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$tretching yourself out

Was talking to a buddy in Los Angeles a few weeks ago about how things are going for his business and was saddened to hear he was on the brink of having to close his doors, because it wasn't really paying the bills and starting to seriously affect life at home for him. As we talked about the details, I started thinking about how too many business owners get into a situation where trying to build their business puts them near the brink of bankruptcy because they throw everything they can afford and then some into their venture, or they get themselves so tied up into the business they end up costing themselves their marriage, wreck their family life, and/or put their emotional and physical health at risk. Artists and bands are no different, as the same passion and level of commitment tend to carry the same risks.

To the average fan not knowing anything about musical instruments or what's required in putting on a show, writing new material, rehearsing, etc. it may look and sound pretty simple. Get a guitar, bass, some mics and stands, couple amps, a drum kit, and get out there. For nothing more than fun and games, let's price out what getting performance rated gear ready to go means in US dollars. (NOTE: Prices of gear determined by 5 star reviews from customers, with no further consideration in preference or playing style - many musicians will disagree with this list and compile their own, and prices can EASILY extend into a much more expensive package. Prices can also become much cheaper to some musicians by selecting a more affordable piece of equipment or purchasing used gear, or even having the knowledge of upgrading gear - this list is for demonstration purposes ONLY) As the website perused is not a sponsor of this blog (not YET!), we will not mention their name publicly, but you're welcome to inquire if you like.


- Gibson Les Paul Standard 60s Bourbon Burst with Case $2,699.00

- Marshall DSL40CR Guitar Amplifier Combo 1x12 40 Watts $899.00

- Line 6 Helix Floorboard Dual DSP Audio Engine Guitar Processor $1,439.00

- (2) Pig Hog PH18R Right Angle Instrument Cables 18 Feet $26.95 each

TOTAL: $5,090.90


- Alesis Strike Pro Special Edition Electronic Drums With 20" Bass Drum $2,699.00

- (2) Roland PM-100 V-Drums Personal Monitors $342.99 each

- Ahead 5A Aluminum Drum Sticks $33.99

TOTAL: $3,418.97


- Fender American Ultra Jazz Bass V 5 String Artic Pearl with Case $2,299.00

- Fender Rumble Stage 800 2x10 WiFi Bluetooth Bass Combo 800 Watts $999.00

- ZOOM B6 Multi-Effects Processor for Bass $499.99

- Quilter INTERBASS Pedalboard Power Amp and Direct Box 45 Watts $299.00

- (3) Monster Cable Prolink Bass Guitar Cable 12' $59.99

TOTAL: $4,276.96


- Shure SM58 Dynamic Vocal Microphone $99.00

- RCF Evox 12 Active Two-Way Line Array PA System With 15" Subwoofer $2,899.00

- Peavey PV 10AT 8 Channel Mixer With Antares Auto Tune $399.99

- Boss VE-8 Acoustic Singer Vocal Effects Pedal $449.00

- (2) Pig Hog XLR Microphone Cable 25' $39.95

- CBI SC Heavy Duty Speaker Cable 14 Gauge 1/4 Inch Connectors 25' $29.99

TOTAL: $3,956.88

So, with these price tags, which doesn't include extra mics for backing vocals, guitar straps, additional effects or accessories, or even a keyboard player, the average value of equipment for a five man band to be on stage with equipment suitable for stage performances is just under $22 thousand dollars US ($28 thousand Canadian), plus applicable taxes. A lot of musicians tend to stock up on additional guitars, backup equipment and accessories, because let's face it, things happen: Bad cables, strings and sticks break, or items tend to get lost or may disappear in transport to a gig. I played one gig early in my performing days as a bass player and halfway through the night I broke a string. Unheard of for a bass player, but it happened. The rest of the night I had to improvise my playing style with my D string lying on the stage. Thankfully I played in drop tuning (D-A-D-G) so it wasn't that difficult for my simple mind to drop the notes an octave as necessary, but the performance wasn't as ideal as intended for the audience.

The average wage in Canada was $19.54/hour. Using basic math calculations, this means that the average Canadian wage earner would need to dedicate over 250 hours (not including payroll deductions) of their paychecks to cover the cost of playing on stage for an evening of anywhere between 45 minutes to three hours. When you include additional costs some bands face, like a rehearsal room, gear maintenance, additional equipment, travel costs...the list goes on, and we haven't even TOUCHED recording costs, advertising, merch, or the band manager/roadie/swag seller/photog rates once the band spouses are doing with those roles... You need to bring water to the tap so you can turn it on, and the tap needs to be able to run without running itself dry.

Committing yourself to a project to the extent where it will need an income to survive is a risk just like any new business venture. You need to consider the times of availability for the project, and the sacrifice you will make to your family, your job, and your personal lifestyle. Although it may be possible to practice and gig 6 nights a week from 7-3am, it's probably not the ideal situation when holding down a full time job. In addition, the price you pay in regards to family time lost is non refundable. If your significant other is telling you that you're spending too much time with the music, you need to pay attention. Budget more than your money in the project, because your time is more valuable.

Once you got your budgets together, time and money - stick to it. If you got the next three Saturdays booked with gigs, don't quit your job because you're going to live off the night life just yet. Simply ride it out and enjoy it. When's a good time to throw away the day job and do gigs full time? When you can put 100% of your paychecks into a reserved fund and survive off your gig earnings. Using that average wage again, if your weekly income before taxes is roughly $780, by rough and simple calculations you're taking home around $625 a week. for a five man band to support each member at that rate, $3,125 a week needs to be earned MINIMUM. Some bands, it can be done with a couple shows a week. Others may luck out as the house band for a venue and earn that plus tips.

However, you also need to remember at this point you are now earning money as a contractor, and you will be responsible for your own pension, income reporting and taxes among other licenses and permits/membership fees you may be required to pay. I knew a guy who worked thirty years as an independent contractor and in his fifties realized because he wasn't paying into government pension, government was entitling him to a very high pension amount in comparison to the wages he earned. Check with your local financial advisor/lawyer with your plans to ensure you have a full breakdown.

Whether you're performing, producing a podcast, running a business, or simply looking to retire... You want to do so without worrying about whether the cash flow you have is sufficient. Break into the adventure not wondering what you can afford to make, but how much you're willing to sacrifice and pay for. Once that's done and working out for you, you can start forecasting where you want to see this journey take you. It can happen if you plan accordingly.

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