Q – Have been wondering a few things financial regarding artists, recording and touring. When you go on the road (without major label support), are you paid a set fee to appear, a percentage of the gate, or by some other calculation? If you bring backing musicians with you, are they salaried by you per show or tour? Same goes with recording albums. Do artists such as yourself finance the entire cost of recording your material? Do you pay the session musicians hired for the recording, and the folks who do the mixing and mastering?
A – Musicians that I have hired have been payed a weekly wage plus a per dium, which is supposed to be enough for the recipient to live on without dipping into the wage packet. Dinner is usually paid for by the tour and the only transportation you need to pay for is when you leave the fold. I’ve known musicians live on their PDs comfortably and I’ve known musicians who are not content to live so frugally.
While the musician is paid by the week the job is listed as one for the whole tour, and I’ve never fired a musician mid tour… the only time I ever did was in between the European and American legs of a world tour. I also had a musician quit on me at the same point, between legs, and I’m still mad at him. The truth of the matter is that at the levels that I’ve worked at, if you hire a guy, you’ve hired him for the tour. You can’t fire him between Paris and Lyon and call up Jim Keltner. The guy that I fired – I wish I could have fired him sooner, but we’re on tour – I can’t hold auditions, I have shows to do. When my pal quit on me, I had a very short period of time to find a replacement. The replacement was a great musician, but not the ideal guy to be in MY band. But we were on tour, dates were booked and we had to get on with it.
Recording albums I have done all manner of different things. On my first solo project I assembled a group of musicians to become a virtual band for the project. They all received a flat fee for the record irrespective of how many songs they played on. The flugelhorn player, on the other hand, came in for a 3 hour session and was payed Union rate, or double union to read a score and execute, which he did beautifully, as I recall. All of these folk were payed by my record company as part of the album costs which went on my tab.
These days I make records that I own and then I have licensed them to record companies. I am now the banker and if musicians are paid, then I pay them. Sometimes a friend will play on my record for a favour and I’ll return the favour, or vice versa, but generally I’m not really comfortable working that way. I prefer to pay what I can afford to. There has been no band on recent records so I’ll generally make a musician an offer – would you like to come to Massachusetts for a week to play on my record? If yes, I pay expenses, accommodation (we do have spare rooms for close friends) and the agreed upon fee. I must say that these fees are not as high as the fees that my record company was paying in the 1980’s and 90’s. Sometimes not even close. But that’s not just me.. Recording studios are charging less now than they did in 1990!! Also, I believe that it It is generally understood amongst musicians and technicians that the rate that one charges when the artist is paying and the rate when a record company is paying are not the same. Is this a good thing? I don’t know… Could I have made Music in a Foreign Language if I’d had to budget for 3 weeks in Master Rock in Kilburn (where we mixed Love Story and Etc) and Mick Glossop’s 1995 Polygram rate? No.
Music in a Foreign Language and Antidepressant were both licensed to Sanctuary Records for the world ex N. America. They paid me an advance for these records but the advance had to cover all recording and mixing and artwork design. They paid for the mastering of both records, but I’m not sure if they would have done so if they hadn’t owned their own mastering studio…
The advances that I received for these records were, compared to the advances I was getting in the early 90’s – pitiful.. but by contemporary standards they were generous. Times change. But neither project was ultimately profitable, certainly not when one considers the time spent on them, but would you come to see me in concert, with my acoustic guitar, if I hadn’t released a record with new material since 1999? I wonder.