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...and don’t know what inflation is, or how it impacts them and their careers. When You Adjust For Inflation you are paying to play, but hey! At least you got a couple free beers…

JAN 25, 2023



...and don’t know what inflation is, or how it impacts them and their careers. When You Adjust For Inflation you are paying to play, but hey! At least you got a couple free beers…

Look… venue charging rental fees are absolutely reasonable. They are a business, just like you, who needs to make money. They provide a service to you. They keep their venue in good order so you can bring your audience there. If you select the correct venue for your audience you will generally be rewarded with a reasonable return on your initial investment. If you have an audience which can fill that venue you are going to make a lot more money than booking to play at some tap-room for a flat fee.

When it comes to selecting a venue, some factors which you might want to consider are: is this a good neighbourhood? Or will my audience get jumped? Does this venue’s values align with the values my brand represents? What is the cost of doing business here? Is it a flat rate? Do I pay more if I sell less beer? Do we split the door? Will this venue promote this event at all? Am I being paid to be entertainment, or am I producing this event? All of these questions and more need to be considered when you’re booking a room. Some rooms book you for a fee which you can negotiate with the venue.

Most musicians take absolutely any deal that comes their way though…

I admit I was guilty of falling for the traps set out for musicians by the system when I was young, excited, and falling-for the lies sold to me in every story about “making it”. It’s okay. Healing begins with acceptance and admission. Go ahead fellow musician.. take a moment… it’s okay… say it out loud… “I have been tricked.” In the past I have said to myself, “no way would I pay to play at a venue if I’m not producing the show myself,” but I have indeed lost money through what we will refer to as, “learning experiences.” Here’s a big learning experience: your industry is being devalued horribly every day, and your only response is to take it on the chin and work harder for less money.

You need to realize something. There are still bands playing music and getting paid upwards of EIGHT HUNDRED DOLLARS for the night. EIGHT. HUNDRED. Woweeee… This bar band, which you rehearsed with for hours on multiple days, before going to perform for 3 sets over 5-8 hours, was just paid $800. Split between 5 people that’s $160 a musician! Congratulations you can make a credit card payment with this money, or, more likely, you can almost pay for the gas to get you to and from the venue… ha ha…

How much did that musician just make per hour? Let’s say they had 3 practices, for 3 hours each. They loaded into the venue 2 hours before the concert and did soundcheck. Doors opened at 8pm and closed at 2am. It takes an hour to clean up and leave. Unless I’m mistaken thats 9 hours of practice, and 9 hours at the venue. We’re not counting expenses or drive time in this. It’s 18 hours total. Well… 160 / 18 = 8 dollars and 89 cents an hour, but we’ll be kind and round that up to 90 since we don’t have a penny anymore.

Yeah… read it again. How many covers did you have to play? Did you manage to sell any merch? Oh? it’s not that kind of venue? Or you never even made any?… I’m thinking of a lot of mean and funny things to say right now, but I’m just not going to type them out. That’s bad money for the amount of time you put in.

From my own experience: I used to make about $3.5-$7k a concert. That was in the long-long ago though. The before times… when I used to play live, and those were for larger festivals or events, considering all things like promotional opportunities, kickbacks, merch, etc. my takeaway would range from $2000-$5000 based on the event. That was into my account end of day after paying out expenses, which is reasonable I guess and would seem like a lot for a concert. When you consider all that goes into producing an event like that, it isn’t all that great, but hey… it’s not all about the money right?

In the end it doesn’t work out to that much more than the bar band. You have promotion in the lead time. You have art time to make assets for your brand to promote the event. You have to train the band, who always mess up anyways so why are you paying them? You have to throw a bit into equipment maintenance. You need appropriate stage productions. You ever consider what kind of investment it takes to get to a point where someone can justify booking you at your rate? It’s never as cut-and-dry as it looks on the surface. Amongst it all, I’d even take solo gigs where I’d make $400-$1000 for an afternoon and treat it like a “sales call” to invest in future opportunities for bigger returns. I’d even play the occasional good-will concerts for free. You could count the losses on those smaller gigs against the bigger ones in your year-end rationale. That same rationale that makes you keep chasing the crazy dream at the end of that neon rainbow… Basically what I’m saying is… why is anyone continuing to prop up this broken mechanic of an archaic system that needs a complete overhaul? Pride, mostly; probably. Delusions of grandeur as well. Copes like, “It’s not about the money it’s about the music,” are in there as well, like I said above.

If you are not doing it to create a better life for yourself and your family: what are you doing? I’m not done with you bar-band get back in here…

Let’s get back to that bar band that’s grinding out concerts. I want to be generous and give them $2500 for a 5 member band on a single-night concert with 3-45-minute sets. That’s $500 bucks each! 400 for practice and transport, and 150 for the concert! hold on… I have friends who are older and played in bar bands “back in the day” who have told me stories of those glory days. Beautiful people. Beautiful “libations”. Most importantly a reasonable paycheque. The standard pay for a band in the 80s was around $800. Using the handy-dandy little inflation calculator at https://www.in2013dollars.com/ $800 Canadian dollars calculated from 1980 to 2023 is $2,749.75. That’s not bad for a night of work in 1980 if you ask me. Standard pay for bands right now is around $150 a head and can range anywhere from $600-$900 for these 3-set nights. At least that’s what it was 3 years ago when I stopped participating. We are being generous and paying our band $2500 for this little quasi-case-study. So if we adjust in reverse for inflation we get $727.34. That is less than the standard pay back then. The bigger problem is, if you’re not at a festival, or a rodeo, grinding your own concerts out, or playing way out of town where they need to attract you, you aren’t getting anywhere close to $2500. You are probably getting around $800 a night in 2023 dollars. Let’s adjust $800 2023 dollars to 1980 dollars… we get: $232.75…

$800 now dollars ain’t gonna buy you sh*t, and with the price of eggs, you need to start being realistic with your career. You need to adapt. Are you going to bring your price up? Are you going to work more, but work easier with less overhead? I don’t care. I have my own plan and it’s working alright for now, but looking at those numbers… she’s on the rise.

Traditionally-structured television and radio networks offer about as much quality entertainment as an empty potato sack: you can wear it and pretend it makes you look like something, but it doesn’t make you look like anything except a person in a burlap sac; “a costume.” You can put on the costume, be it rock with your leather jacket, country with those boots ’n hat pard’nur, rap with… (what do you guys wear now?), and so on… but it doesn’t make you actually live that life. How many people who put on the uniform actually act the part? How many people who put it on are actually that? Only a few of us… but people who listen to the radio don’t care about authenticity. If they did how could they turn on the radio? haha.

So many artists strive for acceptance on radio and television, just like they strive for big numbers on streaming platforms, for a litany of reasons; all-of-which they have nothing to back up their reasoning with the same old copes…

It will make me money!
No. They will barely pay you. It is going to cost you to get on there too, so I’d argue you’re losing money by trying to play along. Someone is making money though… it just isn’t you.

It will help with exposure!
Maybe. But you really are promoting the radio station or Spotify more than you are promoting your own brand… think about if all that effort went in to your band. Most people who are listening to these mainstream platforms want you to shut up and get off the radio so it can get back to its format.

It will help my brand seem more legitimate!
So you’re trying to trick people into liking you? Come on you can do better…

It will help me build connections!
With who? People who need you to keep using the system? So you keep paying into it, barely scraping by, while they dine on caviar and baby’s blood? Maybe you meant advertisers who will sponsor you? Why wouldn’t they just buy the already-more-popular artist with a larger fan base to market to? Yeah. Buy the artist. Purchase them. It’s whorin’, but we can talk about that in another article… essentially why should I buy off-brand vegan-meat when the cow does the same thing better and costs the same?

Let’s get real for a second: whatever “it” used to be doesn’t exist anymore. Your participation in “it” is perpetuating your emotional and financial poverty. It’s not just the corporate entities though, it’s everything from the smallest fan to the . it’s from the top to the bottom a dead a rotten mess which needs to completely decompose…

Here’s an example. I once had a “fan” from the old world complain that my album was $20 for a CD. Let’s do another little case study with our handy tool the inflation calculator. According to a few sources on the internet at the top of my search results, the average price of an LP in 1970 was $6 to $7 dollars. Let’s plug that into the inflation tool.

$20 in 2023 is worth $2.69 in 1970
$6 in 1970 is worth $44.66 today
$7 in 1970 is worth $52.10 today

dude underpaid…

If the bars aren’t paying you a living wage…
If you have supposed fans that don’t want to support you at the price you ask for…
If you can’t sell an album to save your life?…

Should you quit?
No. You are called to make music right? So find a better way, even if everyone calls you “difficult” or “too much” or “not using the proper channels.” They don’t care about you. They want your money through the old system.
I’ve been called all these things, because looking into these things are the types of “market research” I would do when I was still participating in their system. My results were conclusive: reject the system and go it alone. In time I would find, and have found, people who think like me, get what I’m doing, and are doing something similar themselves. Back when I was participating in this system, I would catch heat from people for being willing to “look into” the career I was set out down. Musicians don’t research. They are afraid to be identified as “different” than everyone else, even if they claim otherwise. Finally, they’re just bad with money. The lesson isn’t to shut up and fit in. The lesson is that if you don’t stand up for yourself, you will be used.

I am guilty of horribly underpricing the products I create. I am guilty of horribly underpricing the services I provided to other musicians, festivals, businesses, and organizations. I was trying to help. I was trying to help people who were ready to cast me aside first chance they had. The lesson was very valuable! Literally. It helped me value my rates and the services I provide. I don’t owe people anything, and neither do you. When you find your own people; your REAL people; then you know when it works to cut those prices down for ‘em.

Remember those booking fees I used to make that I told you about at the beginning of this article? I was never “big time,” but I was bigger than a lot of other musicians. Go plug those into the inflation calculator. You don’t even have to go back that far in time to see what’s going on. $1,000 in 2023 is worth $756.08 in 2009. Has your rate, and the rate of the venues and industry appreciated that much over the last 10-15 years?

Earlier I said “it’s from the top to the bottom a dead a rotten mess which needs to completely decompose…” I put that eclipses in there because it wasn’t my entire thought. I was saving my entire thought for this conclusion… See the thing is… when something decomposes, it gives nutrients and necessary growing materials to something new which can rise from it’s carcass, provided that, that new life endures the struggle of busting through the rotten mess that is holding it down.

I have amazing fans who pay over-value for what I do, directly to me. They get it, like I get it. They get that fixing “it” takes more than talk, and we’re out here doing it. Without their support I wouldn’t be able to burst through to the sunshine above. Are you out there doing it? Or are you still trying to distro to a bunch of radio stations who will never care about you through Yanagroo?

Maybe it’s time to think about adapting your business model to better suit your needs? That’s just my thoughts though… I am often attacked for presenting reasonable rational information, so it’s probably best you shut up and dance for ‘em… right? It probably makes the most financial sense…

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