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OT: How are touring musicians paid?


glenboy

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This question came up on an Elton John newsgroup and I've always been curious.

 

How is someone like Elton's keyboardist Guy Babylon paid? Is he under contract for a given tour? Is he paid on a per show basis at some specified rate? (e.g. $10k per show?) Or since Elton is always touring, is his contract more like a retainer where he's paid a set amount for a set period of time to be available for anything?

 

What about a guy like Chuck Leavell? Since the Stones don't tour that often, how do they make sure he's available?

 

I assume people like Chuck and Guy are well paid. Are they set for life?

 

Thanks for the insight.

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I think this is an excellent question. Don't have an answer but I often wonder about how big time players get paid and make a living.

However this question may have been brought up on another thread in the past.Therefore I am going to the forum library and research. I will get back with you if I find anything out. Maybe somebody will join in.

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It's more often than not, by the week. Some are lucky enought to get a 50% retainer for the off weeks during a long tour. Add to that a perdiem and you have a good idea what's up. As far as the actual numbers go, that varies widely but I doubt that any sideman makes 10k per show.
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I remember reading somewhere, that back in the day when Stevie Ray used to tour with Bowie, Mr. Vaughan used to be paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $350/wk. I could be wrong and maybe it was Rod Stewart's stage men instead.

However, whoever it was, I was shocked to hear how little these guys were making, compared to the front & center.

I assume things have improved. ;)

What we record in life, echoes in eternity.

 

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I've been in all of the situations that were theorized about (well, not the $10k/show... I wish! ;) ).

 

I've been paid per show, including per diems and paid travel days, when shows are sporadic and/or local to home.

 

I've gotten weekly retainers when a tour spans more than a month, especially when there's a break mid-tour.

 

I've played for Timbits and Coffee, back in the early days... ;)

 

http://www.timhortons.com/images/ourmenu_timbits.jpg

http://www.timhortons.com/images/ourmenu_coffee.jpg

 

I'd love to have Wix stop by and provide his perspective... I wonder what Sir Paul's band makes these days? :D

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Sven

Good to have you back. While you've been gone, I've learned how to make avatars! I hope you will be bringing yours back as well (or something new and different if it strikes you).

Steve Nathan

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Originally posted by Sven Golly:

I've been in all of the situations that were theorized about (well, not the $10k/show... I wish! ;) ).

 

I've been paid per show, including per diems and paid travel days, when shows are sporadic and/or local to home.

 

I've gotten weekly retainers when a tour spans more than a month, especially when there's a break mid-tour.

 

I've played for Timbits and Coffee, back in the early days... ;)

 

http://www.timhortons.com/images/ourmenu_timbits.jpg

http://www.timhortons.com/images/ourmenu_coffee.jpg

 

I'd love to have Wix stop by and provide his perspective... I wonder what Sir Paul's band makes these days? :D

LOL..

The wife and I discovered Tim Hortons about 12 years ago on our first trip to Canada, We have downed our share of donuts and coffee on each return trip, We were pleasantly suprised when the first T.H. in the states went in right down the road about 2 miles away from the house about 5 years ago. We do our share to honor a Canadian tradition :D

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I remember reading somewhere, that back in the day when Stevie Ray used to tour with Bowie, Mr. Vaughan used to be paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $350/wk. I could be wrong and maybe it was Rod Stewart's stage men instead.

However, whoever it was, I was shocked to hear how little these guys were making, compared to the front & center.

I assume things have improved. ;)

I remember talking to someone back in the day that chose Stewart over Bowie because as they put it, "Bowie is cheap."

 

Robert

This post edited for speling.

My Sweetwater Gear Exchange Page

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Sven

I went to the bio page and there wasn't much info on Sven Golly.

Care to share a little background on touring with some famous acts?

I am going to work tomorrow and tell the guys I was talking online to the keyboard player from Aerosmith. Thought about Wix and Sir Paul but guess not

 

http://i48.photobucket.com/albums/f241/pursuitboy/indexpic.jpg

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Originally posted by Pursuitboy:

I am going to work tomorrow and tell the guys I was talking online to the keyboard player from Aerosmith

Isn't that Thom Gimbel? I know he played with Aerosmith for a really long time...

 

dB

:snax:

 

:keys:==> David Bryce Music • Funky Young Monks <==:rawk:

 

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I was just talking to a bass player the other night who's now touring with a big-name act from the 50s/60s era. I'm not going to name them because it seems bad form, but they were a "Motown-ish" band who still tour.

 

He said he gets between $1500 and $3000 per show, plus a per diem. No retainer or anything.

 

I was thinking that's a pretty damn good gig, since this is one of the guy's who I've split $42 six ways with at the Sunday night JJ's gigs. :rolleyes: .

 

I'm not all that well-connected or anything, but from what I gather talking to people, that seems like about the best gig you could expect as a sideman. God knows I'd take it. And yes, I hit him up for referrals. ;)

 

--Dave

Make my funk the P-funk.

I wants to get funked up.

 

My Funk/Jam originals project: http://www.thefunkery.com/

 

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A few years back, CBS News Sunday Morning had a Chuck Leavell segment where they asked Chuck about his Rolling Stones gig.

 

I think he gave a ball-park salary number but off of the top of my head cannot remember what is was.

 

I will now take Sven's good advice and Google the net to see if I can find the transcript..

Steve Force,

Durham, North Carolina

--------

My Professional Websites

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Originally posted by forceman:

A few years back, CBS News Sunday Morning had a Chuck Leavell segment where they asked Chuck about his Rolling Stones gig.

 

I think he gave a ball-park salary number but off of the top of my head cannot remember what is was.

 

I will now take Sven's good advice and Google the net to see if I can find the transcript..

EDIT: Sorry, came up empty.

Steve Force,

Durham, North Carolina

--------

My Professional Websites

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I'm not sure if the amount matters all that much... although Chuck and his family have a wicked spread at his tree farm... ;)

 

(edited to note that his wife inherited 1,200 acres, and her family has a long history of land stewardship... so looks like it wasn't Stones cash that bought the land... but I'm sure it helps to maintain it. :) )

 

It's important to note that, short of the really big names (and perhaps including them), in order to 'make a living' at music, it's not just about touring. It's about doing session work, networking, and most importantly having a network of guys that can sub for you if a conflict arises. Nothing peeves a band/employer off more than you being unavailable, thereby rendering the project unbookable. :(

 

That's probably stating the obvious, but there you have it. :)

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Originally posted by Sven Golly:

I've played for Timbits and Coffee, back in the early days... ;)

That must be a canadian accent again. Here we call them Munchkins and they're sold by Dunkin' Donuts. I'm sorey that I had to post aboot this but you know...

"...Keytar in a heavy metal band is nothing more than window dressing" - Sven Golly

 

Cursed Eternity - My Band

Dick Ward - My Me

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I'm paid by the show. In Nashville, sidemen touring with major country acts can count on a pitiful $225 or so per show, up to a comfortable $1500 per show. Low end for the baby acts, high end for your Dollys, Rebas, Shanias etc. Nashville Musician's Union scale for touring is $155 per show, with a $25 per diem on travel days. (I don't think that's been changed.) I get per diem every day I'm out, but that's generous these days.

 

 

I've never been paid a retainer. Most artists figure they can get any old body to fill the chair, considering the constant influx of new talent. During the off-season, I apply for unemployment.

 

I take as many sessions as my schedule permits, though most of them are for a paltry $40 or $50 a song. And while the Union will insist that no one work "off the card," most musicians I know take what they can get.

 

If my wife didn't have a kick-ass job, I probably couldn't afford to be a touring musician--and I'm the damned band leader!

 

k

 

p.s. Welcome, Steve Nathan. You probably played on all my boss's albums. I've been copping your parts for years! Nice stuff, all of it.

 

 

 

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I know a drummer for a country act that last year made about $50- $60,000 working about 150-200 dates. He gets paid by the gig, and they switch around the Band Leader title because it pays an extra $800 per gig. Also he makes extra for TV appearances. This year they don't have a new album to promote and they aren't touring, so he is scrambling to find work.

Jimmy

 

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Originally posted by forceman:

Yo Dick, Head up Telegraph to your local friendly neighborhood Tim Hortons.... :wave:

The store at 12 Mile and Farmington Road is even closer to Novi. :thu:

 

I stopped there while in town last week. 'Twas good!

 

- Barry

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What do most professional musicians do for things like health insurance, vision, dental, and retirement? My guess is they get nothing, but I always wondered?
There's not much you can do for health insurance, vision or dental. The AFM has tried for years to convince any insurance company to offer a group policy but no one wants to touch us (something to do with the fact that so many of us spend long hours in smoke filled bars, drinking like fish while blasting our hearing to kingdom come).

Even the RMA, which represents only recording musicians has been unable to get anyone to write coverage. Apparently in the eye of an insurance underwriter, we're just slightly below carnival workers on the risk scale.

However...

There are some things the Musicians Union does do to help. One is that all union scales include a "Health & Welfare" payment, which is meant to provide you with funds to self insure. Here in Nashville, many musicians join the Tennesse Farm Bureau (which gladly accepts anyone willing to pay a small member fee). You then qualify for their group rate with Blue Cross (which is still high, but considerably less than the cost of an individual policy).

 

But, as for retirement...

 

The AFofM pension is actually one of the best in the free world. If you work union gigs, you get a pension contribution. The more you work union, the more you get in retirement. The fund has been relatively well managed and has remained sound for years.

While I have seen that it is often nearly impossible to convince a young musician of the value of union membership, the pension is possibly the best reason to try and make all of your gigs union. Professional musicians are well aware of this, which is why they are overwhelmingly union members.

I am quite fortunate to have made my living from Union recording sessions all these years, but especially because I know that when the phone stops ringing (probably any day now), I can still manage comfortably on the monthly check from the AFM.

Steve Nathan

:wave:

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Originally posted by 88keys4me:

Originally posted by forceman:

Yo Dick, Head up Telegraph to your local friendly neighborhood Tim Hortons.... :wave:

The store at 12 Mile and Farmington Road is even closer to Novi. :thu:

 

I stopped there while in town last week. 'Twas good!

 

- Barry

LOL .. :D Me too , one of my sons played in the Detroit league and many tournament games in the region . I had to have my coffee ,especially when games start about 7 am .

 

 

And back on topic. Thanks for the insight to the life of a touring musician. Sounds like a lot of fun and frustration all rolled into one.

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