You may have read the article going the rounds about car-advertising band Pomplamoose. If not, read it here: https://medium.com/@jackconte/pomplamoose-2014-tour-profits-67435851ba37
In this article, half of the duo making up Pomplamoose explains that it’s very hard and expensive to tour. With this basic conjecture, I agree. Then Jack details how their recent big tour cost $147,000 while they “only” made $135,000 on the road. Exqueeze me? Pardon me while I choke down the “go fuck yourself” itching to get out my throat.
Buddha says calm the fuck down. Pomplamoose, despite having made big bucks on iTunes, YouTube, and advertising cars, is an indie band. They are independent of a label and make quite a bit of dough releasing their own music; the dream come true. Sure, sometimes that music straight up rips off Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy or something, but hey, sometimes our band rips off S.O.D. (all the time). And sure, he’s got a website he co-founded that gets millions of dollars in investment money to fall back on. But we are musicians and therefore brethren of a sort. The first Impaled tour lost money, too, but we learned (to not agree to a $50 guarantee ever again). So let’s be constructive and see how we might help Pomplamoose make ends meet so poor Jack doesn’t have to fall back on that multi-million dollar start-up he’s got going.
1. Stop Paying Yourself So God Damn Much Money
You might be from San Francisco, but check your address… you’re not the CEO of Twitter (just the cofounder of Patreon, a start-up worth less millions of dollars). Your band salary is way the fuck out of whack. I’m assuming you agreed to it before you headed out on this first, big long tour. You know who doesn’t give a shit you lost money? The people you paid too handsomely to go on a 28 day paid-vacation.
Yes, playing in a band is work. But it’s also vacation. So let’s get rid of some expectations. Don’t calculate pay based on any kind of daily or hourly wage you might make by staying at home. You don’t get free drinks from the bar while at home, either. Jack, you paid out eight people $1099 a week, average. That’s twice the take home pay at my job in half the time. This number amounts to 57K a year. That’s more than an optician, stenographer, dietician… do you really think your tunes are more important than a dietician’s recommendations for good food?
C’mon, cowboy, is this your first rodeo? Pay minimum wage. A lot of musicians will take it, because it beats not working at all (because “musician” is not a real job). Even kinder, promise minimum wage and if you make more, bully! Pay more! There are those of us who have toured many times with faith that it was worth it even without pay. And we’re biting our tongues. And by we, I mean me.
Let’s take your pay down to a very generous $35,000 a year per person, the average salary of a medical records technician. This works out to about $673 a week. Your expenses for payout now come to $21,538 versus the $43,794 you actually gave away. Your tour just came home with about $10,437 grand in profit. You’re welcome. But wait, there’s more!
2. Learn to Cuddle
Why does everyone in your dumb band get their own dumb bed in some dumb hotel? I mean dumb, because you haven’t figured out how to share or that bulk is better. In no way do I mean I think your music is vapid or horrible, because I’m remaining positive here. Trying to.
You spent way too much on hotels. Besides you and your girlfriend, everyone else needs to share beds. It’s a bonding experience. One of my bandmates and I are infinitely more bonded since the morning I awoke to find him gently caressing my shoulder before he was made aware he wasn’t at home and I wasn’t his girlfriend.
While our band loads motel rooms so full of people after a night of head banging, crowd diving, robot fighting, voodoo slaughtering, and general rowdiness to the point that some of us sad sacks sleep on the floor, let’s assume you guys have it really rough at a show. So everyone gets a bed, but they share it with one other person. Eight people can now fit in two rooms. In a motel. Sorry, I’ve cut your fancy ass Best Western hotel from the budget.
In the most expensive Motel 6 I can find, your entire crew stays for $260 a night and everyone gets clean sheets. Keep in mind, most bands get a scabies infested couch, so you’re still living large. Your hotel budget was $17,589. Mine is $9,100. Adding this up from the top, you’re band now has $18,926 in the bank. You can buy a brand new KIA, or whatever shitty car your band got paid to sing a song for.
3. Organize Your Budget… Seriously, it doesn’t make sense
Why is food listed under hotels? Then later this is followed by per diems per band member in the salary section. Jack, this doesn’t make sense. Pier diems ARE your food budget.
$20 per day is a very generous and healthy per diem. It’s more then enough to feed yourself for half the day if you stay away from the Whole Foods deli area, which I’m absolutely certain you would never go to, being as budget conscience as you are.
I’m assuming even at the divier places you play, like the SF Fillmore, they still feed you. Or they pay you to go feed yourself. If I can get $10 for dinner by playing at Uncle Swaggy’s Titties and Beer Bar in Wehateobama Falls, West Virginia, you are getting fed, too. Food doesn’t go under hotels. You already fed your band. If they want more money because they spent way too much on a pack of cigs in New York City when you told them they should buy a carton in Pennsylvania, tell ’em to go screw.
4. It’s the Little Things… in Your Production Expenses
Some stuff I can only infer from pictures. You rented a 6×12 U-haul trailer. Because I recently checked, I know that’s a little over a grand a month. There are places, even in our very urbanite Bay Area, that rent trailers to bands for far less. Or you could buy a trailer and then sell it. The resale value of a trailer doesn’t change hardly at all. And what’s with the fancy sprinter/bus? Rent a 15 passenger Ford Econoline or Chevy Express without a video game system installed. I know, it’s really tough, but it’s how we musicians suffer to get on the road.
Road cases? This shouldn’t be in your tour budget at all. Man up and protect your gear. It’s like saying a stroller for your baby was part of your vacation budget. Like, you didn’t ever need a stroller for your baby before that. Your cases protect who you are… a guitarist with a broken guitar is just a loser. So, come to think of it, your status move would really be lateral.
Ditch the lighting rig. Did places like the Fillmore and the Terminal all of a sudden decide to sell off their lights? This is a thousands of dollars thing you had to invest in? I watched some of your live videos (I may have had to turn the mute on half way through, no particular reason). The lighting was standard rock club whatever. Maybe I missed the live video where you did the laser light show with dancers clad in EL-Wire costumes during your cover of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall,” but I don’t think so.
And who the fuck buys terrestrial radio ads in 2014? There are cheaper ways bands can advertise.
5. Fire Your Girlfriend/Bandmate from Organizing Tours and STFU
I think Nataly, the fairer half of your duo and first name misspeller, has pretty much failed her job evaluation as tour organizer. You mention not having a manager, but you seem to have plenty of business consultants, a booking agency, a tour manager… maybe they could help you find some person that informs you hotels are not your thriftiest lodging choice.
More importantly, shut the fuck up. I think I get what you were trying to do, Jack… show that it’s hard to make it as a working musician. And it is. It’s especially hard when you’ve got a day job like me, screen printing posters, or like you, founding a website start-up that features your band and makes millions from tech-investors. It looks like sour grapes when you publically display numbers so high it makes most musicians’ heads spin. That includes myself. Even so, the bands I’m in manage to turn a profit on tour, whereas Pomplamoose fails.
So, if it’s not a sob story you posted, then what the fuck is it, Jack? Christ almighty, you guys made bank and you were able pay yourselves THOUSANDS to go out and play music. You’re like the asshat who complained to me their show across town in Salt Lake City drew only 800 that night, while the show I was playing drew about 8. The truth is, your band didn’t budget well. Or maybe it didn’t sell enough shit. But you’re not blaming the choices you made and trying to learn from them, you’re blaming the system. And if that doesn’t make you totally punk rock, I don’t know what does.