How Much Do Artists Get Paid?

Discussion in 'Fred's Barcalounge' started by drmilktruck, Sep 11, 2018.

  1. wabash slim

    wabash slim Friend of Fred

    Age:
    69
    Feb 10, 2010
    lafayette in
    I worked a show with Henry Mancini. He travelled with his pianist, saxamophonist, and trumpet player in a big Lincoln with a big box of charts. They used AFM members---basically a pick up band. Of course, you'd expect classically trained musicians to be able to sight read. Short rehearsal and they were ready.

    Chuck Berry used pickup bands forever. He also demanded a hefty backline as well.
     
    MichaelHargis and drmilktruck like this.
  2. swivel

    swivel Gretschie

    216
    May 13, 2018
    PNW
    My only reference is some old contracts I happen to have for festival pay. Albert Collins got $10k for a performance in 1992 ish. Some less known got less, like $4k
     
    MichaelHargis and drmilktruck like this.
  3. swivel

    swivel Gretschie

    216
    May 13, 2018
    PNW
    I saw a film about that once. The pickup players were like deer in headlights wondering what song he would play next, what key and how different from the original. Apparently it was not a pleasant experience.
     
    MichaelHargis and MotorCentaur like this.
  4. drmilktruck

    drmilktruck Gretschified

    May 17, 2009
    Plymouth, MN
    What's union scale for a backing band?

    Answered my own question:

    https://www.nashvillemusicians.org/sites/default/files/Road Scale.pdf

    https://www.nashvillemusicians.org/live-scales-contracts-pension

    Minimum $200 per show plus 10% payable to pension fund. For tours, additional $35-70 per diem. (More on non-show days.)

    So for a 4 week tour, with 4 shows per week: $4740. (If you could do that all 52 weeks/year, you'd get $61620. After taxes and personal expenses, you'd be lucky to net $40,000 I'd guess. Not lucrative at all.)
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2018
    MichaelHargis likes this.
  5. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Sorry Vista
    Admin Post
    I used to do AFofM gigs. If the charts were good, the gig would be ok. You usually had no idea what to expect until you got to the gig. More than once I found myself improvising a solo to a song I'd never heard before. You get used to it.

    The guy that booked me always told me to pretend that I already knew everybody when I got to the gig. :)

    The biggest problem is that you are unlikely to ever work a 52 week year; in fact, a 25 week year is more likely. I remember doing a gig in St. Peter, north of Mankato, with some older guys. They told me, quite truthfully, that music was the best part-time job in the world, and the worst full-time job. At that time, I thought that working only in music proved something, but within less than a year, I was playing, teaching, doing side-jobs in other fields and enjoying it much more.

    After a few years, I decided that it was time to do something else, and I have only played the occasional gig ever since. I find that I enjoy music a lot more these days than I did when it was all I did for a living.

    To me, the strangest thing about all of this is the return on investment is so poor. I takes many years to learn to play, to read and to use proper technique. Even at that point, you are still pretty near the starting line, because putting all of those skills to work artistically is a skill acquired only with experience.

    Probably forty years ago, I was playing something for a friend and he said that had I applied all of that work to becoming a dentist I would be much better off. He was right. That comment changed my life, because I realized that the practical value of what I had learned was not all that great. Perhaps a year later, I spent a day with Joe Pass and we talked about any number of topics. He was a grammy-winning artist with numerous solo albums and/or albums as a leader, but his wife had only been able to quite her job as a nurse a few years before out late '70s chat. He drove a Jaguar, but his second car was a Corolla, IOW, he was pretty much king of the jazz-guitar hill and had been for about five years, but he wasn't all that rich.

    Then I got to thinking about it, and realized that a lot of famous jazz guitarists either had working spouses or side jobs. Jim Hall's wife was a prominent Manhattan psychotherapist, several had spouses that were nurses, and Tal Farlow painted signs by day, even though he was an established artist with his own Gibson signature model. Johnny Smith worked in his wife's music store and was a flight instructor. These were my heroes; and most of them had some sort of side income.

    I guess that youthful hubris kept me from realizing that the reason I could walk into a music store in Colorado Springs and chat with Johnny Smith was because he was there to work. Somehow, I thought, I would someday find the lost chord, arrange the ultimate chord solo and music biz people would fight amongst themselves for the privilege of writing out checks to me. :)

    I guess that's the difference between being 21 years old and 63 years old. When you are young, you can build dreams on some fairly flimsy premises but life will teach you differently. I know people worth millions and millions of dollars, but they still work every day. There are a handful of musicians worth millions and millions of dollars and I'd bet that many of these still keep their nose to the stone.
     
    MichaelHargis likes this.
  6. Scott Fraser

    Scott Fraser Country Gent

    Jan 14, 2012
    Los Angeles
    Actually the promoter hired the musicians & backline. Chuck took his payment, in full, in cash, before he ever walked on stage.
     
  7. drmilktruck

    drmilktruck Gretschified

    May 17, 2009
    Plymouth, MN
    I read a story about John Lee Hooker that was similar. Sometimes Mr. Hooker would change a 12 bar blues to a 13 or an 11. Good luck catching that.
     
    MichaelHargis likes this.
  8. wabash slim

    wabash slim Friend of Fred

    Age:
    69
    Feb 10, 2010
    lafayette in
    Professional musicians that make it big are about the same as the percentage of athletes that make it to the pros.
     
  9. drmilktruck

    drmilktruck Gretschified

    May 17, 2009
    Plymouth, MN
    Great post, Mark.

    I wasn't suggesting that 52 weeks was the norm, just illustrating that, even if you could, you still wouldn't make much money. That's especially true given, as you say, all the time and money you put into learning the craft.

    I've spent many hours honing the art of medicine, but at least I'm well-compensated. Most musicians have no such luck.

    (St. Peter, home of Gustavus Adolphus College! One of Minnesota's several fine Lutheran colleges - St. Olaf, Concordia, and Augsburg among them.)
     
    MichaelHargis likes this.
  10. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Sorry Vista
    Admin Post
    Indeed. Did you hear about the musician with the full-time gig? Neither did anybody else. :)

    I would imagine that a truly skilled musician probably has hands as deft and skilled as that of a general surgeon, albeit the stakes of an error are much greater for the surgeon. But, being an old cat musician, I'm thrilled if I can make gas money, these days. If I were willing to scramble for work in the bars I could do much better, but I'm choosy and play what works for me.

    I sure miss the old days up in Minn.
     
    drmilktruck and MichaelHargis like this.
  11. johnny g

    johnny g Gretschie

    498
    Sep 2, 2017
    union, ms
    The most fun I had was playing in a band in the army at USO, EM, NCO and Officer clubs. The least fun was my own band after the army days playing at clubs down on the gulf coast. We at best made $1000 a weekend. Now that was in the late 60's and early 70's. Even after making a little money, I soon made the decision to get my butt in college. I have never look back at that. I have never said all I need is a record contract, HA
     
    MichaelHargis and drmilktruck like this.
  12. Setzerhotrod

    Setzerhotrod Country Gent

    Age:
    58
    Oct 26, 2011
    Anchorage Alaska
    Making decent $ in music is WAY too much work.
     
    MichaelHargis and drmilktruck like this.
  13. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Sorry Vista
    Admin Post
    I may have some opportunities to play the Officer’s Clubs in the future. Sounds like a good gig.
     
    MichaelHargis likes this.
  14. audept

    audept Senior Gretsch-Talker

    Age:
    71
    Dec 1, 2010
    Sydney, Australia
    This is an appropriate joke for this thread:

    St Peter is checking ID's at the Pearly Gates, and first comes a Texan. "Tell me, what have you done in life?" says St. Peter. The Texan says, "Well, I struck oil, so I became rich, but I didn't sit on my laurels--I divided all my money among my entire family in my will, so our descendants are all set for about three generations." St. Peter says, "That's quite something. Come on in. Next!"
    The second guy in line has been listening, so he says, "I struck it big in the stock market, but I didn't selfishly just provide for my own like that Texan guy. I donated five million to Save the Children." "Wonderful!" says Saint Peter. "Come in. Who's next?"
    The third guy has been listening, and says timidly with a downcast look, "Well, I only made five thousand dollars in my entire lifetime." "Heavens!" says St. Peter. "What instrument did you play?
     
  15. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Sorry Vista
    Admin Post
    Too close to the truth.

    I have a great-nephew who is a gifted classical pianist. He’s exceptionally gifted with regard to music and has an excellent academic record. He decided to take up networking as a profession, which is a relief, because I feared he would try to go into music professionally. I did, and ended up in the network business.
     
    MichaelHargis, drmilktruck and audept like this.
  16. somebodyelseuk

    somebodyelseuk Synchromatic

    942
    Jan 22, 2013
    Birmingham, UK
    Depends on how many t shirts he sold.

    Blame Napster.
     
    MichaelHargis likes this.
  17. Scott Fraser

    Scott Fraser Country Gent

    Jan 14, 2012
    Los Angeles
    The difference being that everybody needs a doctor. Very few people really NEED a live musician.
     
    MichaelHargis, drmilktruck and audept like this.
  18. Robbie

    Robbie Country Gent

    Age:
    65
    Jun 17, 2013
    Sarnia Ontario Canada
    For 3 or 4 years recently, I was part of a committee that booked blues acts for a smallish local Festival, probably 1,000-1,200 people capacity. Removing the very high end names these folks make well less than you'd think. Pay was never a percentage of the gate, always a fixed fee and lots of time 50% of the fee by Check and the balance Cash.
    My Band did an opening spot for a well known Blues Guitarist at this Festival and afterwards he and I sat alone in the Green Room for about an hour with a couple of beverages. Great fellow, mid 60ish in age and we really hit it off. I asked him how much longer he planned to tour and very nicely he said I can't afford to stop, I've done this all my life, "there's no pension in this business"
    It's a true shame how little the vast majority of our favourite Artists make.
     
    MichaelHargis likes this.
  19. MichaelHargis

    MichaelHargis Gretschie

    111
    Apr 2, 2017
    St David, Az
    Great insight! I have been a Lead Singer and solo for over 30 years. I could change just a few key words and the above would be my story! I can't wait to buy you lunch and talk. I just turned 59 y/o. (I have only just started learning to play guitar 1 year ago.)
     
  20. MichaelHargis

    MichaelHargis Gretschie

    111
    Apr 2, 2017
    St David, Az
    I blame everyone that rushed to the music hot spots and played for free! Yeah, I said it!