meandering creativity, symbols and emotion

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My Dreams Costs Me $500 - 4 Times a Year

Mike just stopped by my work to pick up the final artwork for the EP. The Farstar released Strange Kids two weeks ago online but since some folks only buy CDs we've got to actually make some! CDs are good for selling at a few shows but the problem is that putting the packaging together is a hassle and you RARELY make your money back.

It is ridiculous to me that we live in the digital age but are still having to spend $1000 to actually manufacture CDs. We have another full-length album already recorded that just needs a final mix - it would be great to use that $1000 to finish and release that CD but instead we'll have to wait.

Sure, this is all part of doing what I love. But it's not exactly what you expect when you're fifteen, listening to Guns N Roses and decide to form a band.

It's weird, but not surprising when you realize your dreams and goals actually have dollar amounts associated with them. At some point it seemed like I was fed the line that our dreams transcend this - maybe this would be true if I believed in God more or lived in some sort of feel-good movie. Either way in the real world (the only world I seem to inhabit) my dreams are attached to a monetary reality. How unromantic!

When you're completely self-funded (and not rich) it takes smart planning to actually be a band long-term. You always kind of hope a record label will rescue you from your day job but that's probably more legend than reality. And the record labels we've spoken with (it's a very short list, trust me) assume you like the prospect of living away from your family in a van. Only romantic when you're 19. Maybe.

Last night, Zech mentioned that his younger brother would only play music if he breaks even financially doing it. We both chuckled at this! Oh to be 19 again! Zech's brother is a talented young drummer but this doesn't surprise me. I've actually heard several drummers adopt this policy.

And really, It makes sense when you're young or a studio musician who has no long-term creative stake in the music. When you are neither of these you soon realize that it is just about impossible to make a living income from your band.

Here are a few ways you can make music as a band:
  • tour a lot
  • play cover music events (Wedding Singer!)
  • become super famous.
  • license your music to TV/Movies/Video games
Each of those comes with it's own set of specific challenges. Such as "how do you book a tour?", "how do I get my song featured on a reality show?", "how can I become super famous?" From what I've seen a lot of this stuff boils down to luck and knowing the right people.

On the flip side it's incredibly easy to lose money all the time making music.

Here's a few of the simple and easy ways you lose money in a band:
  • have a rehearsal space ($300-500/month)
  • instrument repair/upkeep/replacement ($50/month)
  • gas ($15/month)
  • record an album locally in a decent studio $5000-10000
  • spend time away from kids/family/school ($???)
Unless you pack out every club you play and sell a lot of CDs, T-shirts or MP3s it's actually really hard to break even - let alone come out in the positive.

This cost is probably why you don't see a lot of 30-45 year olds (non-famous) folks still creating/releasing music. It still happens - but when you exclude cover bands and old metal guys trying to score - the number dwindles.

So you have to love doing music. That nothing new! It's fairly well established among people who create: Love your craft - don't expect to get rich!

But for your own sanity and financial security you really have to take it a step further - for as long as you are committed to your craft - expect for it to cost you money. Budget for it in the same way you budget for your rent or car. You can be happy loving your craft but that happiness won't keep the lights on.


  1. While I prefer buying CDs, I did buy yours via itunes. So, just sayin'. -shane

  2. we're in the jungle baby! maney