The quick answer is a resounding …YES!!!
Think about it…
When you look at some of the world’s richest rock stars and musicians, many ask themselves the age old question, they get their “money for nothing, and their chicks for free”.
And there are plenty of rich rock stars.
But the real question is, have they earned this money?
And they earned it by doing the work, and trust me, while it looks glamorous, and having hundreds if not thousands of people screaming your name, it is work. Being on the road much of the year, away from home, living in hotels and on buses, it is not all one would think it is.
And there also is the fact you are standing in front of so many people playing and singing your heart out, make a mistake and the world will know. You need nerves of steel!
Being a musician really is a calling, you have to want it.
But let’s look at the financial reward, if there is one. For every rock star or musician who makes it big, there are hundreds who are starving and never make it. It is a tough business, and a business it is.
If you break down the time a musician has spent honing his craft, practising, wood shedding, then playing many times for free, you can break down that over the years they earn pennies if you put it into the perspective of earnings per hour.
How Much Can A Musician Earn?
This can be a tricky question to answer, and depending on the band or musician, and the formula used, will vary widely.
Let’s just say an artist plays a theatre or hall that holds 3,000 people, and tickets are priced at £50 each; although usually there is a tired pricing system depending where you sit. But we will use £50 as an average.
I know there are those reading this saying, “what was the last show you saw for £50?”. Work with me here.
If it is a sold-out show, that means that the “gate” brings in £150,000.
We are not accounting for merchandise sales, t-shirts, programmes, etc, just the door, the gate, the box office sales.
Out of that £150,000 the artist or rock star, may receive either their fee, if they have a set charge for their performance, or a percentage of the ticket sales, or both. Some artists had their fee, plus a percentage of ticket sales over a certain threshold.
So let’s look at this for huge acts, selling out stadiums.
An artist plays a stadium and sells 40,000 tickets, again at £50, which means the total sales are £2,000,000. £2 million!!
Now we are talking some cash!!
But does the artist get to keep those millions, oh no! And you will see why.
It Is Not Cheap Being a Rock Star
While we may see musicians and artists being catered to and having it all, it is not all it seems. Again you are away from home and your family much of the time.
As for the costs, expenses being a musician, you have the following:
- Travel costs of getting from venue to venue.
- Hotels and also tour buses to sleep on.
- The sound system. Not all venues provide a sound system.
- Lighting and production. This can cost millions! If you are a huge artist and need to put on the “big show”, you can spend millions upfront for the bug screens, staging, fireworks, etc.
- Your crew, the “roadies” that do it all for you. They set-up and build the stage, do the lighting, run the sound. Your techies for the guitars, drums, keyboards. And these people are experts, and are or should be paid as such.
- All the other expenses that go with travelling.
As an artist, you pay all this, before you get paid. And if you have other side musicians on retainers, you need to add that to the mix of expenses. And this is not an all inclusive list!
The Pandemic and Concerts
When the Covid pandemic hit, concerts and mass gatherings came to a close. Which includes live music concerts.
Now if you were an established musician or artist, and had made your money as they say, while you may be bored, you had money to live off of. But what about the others…the musicians that relied on touring each year, and the crews that relied on bands that toured each year, and the musicians on retainers who played and got paid each year?
They would not get paid.
I am sure there were some big groups, that as set-up as corporations, which many huge groups do, that continued to pay a wage to their crew during the down time. But not all could afford to do this.
So even as a big rich rock star, you had that expense, and something to worry about. Crews for bands are like family! They work together, and live together when they tour. Without the crews, there is no show.
OK, we know as an artist/musician you go out on tour and can make millions, and spend millions, but what gets you to the stage of touring??
You make a recording, that people like, and they buy, so when there is an opportunity to see you play those songs in a live environment, you pay the money, buy a ticket and go see them. Which brings up the issue or point of royalties. Money earned off the sales of your recordings.
Now this is a grey area, a huge grey area, as royalty deals can vary amongst artists. It can depend on what is negotiated, and also how their management is set-up.
Today with digital downloads, it is thought that many artists only receive a fraction of a penny for each music download. So you need millions of downloads to even make a small amount of money.
Years ago with physical sales of records/vinyl/CD’s, artists may have made more money due to percentages, and also sales.
You also need to keep in mind, it is the song writer that gets paid off the royalties.
Some artists write all the music exclusively for the band they are in. Some examples are Pete Townsend for the Who. Nikki Sixx for Motley Crue, (nice guy by the way), Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards, Benny and Bjorn (Abba), these are just a few, and they receive the songwriting royalties for the music.
So when the pandemic hit, and live concerts took a break, many musicians lost their livelihood, playing music, and earning a living.
So are rock stars worth their value?? Damn right they are!
As the saying goes, “I’ve suffered for my music, now it is your turn”.
If you learn an instrument, and practice 2 hours a day, 5 days a week, beginning at age 10, till age 16. That is 3,000 hours. Even at the national minimum wage you have invested over £26,000 in yourself, before you earn a penny as a musician. And yes I used the higher rate of £8.91 an hour.
Add all this to what I have written above, and the fact most musicians cannot earn a living off their art, again rock stars are worth it.