How big must a band be to retire & never work again?

How big does a band have to get to obviate the need to ever work again? Of course that means you have to define how much income one would need…Let’s say that each band member needs 10 million (US) in the bank and we’ll call it good. That’s not a huge income–it won’t support your drug habit if you have one–but it’s a comfortable retirement.

So how big does that band have to be? Be specific, give examples.

Bigger than The Moody Blues. Or perhaps just making better rights decisions than Justin Hayward did.

It all depends on the kind of record / merch deal they were able to get from their label. Some bands on major labels have signed such crappy deals that it’s unlikely they’d ever get there almost regardless of the number of albums they’ve sold. On the other hand, you’ve got a band like Depeche Mode - none of those guys ever need to work again if they don’t want to. From the beginning, they had a handshake deal with their label that said everything would be 50/50. They only put it down on paper after their fourth or fifth album. To this day, both parties have stuck with their end of the deal and both have gotten very wealthy.

A lot of it comes down to rights, too: David Bowie owns the rights to all his publishing plus about half of Iggy Pop’s, and is farting through silk. John Fogerty was screwed out of his Creedence stuff, so despite the fact that CCR still get massive airplay on adverts, soundtracks and classic radio, he doesn’t see a cent of it.

I agree the guys in Depeche Mode are probably quite wealthy. In addition to whatever they make on album sales they must be making quite a lot of money touring.

A minor hijack. How much money does a band make touring?

After the last Depeche Mode concert I was at I made the following guesses.
25 000 tickets sold @ 60 = 1,500,000 (basing this on the arena size and ticket price for the Stockholm concert)

How much does it cost to rent an arena for a day? Let’s take half the ticket money.
$ 750 000

How much does travel, roadies, advertising and sets cost (the set obviously can be used the entire tour). Again let’s say half of what remains.

That leaves $ 375,000 for the band. Now multiply that number by the 200+ tour dates and you have a lot of money.

Obviously I could be underestimating the costs but on the income side one should add in merchandise sales as well.

Anyone know what the numbers look like for a major band on tour looks like?

From that article:

I suspect a lot of musicians, whether or not they could afford to retire comfortably, are like that (though not all): they keep on making music because it’s what they do. If it was just a matter of money, Sir Paul woud have retired a long long time ago.

Exactly. If you make music, generally speaking, it’s because you want to. The money stuff is gravy. Of course, there are people who are in the business to make money. They generally get sorted out eventually because doing it just for the money does not good music make.

Just for the hell of it, let’s talk indie bands. That’s kinda my job right now. Local bands typically don’t get paid, but sometimes they get 50 bucks for gas if they are large enough. A Joanna Newsome type indie-star will fetch about $3,000, but for your average Pitchfork hyped up indie band will get around a $1000. Those that are well known, but haven’t quite made it to super-indie size, will get anywhere between $300 and a grand. $400 is about average right now. Take away eating, gas, lodging (sometimes, but often), etc, and you are left with, what, $200 to $500 a gig? Let’s say there are 4 people in a band on average - that’s 50 bucks a person a night. Let’s go with 50 gigs as an average tour - that’s $2,500 a person. And the rest of the year is recording, IOW, making nothing.

That’s one of the largest reasons why I think the whole “such and such indie band has sold out” cry from the hipster is largely overblown. I wouldn’t be surprised if Issac Brock (Modest Mouse), in his best year, made $50,000. Even if he made $100,000 off of his last album, he’s been doing this for 14 years and hasn’t been making shit. An indie band member that pulls in $10k a year has “made it”, I would say.

I think Kiss could probably have retired in 1980 just from the merchandising alone.

(And I think they should’ve, even though I was a big Kiss fan when I was 16-17 years old, but then I grew up. And since that was a long time ago, I think the statute of limitations on my musical stupidity and my desire to tread water in a sea of retarded sexuality and bad poetry has expired.)

Heck, one big hit can work for you. Norman Greenbaum had a hit with Spirit in the Sky back in the late 60’s and was never heard from again - but a recent article I read in the NY Times where they discussed how that song has extended its life through a bunch of commercial and movie uses - and Greenbaum is still living off the royalties apparently…

I wouldn’t be surprised if the same case was true for The Romantics - (That’s) What I Like About You gets more play now than ever - heck it was tapped as the name of a sit-com and just got used yet again for a commercial for Toyota in at least the Northeast market…

There are a lot more hands in the cookie jar than that before you get to the band. Most tours lose money and most bands never see a dime from them unless the have a cut of the merchandise sales. The tour is to get the album sales which is where the band will get their scratch, hopefully.

Really? I thought it was the opposite. The CDs usually are losers for the band (unless they’re a big name) and just serve as advertising for the shows, which is where the band makes most of their $$$
As to the OP, it all comes down to how smart/dumb you are with your money, and how bad you get screwed by your mgr/record company/other bandmates. The publishing and songwriting credits are where the money is at.

Yeah but album sales ain’t what they used to be.

Peter Frampton did very well off of one record only. I don’t think that would work today.

Me too. It would be interesting to know how many fingers are in the cookie jar though

How much of the money from a ticket really goes to the band. Let’s assume a big name that fills arenas with tens of thousand in the audience.

Well, that’s just nitpicking, isn’t it?

Here is ASCAP page on the rights of musicians to get paid.

Theatre has “grand rights.” Basically it means every time someone performs your work, you get paid. If you have twenty companies performing your works eight times a week at $300 each performance, that means you are getting $4800 a week for having written it.

Songwriters Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson will end up making more off of Mamma Mia! than they did with ABBA.

How did he manage to untangle himself from the MainMan bullshit of the 70’s-80’s? I be confused.

And to add insult to injury when he went solo he got sued by his CCR label for sounding to much like himself.
I don’t remember, but something is telling me he either got sued for plajurizing CCR or sampling it or something along those lines.

I’ve often thought that that is the better business model for musicians. If I had any talent, I’d sit down and try to write a ‘Spirit in the Sky’ or a ‘We are the Champions’ or some utter trash that has a snappy chorus which is commercially malleable. Or a melody just obnoxious enough that it almost qualifies as torture (the marketing people seem to think we love that shit.) Something that they could play in the arenas after every touchdown. Something that fits a long shot of a car winding through a wooded road (Professional driver on a closed course. Do not attempt!).

Fuck the radio. TV commercials are where the money’s at.

Bowie is kind of a genius in this regard