I got an email from someone last week in advance of a show I was doing this past Saturday night at the Colony. He was expressing his disappointment that he wouldn't be able to be at the show and wished me luck. The last phrase of his emailsaid: "Have fun and make a lot of money." "Hah," I thought to myself, "wouldn't that be something?" It wasn't the fun part I was chuckling about; it was the making lots of money part. I spent a lot of time that day thinking about the fact that most people don't know how musicians make a living, so I thought I'd take a minute and use Saturday night's show - a success, I think, both musically and attendance wise - as an example.
Here goes: My concert at the Colony had a $10 ticket attached to it. 60 people paid to get in, which equals $600. Great.! Off the top, the Colony pays the person who takes tickets $20, which leaves $580. Then the Colony and I split the rest: $290 for them (to cover the mortgage, heat, staff etc) $290 for me. My $290 covered $75 for my pianist (underpaid in my opinion, but the best I. could do); $50 for my assistant (who sells CDs, does sound, helps me load and unload my gear and drives two hours each way to do so also underpaid); and, finally, $175 for the ad that I put in.Wood9tockTimes. My pay? A loss of $30. We musicians call it "paying to play." I did sell a lot of CDs - $260 worth, so that's good, but here's the catch: investors own my records, so for everyone that I sell, I send them $10. I sold 22 CDs, so I'll send the five people who gave me the money to make those CDs $220. That means that I made $40 on CD sales. But I lost $30 on the income from the door, so in the end, I made $10 at my show on Saturday night. It used to be that I lost a lot of money at my shows, so at least it's getting better year after year. This is why it is so important for you to go out and support the musicians that you love. Your dollars at the door make it possible, literally, for them to keep doing what they're doing. The math that I've just described is typical for me at a local gig. The only time I do much better is when another musician hires me and I'm guaranteed a fee for showing up and singing what they've asked me to sing. In that scenario, the other artist is taking the same risk that I took Saturday night. It's a game that we all play, and I for one, am willing to do it over and over again because I love what I do and because I feel strongly that it's what I'm on this earth to do. There's another side of the story, too, which I won't go into here, but that's the story of how much it costs to make a recording in the first place. If you're interested in that, I've written an article about it that's posted on my web site. You'll find it at barscott.com under the "Articles that Bar Has Written" link on the home page. '
Thank you everybody, for making my musical life possible.
Bar Scott, Woodstock, NY
I welcome your thoughts and feedback on this situation. You can write to me c/o The Townsman, or at my email address, firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s this week’s live music picks:
Thursday, Feb. 17 – THE DON AND BUNK SHOW featuring DON PRESTON and BUNK GARDNER, original members of THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION @ The Bearsville Theater – This should be a real treat. Frank Zappa’s gone, but fortunately, some people are still carrying the torch, and who better than these two, who were there at the beginning, and stayed along for the ride through the glory years. Zappa was a one of a kind original, and Don Preston and Bunk Gardner are two of a couple dozen people in the world who know how to play his music properly.
Saturday, Feb. 19 – Another cool show at The Bearsville Theater. It’s THE BIG TAKEOVER’S CD Release Party. For those of you who haven’t heard this band, they’re an authentic reggae band from right here in the Hudson Valley, except for their female lead singer, who’s originally from Jamaica, hence the descriptive word “authentic”. Opening acts are Royal Khaos and local Onteora High School heroes, The Paper Planets.
Saturday, Feb. 19 – For anybody who’s going to be in the Capital region, TREY ANASTASIO from PHISH brings his solo project into the Palace Theater in Albany. For Phish fans, this is a can’t miss. For anybody else, it’s hit or miss, but overall, probably more hit than miss, and there’s a pretty good possibility that some amazing music will be made along the way.
Sunday, Feb. 20 – THE JOHNNY MONSTER BAND returns to The Bearsville Theater. I haven’t heard these guys myself, but they opened for Johnny Winter last week, and from all reports, practically stole the show, so this is probably worth the price of admission, and on a Sunday night in Woodstock, it’s the only show in town.
Have a great week.