time you spend on your music while she's at home with the kids, etc. Congrats. You are a pro, can play at any old bar that will hire you, and will be able to continue until you are too old to pick up your axe anymore.

 

2) Show & Tribute Bands - If you're playing in a show or tribute band doing concert sets, the average pay rate is about $200-$300 per player. You do "special event" type gigs on a semi regular basis which can bring in up to $1000 per player, possibly more. Because you are in a specialty act, the audience has higher expectations. You must spend more on staging, and even costuming. You usually play at med/Lg clubs that hold 300-700 patrons. You most likely outsource sound & lighting to a sound company, or utilize the club's sound/light install and crew , for which they charge back to you. (If you are carrying your own crew and staging, you're economically foolish.) You are handled by a booking/mgmt agency, which takes 10-15% of your fees. You often have travel and lodging costs. If you gig 1-2 nights a week, you might still be able to have a day job, and net about $10K -$15K per year, after expenses, best case. If you are gigging more than 2 nights a week, you're more than likely a full time road rat working as many shows as you can. You probably don't have a day job, except for temp work when you're not on the road. Best case, you net about $30K-$50K per year after expenses, but you also have no health or retirement benefits, unless you pay for them out of pocket through the AFM.

 

3) Original band (unsigned) - If you're playing in a typical unsigned original band, you probably play out 1-2 times a month. You do one set shows, or showcases with other bands on the bill. You average between $0-$25 per player, unless you're selling your indie CD, and other merch at the show. If you're in a major music center like LA, you might even be losing $100-$150 per player, per show. You play small clubs, with occasional shows at prestigious "showcase" clubs like the Whisky or Roxy. Once in a while you may open up for a national playing in your area. Your goals are to build a following, and get signed, not make immediate money. You have a day job, or someone else is fully supporting your lifestyle. If you tour in an unsigned band, it's a short trip, or you are a total vagabond, living off virtual charity & and sleeping on floors.(If you're in this category, see #4 for what your working towards.)

 

4) Original band (signed) - If you're playing in a typical signed original band, you probably want to tour 6-8 months a year. You do one set shows, as the headliner, or open for larger acts. You average between $0-$500 per player, unless you're a big hit act. Once in a while you get a lucrative headlining gig for $10K-15K, but those are exceptions. Most of your income comes from selling merch at the show. Nowadays, You most likely have little, or no tour support written into your record contract. You play large clubs, small theatres, or arenas. Your goals are to promote your current CD release, build a following, and advance your CD's sales & chart position. You don't have a day job. Your overhead and debt load are simply massive. For every one of the nice little paydays you will get, there will be a bunch of people with their hands out, who could simply care less if you are able to eat or not. You have a small per diem tour salary which you will squirrel away, or someone else is fully supporting your lifestyle when you're not on tour. Once your act is established, things get easier, but I can tell you from experience that the average successful "rock star" isn't as well paid as you think. Outside of the Top 20 acts, the one's who consistently make money on the road are well-established stars. Most up and coming acts do not make a reasonable living wage. The average "oldies" act doing the summer shed tours generally still do well, and can easily make $150K-$250K per year, for each "full partner" band member. Remember, these are folks who in the past were "mega-stars" pulling in millions. (Note: I'm not counting record sales, or publishing income in any of the $$$ amounts. Just appearance fees & merch proceeds.)

 

5) Sidemen - The players backing big mega-artists, and orchestra pit players. It's a little off the topic, but the select few players in those categories make $70K -$200K per year. They are basically highly polished studio players who have the skills to sight read, or improvise in any style at the drop of a hat.

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That was a good post. That's it in a nutshell. Although, he left out full time cover band. All of the gigs that we played were five or six nighters. I hated doing the one night gigs because of all of the gear we had to load in and out (Pa stacks, mixing board, lights, drums and drum riser, backdrop etc.). You can make half decent money by being a full time touring band (a "road band"). Most places will provide housing for you while you are in town so all you really have to pay for is travel costs, food and agent fees.
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This is a old post by GtrBass back in 2003, I think he put together a pretty good summary of how different kinds of bands are compensated:

 

 

This might put it into perspective. All $$$ amounts are gross revenue, before expenses:

 

1) Cover Band - If you're playing in a typical cover band, doing 3-4 sets a night, the average pay rate is about $75 per player. The occasional "special event" gig will net you about $150-$200 per player. You usually play sm/med sized clubs that hold 100-150 patrons. You're probably a totally self-contained unit. You book your own gigs, own and transport your own PA/lighting rigs, that you set up, tear down, and are mostly your own sound & light man. (Don't count your buddy who shows up at your gigs, might help you load in/out & tells you if the sound is out of whack in the back of the bar. He works for beer & bragging rights.) You have a day job and you gig 1-2 nights a week. You supplement your income with another $600.00 a month from your gigging. That's a nice $7K-10K a year on top of your day gig, and enough to keep the old lady off your back about all the time you spend on your music while she's at home with the kids, etc. Congrats. You are a pro, can play at any old bar that will hire you, and will be able to continue until you are too old to pick up your axe anymore.

 

2) Show & Tribute Bands - If you're playing in a show or tribute band doing concert sets, the average pay rate is about $200-$300 per player. You do "special event" type gigs on a semi regular basis which can bring in up to $1000 per player, possibly more. Because you are in a specialty act, the audience has higher expectations. You must spend more on staging, and even costuming. You usually play at med/Lg clubs that hold 300-700 patrons. You most likely outsource sound & lighting to a sound company, or utilize the club's sound/light install and crew , for which they charge back to you. (If you are carrying your own crew and staging, you're economically foolish.) You are handled by a booking/mgmt agency, which takes 10-15% of your fees. You often have travel and lodging costs. If you gig 1-2 nights a week, you might still be able to have a day job, and net about $10K -$15K per year, after expenses, best case. If you are gigging more than 2 nights a week, you're more than likely a full time road rat working as many shows as you can. You probably don't have a day job, except for temp work when you're not on the road. Best case, you net about $30K-$50K per year after expenses, but you also have no health or retirement benefits, unless you pay for them out of pocket through the AFM.

 

3) Original band (unsigned) - If you're playing in a typical unsigned original band, you probably play out 1-2 times a month. You do one set shows, or showcases with other bands on the bill. You average between $0-$25 per player, unless you're selling your indie CD, and other merch at the show. If you're in a major music center like LA, you might even be losing $100-$150 per player, per show. You play small clubs, with occasional shows at prestigious "showcase" clubs like the Whisky or Roxy. Once in a while you may open up for a national playing in your area. Your goals are to build a following, and get signed, not make immediate money. You have a day job, or someone else is fully supporting your lifestyle. If you tour in an unsigned band, it's a short trip, or you are a total vagabond, living off virtual charity & and sleeping on floors.(If you're in this category, see #4 for what your working towards.)

 

4) Original band (signed) - If you're playing in a typical signed original band, you probably want to tour 6-8 months a year. You do one set shows, as the headliner, or open for larger acts. You average between $0-$500 per player, unless you're a big hit act. Once in a while you get a lucrative headlining gig for $10K-15K, but those are exceptions. Most of your income comes from selling merch at the show. Nowadays, You most likely have little, or no tour support written into your record contract. You play large clubs, small theatres, or arenas. Your goals are to promote your current CD release, build a following, and advance your CD's sales & chart position. You don't have a day job. Your overhead and debt load are simply massive. For every one of the nice little paydays you will get, there will be a bunch of people with their hands out, who could simply care less if you are able to eat or not. You have a small per diem tour salary which you will squirrel away, or someone else is fully supporting your lifestyle when you're not on tour. Once your act is established, things get easier, but I can tell you from experience that the average successful "rock star" isn't as well paid as you think. Outside of the Top 20 acts, the one's who consistently make money on the road are well-established stars. Most up and coming acts do not make a reasonable living wage. The average "oldies" act doing the summer shed tours generally still do well, and can easily make $150K-$250K per year, for each "full partner" band member. Remember, these are folks who in the past were "mega-stars" pulling in millions. (Note: I'm not counting record sales, or publishing income in any of the $$$ amounts. Just appearance fees & merch proceeds.)

 

5) Sidemen - The players backing big mega-artists, and orchestra pit players. It's a little off the topic, but the select few players in those categories make $70K -$200K per year. They are basically highly polished studio players who have the skills to sight read, or improvise in any style at the drop of a hat.

 

Things haven't changed much. One of the most important people you can have is a road manager who knows what he is doing.

 

Peace

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5) Sidemen - The players backing big mega-artists, and orchestra pit players. It's a little off the topic, but the select few players in those categories make $70K -$200K per year. They are basically highly polished studio players who have the skills to sight read, or improvise in any style at the drop of a hat.

 

Would this category include those who are playing in the house bands on shows Like Letterman, Conan.. etc?

 

 

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3) Original band (unsigned) - If you're playing in a typical unsigned original band, you probably play out 1-2 times a month. You do one set shows, or showcases with other bands on the bill. You average between $0-$25 per player, unless you're selling your indie CD, and other merch at the show.

 

Welcome to my life.... :(

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5) Sidemen - The players backing big mega-artists, and orchestra pit players. It's a little off the topic, but the select few players in those categories make $70K -$200K per year. They are basically highly polished studio players who have the skills to sight read, or improvise in any style at the drop of a hat.

 

Would this category include those who are playing in the house bands on shows Like Letterman, Conan.. etc?

 

 

Well it would yes, but don't forget that along with a sweet on-going gig like that, there are lots of opportunities to pick up studio sessions for more income. Being in a permanent TV studio band opens up other recording opportunities for you.

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The more I think about it I think I made the right choices on careers. Pick a job thats OK and pays well. Play whatever music you want and don't try and make your livelyhood with guitar playing. I am not even sure I would enjoy music if I had to go throught he crap most musicians go through. All the band drama would be much worse if I knew if that flakey drummer didn't work out, I wouldn't eat that month.
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It is unfortunate in many ways the original players are not paid well and in most cases need a major label behind them to do well. One can still hear a difference in the soul of a musician who does nothing but music in their life. I praise the wives and families of some of these players who understand their talent and help to support them. The night life in many great cites is suffering under the cover bands and DJs to the point that people just don't bother to go see live music. There are exceptions like Austin Texas and a handfull of others but most major cities are closing live music venues faster than you can write your own name.

 

Some more to think about is the number of Blues players who make a living, maybe not a grand "big cookie cutter house, SUV" living but a fun time. The Blues fans are very supportive. Also a good JamBand, signed or not and pull down a good wage for everyone if they work it right. Some original player mix, sideman gigs with their own projects and either teach or write on the side. This works well too.

 

I prefer a world with more great live original music but it takes all of us to make that happen. Support live original music when you can and purchase music from indie artists rather than the majors.

 

Buster

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The night life in many great cites is suffering under the cover bands and DJs to the point that people just don't bother to go see live music.
While I agree that "the night life in many great cities is suffering", I do not see the cause as cover bands and DJs.

 

First, I would say that music is more ubiquitous now than it has ever been. Personal MP3 players and "piped in" music at every shopping mall, store and restaurant. Try to find a public place completely devoid of music these days.

 

The other problem with typical live music venues in most cities is tougher DUI enforcement. Obviously this isn't a problem in a place like NYC where public transportation abounds. In other cities the authorities do sit just around the corner from the local watering holes at closing time. And for places where a drivers license is a necessity, it has become easier for the courts to suspend and revoke licenses. In short you have to have a DD or else you're taking a huge risk.

 

I'm not advocating a return to less stringest DUI laws and enforcement. I think it's clear what sort of damage drunk drivers can cause and that doesn't need to be debated here.

 

So venues have less patrons (can't always find a DD) and patrons on average are spending less. This means venues have less revenue to provide entertainment so we see more DJs, karaoke nights, open mikes/jams, etc. And when expensive live bands do perform, they are expected to bring a large draw to make up for their cost.

 

Now not all venues everywhere are like that. Some have established solid business plans and have built strong reputations that bring in a large regular crowd that can support the value-added live bands.

 

And wedding bands (not listed in the survey, BTW) and bands that play corporate functions have less worries about venues and draw.

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I prefer a world with more great live original music but it takes all of us to make that happen. Support live original music when you can and purchase music from indie artists rather than the majors.
I do go out to see original bands and my indie music collection is growing faster than anything else. And I've even sold a few of my own original music CDs. So I do agree with you here.
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I do not see the cause as cover bands and DJs.

 

The other problem with typical live music venues in most cities is tougher DUI enforcement.

 

It's certainly a possibility, but I'm more inclined to think that it has to do with what folks want to hear.

 

All of the clubs we played in were quite large. They would draw hundreds of patrons and we always packed the room. When I quit the road in 1995, the crowd was getting younger and more and more clubs were hiring DJs to accommodate their tastes.

 

These kids like to go "clubbing". They don't want to sit and listen to a bunch of old guys, playing old music. The club owners could either deal with hiring expensive bands and have a dwindling customer base or they could make the switch, put in fancy lights and start hiring DJs. It's all about what makes them the most money.

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Well, let me preface by saying that my perspective here is European but I have visited the states often and what I hear all over from young people is they want to see more original live music and not just at big concerts. Many older people say they dont go out anymore because the live music sucks and there are too many bad cover bands. This is just my observation. To that perspective the cities around the world that do have thriving music scenes, Glasgow, Austin, Seattle, Berlin and others all have many venues for live original music, while having some strict drinking laws as well and not all have good rail systems in place. In Europe people walk, ride bikes or share a car with a designated driver. In some EU countries your first drunk driving arrest will result in over one year in prison but it does not affect the nightlife.

 

The reason many cities have kids who love to go clubbing to DJs is that is often all there is and many of the young came up in times of no live music clubs in their city. In most of Europe the clubs have live music and DJs for example a club that does well in Italy will have live bands, usually original but often cover bands and then DJs that start later in the night. This seems to work well.

 

Also, people in Europe tend to go out more often for whatever reasons. We always go where others are. I think in the States you use to do this but for the last couple of decades or so it seems to be slacking off. Perhaps an adjustment can be made here.

 

I do agree that clubs are all about making money and DJ's are often less expensive but in many cases club owners are not real good at math. Some of the DJ's cost more than live bands.

 

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Let me add that this is one of the most polite forums. It's so nice to be able to all have our own views and not get into heated debates.

 

Really? (as in you really think we don't have debates \:D Sometimes they are coming out the wazoo! :-) )

 

LOL!! give it time! make a post about Rap and watch the environment heat up!

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"Baby it's cold outside..." at least here in NYC lately!

 

Maybe we need some heated debates! But don't tell the moderators I said so.......

 

Seriously, most posters here are very decent people and our debates are not offensive if you don't take a different point of view as a personal insult. I mean, if I hated everybody who liked different guitar players than me, I wouldn't have time for anything else!

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Well, let me preface by saying that my perspective here is European but I have visited the states often and what I hear all over from young people is they want to see more original live music and not just at big concerts.
Different perspectives are good. We often end up rehashing "The Blind Men and the Elephant", but it is still good. ;)

 

Anecdotely I've heard from a number of young people that they'd rather listen to older Classic Rock than music released today. I don't know how widespread that sentiment is.

 

As to what kind of original music they'd like to hear, I have no idea.

 

I did get one curious feedback on one of my originals. The listener liked the mood and lyrical content because it had a positive message unlike some of the more depressing new music that she had heard recently.

 

So Lee, any figures for wedding bands?

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Yep, I tend to get the same from kids. They find much of the new stuff to be nothing more than middle class kids crying about their lives. It's pretty easy to turn on kids to good stuff from the past and then they seek out other paths. It tends to vary quite a bit from country to country. In Germany the kids seem much more open to looking for all types of not only music but all paths in life. It seems like some places kids just take a "cookie cutter" life that has somehow been deemed safe and presented to them by others living the same life.

 

 

 

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Yep, I tend to get the same from kids. They find much of the new stuff to be nothing more than middle class kids crying about their lives. It's pretty easy to turn on kids to good stuff from the past and then they seek out other paths. It tends to vary quite a bit from country to country. In Germany the kids seem much more open to looking for all types of not only music but all paths in life. It seems like some places kids just take a "cookie cutter" life that has somehow been deemed safe and presented to them by others living the same life.

 

 

 

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Yep, I tend to get the same from kids. They find much of the new stuff to be nothing more than middle class kids crying about their lives. It's pretty easy to turn on kids to good stuff from the past and then they seek out other paths. It tends to vary quite a bit from country to country. In Germany the kids seem much more open to looking for all types of not only music but all paths in life. It seems like some places kids just take a "cookie cutter" life that has somehow been deemed safe and presented to them by others living the same life.

 

 

 

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Let me say, all the club owners and managers I know are exceptionally good with math, in fact sometimes it's the only thing they are good at.

 

I meant it in a slightly different way. They may manage their books well but if they are loosing money and there are better ways to make money than the math is not so good. No?

 

Some clubs I know of that are refusing to go back to live music are in danger of closing. This is mostly in the better music cities of the EU and of course it is all very different in other places. What has happend in some places is the DJ's bring in crowds but they are not as big of drinking crowds as in live music clubs. It's much easier for a cocktail server to hit people up for drinks if they are not all jammed together dancing. Again there are many variables.

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Anecdotely I've heard from a number of young people that they'd rather listen to older Classic Rock than music released today. I don't know how widespread that sentiment is.

 

As to what kind of original music they'd like to hear, I have no idea.

 

Well I have to agree with the younger kids are moving to classic rock instead of todays offerings but the better bands of today are getting great followings.

AS to what they want?, if i had half a clue to that i would be a rich man I think.

 

G

 

 

 

Love life, some twists and turns are more painful than others, but love life.....

 

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/pagemusic.cfm?bandID=592101

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Well, let me preface by saying that my perspective here is European but I have visited the states often and what I hear all over from young people is they want to see more original live music and not just at big concerts.
Different perspectives are good. We often end up rehashing "The Blind Men and the Elephant", but it is still good. ;)

 

Anecdotely I've heard from a number of young people that they'd rather listen to older Classic Rock than music released today. I don't know how widespread that sentiment is.

 

As to what kind of original music they'd like to hear, I have no idea.

 

I did get one curious feedback on one of my originals. The listener liked the mood and lyrical content because it had a positive message unlike some of the more depressing new music that she had heard recently.

 

So Lee, any figures for wedding bands?

 

Ric, no I haven't a clue on wedding bands? I've never worked that part of the business but I think they do pretty well. Next time I'm over at the local I will ask the business agent for a idea on what the popular wedding bands are getting these days.

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This is a old post by GtrBass back in 2003:

 

.........

 

1) Cover Band - If you're playing in a typical cover band, doing 3-4 sets a night, the average pay rate is about $75 per player.

 

I made that >20 years ago. 20 years from now, it'll probably be the same pay...and gas will be $10/gallon.

 

I last gigged for pay in 1989. I'm glad I'm not doing it for $$$$ any more.

A Jazz/Chord Melody Master-my former instructor www.robertconti.com

 

(FKA GuitarPlayerSoCal)

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In the UK a cover band normaly gets from £150-£400 and a wedding band is about £400 as a min and up to £1000, as for original material bands vary's from the £100 to whatever if you are good enough and have a following to talk of.

 

I play covers but not for the money, but the cash does help at times, but to play is the main thing and get together with the band and have fun turning out some decent tunes.

G

Love life, some twists and turns are more painful than others, but love life.....

 

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/pagemusic.cfm?bandID=592101

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Played a gig last night, two bands split $155 from the door. So I took home just shy of $20 to drag my stuff half a block because there was no parking on a night when it hit -2, while I'm on week two of fighting a nasty cold...

 

But it was a great gig. We rocked, my new rig sounded great, and we got lots of compliments. I'd do it again tonight in a flash...

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Played a gig last night, two bands split $155 from the door. So I took home just shy of $20 to drag my stuff half a block because there was no parking on a night when it hit -2, while I'm on week two of fighting a nasty cold...

 

But it was a great gig. We rocked, my new rig sounded great, and we got lots of compliments. I'd do it again tonight in a flash...

 

Sounds good Michael as i say we dont do it for the cash... but $20 is a poor return for people being entertained for an evening.

As you say back at in an instant.

 

G

Love life, some twists and turns are more painful than others, but love life.....

 

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/pagemusic.cfm?bandID=592101

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