Friday, January 27, 2012

Costs of being in a band

A fellow musician on my facebook posted this article about the costs of "wanting to be a rockstar." I read it and instantly sympathized with these guys and their financial plight.
They have a manager, one is in college and they worked with Grammy nominated producers. This is rare in metal. This is even more rare in unsigned metal. I'm ten years older than them and I've never really sat down and calculated the costs over the past 10 years of being in a band.
Here's a breakdown

1. Instruments: My PA equipment includes a $2985 set up of speakers, stands and an amp. I also have a $175 microphone, a $100 microphone and a digital eight track recorder that I got for $240 off ebay. - Total of $3,500 for just me. Brian has a drum set that cost him $600 and over $5000 in cymbals. Drumsticks are about $6 a pair. He goes through at least 12 pair every other month which runs about $432 a year. Our cost as a couple for 10 years is about $13,420

2.Rehearsal space: We rent a rehearsal space monthly. Luckily we're able to share with other bands/musicians to utilize the space on nights we're not using and alleviate the costs. Back in Sacramento our cost was higher but I'll average it out to about $200 a month for the last 10 years. Total of  $24,000

3. Recording : We have recorded six times in 10 years. Rounding out to about $7,350

4. CDs and Artwork: With six albums comes lots of cd burning and art printing if we package them ourselves. If we order printed, professionally packaged discs its much more expensive. We've packaged five of the six albums ourselves on top of separating and burning singles to give out as well. We also have had to pay for shipping of press packs and setup costs of digital distribution. So the average cost that I calculated for this over 6 albums in ten years to be about $7,500

5. Merch: Stickers, T-shirts, Hats and all other merchandise we sell at shows used to cost us a lot. We're lucky now to have a screen printer and two graphic designers in the band now so it doesn't cost us as much. In my first band Shovelfist I used to make all our shirts with iron on transfers. Then once we started to make a little money we started investing in screen printing and embroidery. I would guesstimate that over 10 years the cost would be about $6,000

6. Promotionals: Flyers, Banners, Photos, Filming, Internet and Print ads, and the occasional Pay To Play type show can all be categorized as Promotional necessities. Again being lucky to have two graphic designers and a screen printer in the band has reduced this cost for us on most these things. We've also been lucky over the years to have good photographer friends willing to shoot us for free or cheap. However, the advertising and the pay to play shows that we've done have cost us at least $8,000 over the last 10 years.

7. Gas and other incidentals: We lug our own equipment to shows. When we play out of town we either have to rent a trailer or borrow a work van. Over the last 3 years in Vegas this cost has been reduced since we don't travel more than twice a year usually. When we lived in Sacramento the cost was much more since we tried to travel more often. Another incidental for me is a babysitter. Occasionally we have friends or family that can watch Hayden but more often we have to pay per hour.  I can't exactly calculate the cost  of gas and babysitting but a strong estimate is about $10,000 in the last 10 years.

8. Clothes. All of us need to have decent clothes to wear on stage. We're not a gimmick band with costumes, but being the female in the band I do have to consciously pick out specific "show" outfits. Even the guys in the band worry about what they wear. I can't speak for anyone else but I guess that Brian and I have spent at least  $50 a month on show specific clothing, accessories, shoes, etc. That totals $6,000 for 10 years.

So far that's about $82,270 over 10 years. I guess in comparison to the articles $109,000 calculation we've done ok. A couple of costs we don't have are "Living in New York City" and "Lost Wages." We live in Las Vegas and we didn't move here to "make it" we also haven't given up our jobs to be musicians.
We've been able to do a lot ourselves or with the help of friends. We have careers that have helped the band more than hurt it, in turn saved us thousands in extra costs. I'm also a bargain shopper and try my hardest to go with the most affordable-for-great-quality option in everything we do.
The four of us currently in the band are not under the impression we're going to be signed by a major label or get paid to play music. We're having fun doing what we love and we make money here and there off merch or shows that help the band pay for itself at times.

As Billy Joel once said  

“If you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time.”

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