“I’m not lying when I say I’ve got £100 in my bank account right now. In the six years I’ve been doing this, I’m not anywhere near the wage that I used to be on when I was a copper.”
Dan Tompkins – TesseracT’s old vocalist who has become the new vocalist again.
You see, being a Police Officer is a job on a salary. It is a community need to have Police Officers. They are there to keep public order and to enforce the rules. Now, being a singer in a progressive rock band means that you are one of many in a crowded marketplace. There is no salary and no guaranteed income. Everyone needs to make a living, however you need to be in the industry for the music first. Money comes a distant second.
Simply economics 101 dictates, when there is unlimited supply of a similar product, demand is low. When supply is limited, demand is high. At this point in time, there is a lot of new music coming out everyday.
So what are the fans going to latch onto?
We don’t know, there is just too much noise, so we wait. Meanwhile that act is percolating, spreading slowly from city to city, country to country. But that takes time. In some cases, a lot of time.
So, it’s time to bust a myth.
Being in a band is a financial struggle.
Being in a band with a label behind you is also a financial struggle, unless you are in the one percent of acts that cross over. The label will give you an advance that they will need to recoup from sales, touring, etc. However if you are in a band and you have an audience that cares, you can monetize that audience so that life is not a financial struggle.
In today’s market, the audience needs to go and find you. The hype and marketing of the past doesn’t work anymore.
TesseracT is a good band who are good musicians and songwriters. However, the big money-oriented labels find these kinds of acts no longer acceptable, unless they start making millions on an indie label.
It’s just a shame that so many fall by the wayside because there’s just too much saturation. It’s always been that way. There’s plenty of good music, it’s just in different places than the equivalent of what being on the radio used to be.
Being an artist means that you have to work for free and if you have worked for free and have built up an audience, then it’s up to you to monetize them. Normally, the record label would enter at this point in time. However, the myth of the label as the hero is greatly exaggerated. I remember the transitional period in the early 80s after MTV broke and made everyone a star and music become a sales driven vehicle.
Look at Protest The Hero. They had a label deal. They sold decently. They had decent film clips. They toured a lot. Then the sales dried up. By the end of it, they had no label and no money. They could have packed it in and done something different.
So what did they do?
They went to their fans to see if anyone cared. They set a target of $125K. They got a lot of hate in the process. Days after launching Indiegogo, they broke past their target. The fans cared.
Just this week, I got an email from Protest about another campaign, a subscription based service. I signed up straight away for the $25 package. Imagine they get the same 10,000 people signing up. You do the math.
Coheed and Cambria broke away from the label’s and went DIY for “The Afterman” releases. Claude got creative with the release package for the double album release and offered up an excellent Super Deluxe package at $70.
And they get opening week sales of 49,500. Assuming those sales are a mixture of Super Deluxe and Normal releases, the gross return is still pretty impressive. Then they had second week sales of 10,200. Third week sales of 4,000. Fourth week sales of 2,800. After four weeks, the band had moved over 60,000 units of the “Ascension” album. Then they went on a year-long victory lap around the world. During that tour, “Descension” comes out, three months after “Ascension” and it moves 40,600 units.
Again, you do the math on gross sales.
It’s hard making money in music, there is no doubt about it, but so is every business enterprise. There is no guarantee that every start-up will succeed, and it’s the same deal for artists. But history has taught us one thing. The artists that stick it out, percolating on the fringes, do end up crossing over. Pink Floyd, Yes, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails and Disturbed are just a few acts that come to mind quickly. And then, the sky is the limit.