Friday, September 11, 2009

How Do You Afford Your Rock N' Roll Lifestyle?...Or Anything Really?

Words that come to mind when "ROCKSTAR" is heard:

  • Fame (Lots!)
  • Concerts (Lots!!)
  • Fans (Lots!!!)
  • Money (Lots!!!!!...or is there?)
  • Best Job Ever!?...

I always thought so. However, this article written by Steve Albini has made me think otherwise.

Steve Albini, in fact, is a major rock record producer. He is best known for producing Nirvana's final studio album, In Utero.

This article entails the true horror that a newly signed band faces when trying to make a deal with a record company. Albini informs us of what record labels will do, to just get the next top band. Record labels send out a, A&R (Artist and Repetoire) representative to scout and sign bands. These reps are younger people, who share the same interests and style of the band they are pursuing. This gives the band a sense of comfort and trust toward this rep. Once the rep lures in the band, he has them sign a letter of intent. This a loose contract with not a whole lot of anything to it. However, this contract is what will make or break the band.

The letter of intent binds the band to the record label who issued the letter of intent. Which means, the band does not have to make a deal with the record label "now." But unless they reach a deal with this particular record label, they will never be able to put out a record. In a sense, this letter of intent signs the bands life over to this record label.

For many new and upcoming bands, this letter of intent is never thought through. New bands are so excited to get on any label that we will normally sign without hesitation. They then try to reach a deal with the first record label they can, so they can start making records and start making money.

Yeah right.

On the bottom of Albini's article he includes a chart that shows the band'stotal income, including shows, record sales, merch sales, and so on. In short, according to Albini's chart, the band earned a little over $3million dollars. However, after the record labels percentage is taking out, and fees for managers, roadies, catering, new equipment, and studio time, the bands cut gets servely small. Out of the little over $3million that they make, they only recieve around $4,000 a piece for their hard work. Whereas the record label rakes in almost the entire rest of the $3 million dollar income.

So the next time you think your favorite band lives the life and uses a gold toilet, you may want to reevaluate that assumption. Like John McCrea of Cake said, "How do you afford your Rock N' Roll lifestyle?"

I sure as hell have no idea.

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