Costs of doing ( Music ) business
JAMES DEAN FISHER
EDITOR, MUSIC CITY, NASHVILLE
Universal Sound Recording Artist
The music business is in a dramatic change mode and the economy is still making things very difficult for the industry. The price of fuel, food and equipment is still very unstable. The music venues are suffering from low attendance due to the price of the tickets and the cost of the travel to and from the concerts. Therefore, the clubs and the live music venues can’t afford to pay a live band what it needs to make ends meet and worth their time. This seems to be the ongoing status of the music world of today. Will it get better……um umum?
About this time some of our nonmusical readers are wondering where this writer is going with this, so, for them and the benefit of the young and upcoming artist today, is crucial that they know about managing his or her business, and that means their music business. This consists of not only writing songs, recording songs as well as selling their products, it also means managing their transportation, payroll, and overall cost of being a recording artist/ entertainer. They recording artist IS the business and the business consists of the aforementioned aspects that come with owning and operating a business.
Basically what prompted this writer to write this article was a young upcoming artist I met and was talking with at an event in Nashville called,” The Producers Chair.” This young artist has a record deal and is preparing for a radio and concert tour coming up in 2013. He wanted to know why it costs so much to rent or buy an entertainer Coach and he asked me if I had ever rented are owned an entertainer bus. I told this young man that I have actually owned four entertainer coaches over the years I have been in the entertainment business. At one time I owned three coaches, Two of which were rented out and the other coach, a series 10 Eagle, was my private coach and I still own this coach today.
I told this young man if he had a few minutes I would brief him on the cost and operation from entertainer Coach, so we set down at a table and I explained to this young artist that before he goes out and attempts to purchase an entertainer Coach he should know that this will be one of the major purchases in his business. He must obtain a well maintained coach and that the cost would be usually anywhere from a mid-five figure all the way up to a high six-figure and along with coach there would be mandatory insurance coverage as well as a commercial entertainer Coach driver. The cost of the driver is negotiable; however, the driver’s safety record, MVR and work history is ultimately important.
I told this young recording artist he should be sure that his artist management has him working and generating enough income to sustain the cost of his employees(roadies, musicians, and his driver) as well as the cost of fuel, average $3.85 per gallon, bus payments and maintenance on the coach. This artist asked me how much it cost me to run my bus and I told him approximately $1.50 per mile and that only covered the coach insurance and maintenance and fuel due to the fact that I have my own private driver and I also drive the bus sometimes. I told his young man that if he had to pay bus payments, insurance and keep the maintenance done and pay a driver, the cost per mile(C.P.M.) would most likely double to #3.00 or more. Therefore, if the concert or venue he would be playing is 700 miles away, his cost for transportation alone would be in the area of $2100 plus paying himself and his employees.
Was this young artist surprised? To say the least, he was utterly shocked! We talked about the time and the work necessary to get prepared for the road and the venues on the tour. I told him there would lodging and food and other expenses that come up unexpectedly and he and his management must be prepared to handle this sort of things on a regular basis.
As a general rule, most up and coming artist are not financially able to go out and purchase an expensive Prevost or a fancy MCI, however, there other options available to the new artist, such as a good used late-model large van such as a Dodge or a Freightliner or maybe a heavy-duty long wheelbase Ford. For a small group, the long wheelbase van will accommodate the artist needs for transportation that will carry the equipment for a three, four piece band. Years ago, when I first got started in the business, I pulled a 12 foot trailer behind a Pontiac Bonneville and it did a great job. Speed, snow and ice as well as the wind is detrimental to the safety when pulling a trailer, but, it can be done until finances and artist revenues get to the point where they are financially able to buy a bus.On a comical note, but from a real-life experience, I was forced , more or less, to purchase a bus after about four years in the music business. I had a band while living in Fort Worth Texas called, The Music Machine. This band consists of myself, as the artist, and four other musicians. The booking agency in Texas, called Joan Frank productions, located in Dallas Texas was booking me at the time. We were playing clubs as well as outdoor promotion shows all over the great state of Texas. As it were, we were booked for two nights in Ennis, Texas, a club about 40 miles south of Dallas. The usual club hours for the band was 9 P M until 2 A M and since we were a regular band having played the club several times, we were well accepted and the people loved us, therefore, the owner loved us.
Unfortunately I had to replace a lead guitar player even though I, myself, played lead guitar and did most of the vocals, I usually had a lead man in the band. The new guitar player stated that he knew where this club was located and that he would drive his own vehicle and meet us at the club around 8:30 for sound check and be ready to play at 9 PM. 9 PM came along and NO guitar player insight! I took the stage along with the other three musicians and played our first hour set and back those days, there were no cell phones, so this guitar player had no way to inform me. At 11:30 PM, 2 1/2 sets late, the lead guitar player shows up! This guy comes on stage, plays the rest of the set and the band took the third break. Needless to say, the club owner was rather unhappy and I was very pissed, so I ask the guitar player where the hell he had been and he states LOST! He said that he did not know North from South, East from West and that he had turned left on I 35 instead of right, unfortunately winding up in Dallas, Texas! When the show was over a called the guys together and told them all and IN an affirmative fashion that there would be no more, one more time for this to happen. Since we were very well accepted at this particular club, the club owner was generous enough not to dock the pay, however, he made it very clear that if this happened again we would not play his venue again. With the circumstances as they prevailed, I told the guys that in the future all musicians would meet at a designated location in Fort Worth, Texas and that anyone that did not show up would not have a job working for me! All musicians and equipment would be ready to move out at a designated time and would travel to the venue to be played together. I BOUGHT A BUS! I went out and bought a used 35 foot Brill! I bought my first entertainer bus and I have owned buses from that day until now. Just a note for laughter, no musician has gotten lost winding up in Dallas, Texas anymore.
Over the years that this writer has been in the entertainment business as an artist and a business owner, I have seen many young artists just getting started, having no experience and no one to help and lead and or, maybe teach them the ropes that they must learn. Learning how to start your music business is certainly not easy and without some professional help or at the very least, someone who has been in the music business long enough and successful enough to give them good advice about the”Do’s” and “don’t’s”, the up and coming new artist can fail, therefore, losing it all. I have seen that too many times and it can happen to YOU!
As a new artist, get your finances in order, as well as your personal life and your music business. Make certain that you make your music career a business, therefore, operate and treat your business as a real business. Get all of your expenditures, agreements, contracts in writing and write a receipt and keep a copy for everything you spend your hard-earned money on. Keeping your profit and loss(P&L’s), expenditures and payroll receipts will keep the IRS from banging on your door…………. And they will come calling if you fail to handle your business properly.
As an artist, I have traveled one and a half times around the world and played almost all 50 states in this great, beautiful United States of America. Did I get rich?……….. NO I did not, but, I have survived the ups and downs of the music business as an entertainer and writer/journalist for many years, investing in real estate when the times were good, therefore, with hard work and by the grace of God, I have survived and I am still doing what God put me on this Earth to do…… Entertain people and playing music and writing about it!
With Christmas just around the corner and everyone looking forward to the wonderful times, great food, visiting with friends and relatives and family, may God bless and keep all of you!
We, firstname.lastname@example.org love you, all of our readers and fans and we are looking forward to a great year, 2013! So please, if you love our magazine, go out and tell all your friends about us. We will try with all sincerity, to keep our readers entertained and educated and keep this magazine ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC!
Editor, Music City, Nashville
Universal Sound Recording Artist
Hear and buy James’ new record:“BLUESMAN” on CD baby, ITunes, Amazon and all places where great music is sold!