The TIME article, “Want to Be a Rock Star? You’ll Need $100,000” has been making the rounds recently and repeatedly infuriating me. Why? Well, it’s both horrific in its accuracy and its inaccuracy. The problem is, these stupid kids in some terrible band that, because of the stupidity of this article, I now have a permanent vendetta against, haven’t even the slightest clue what they are talking about.
Mastering? You can spend $100 or you can spend $10,000. Realistically, I think you would need to spend no less than $1500 to do it really right, but it all depends on the material, etc. Most of our records cost more than $1500 to master, but we’ve also done a few for less.
This is all again, a remarkably low number for making a quality record. It’s easy to spend $10-$20k (or more) to do it right! I am just giving a corner-cutting estimate.
Recording total = $7000
Photography = $1000
Music video = $5000
Yes, that’s more than your record cost to make. Wow, sounds super expensive? Not even a little. Most bigger bands spend WAY more. There are packages that cost $20000 JUST to promote an appearance at SXSW. You want to be a SXSW buzz band? I hope you have $20k+ earmarked just for that.
Yes, that’s right, Promotion total = $10000
T-shirts, postcards, hats, shoelaces, whatever. Expect to lose $1000.
Merch total = $1000
There are rumors that bands break even touring, but I’ve never met one that does. If you are lucky and you can get a booking agent and get good shows, you might not lose too much. Most bands can’t afford to tour extensively. Most shorter tours lose more money. Even our Neutral Uke Hotel tours, which sell out shows virtually every night, end up losing money. New band? Want to tour? Expect to lose $1000 a week. Want to tour for 3 weeks a year?
Tour total = $3000
Grand total for one year of band operations at bargain basement prices = $31,000
If you really do it right, you spend an extra $10k recording, another $10k on videos, and probably another $10k on promo.
I can’t afford that, let alone hiring the radio or press publicist that costs $20,000 more than that, but has a friend at Rolling Stone, etc. So, what do I do? I am finding ways to perform a lot of these tasks myself. Curious? Well now, some actual numbers from my bands. I am not spending as much as I would need to in order to “break” these bands. Why? I don’t have the money to blow. I still think this might be helpful to people to provide a frame of reference. I’ve learned that it’s easier to cut costs to “make” more money than to actually directly earn more money on music.
Sophia would have to provide whatever details she wants regarding Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, but even with rapid recording and a lot of volunteer assistance, our desire to do good audio and video work has put us a bit in the hole. We’ve never directly hired any radio or PR for this band – Sophia does it all herself – so those costs are kept down, but no doubt, we’re still talking about losing 5 figures over the course of the band’s life. (Sophia’s Note: each EP has cost about $2000 to record, add another $1000 for duplication of The New Number 2. Also, we did hire a PR company to do TV Promotion for our music video for Episode 1: Arrival – an 8 week TV-only campaign cost $3000, of which $1000 was just dubbing the video into various formats/tapes to deliver to studios. An unknown band on tour for 10 days, that had to rent a van – we lost $2000 on that tour.)
Darling Pet Munkee is a side project that is a little more laid back and just for fun. I tracked, mixed, and mastered our entire record myself. We are doing print-on-demand duplication. I shot and edited a music video at virtually no cost (which has more views than most expensive videos at the moment!). Total loss – for supplies, outfits, etc. = $800