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Why Touring Is Now a Musicians Bread and Butter

September 27, 2018


Why Musicians Now Have To Make Touring Their Bread & Butter

Whether youre a music lover or maybe even aspiring musician yourself, you know that music no longer makes money. That statement will probably raise eyebrows considering the fact that your favourite artists probably live in mansions, fly on private jets and drive foreign luxury cars to the grocery store. But only a select few live that life of luxury - the ones who actively tour, and who are on tour frequently.  

The Dismal Numbers Behind Music Sales

To be fair, music was never a stable career path for even the most talented and charismatic musicians. Its the reason why parents worldwide cringe when their son or daughter says they want to be the next Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars or Jay-Z. And despite the theory that musicians got paid more in previous decades, the truth is that they never really did - it only appears that way. One medium article from Re/verb broke down the concept of artist revenues from the 1990s to artist revenues in the 2010s perfectly. The author cited the example of the classically priced album - $12.00. Artists would earn 10% of each album sold, so for a $12.00 album theyd earn $1.20. Assuming that album went platinum (1 million sales), then the artist was looking at significant revenue. This alone would make one assume that artists made plenty back in the day. For the sale of a single track on a CD, the artist would earn $0.12. Again, a significant amount of single track sales (especially during the iTunes era) could garner an artist some serious cash. Then streaming came along.It arguably ruined the lives of musicians worldwide by forcing them to rely on other avenues besides music to stay profitable. For example, a simple Spotify stream will earn an artist $0.0011. So let say an artists song gets one million streams, theyll earn just $1100.Of course, if youre an artist with the name Drake, Camila Cabello, Ed Sheeran, Sia or Kendrick Lamar with billions of streams, then youre looking at a paycheck in the tens of thousands. All in all, its still not great. But back to the earnings breakdown. It would take 109 Spotify streams to equal the $0.12 earnings that artists pulled in for single tracks sales in previous decades. The writer of the Re/verb article made a truthful point when he said that many people listen to their favourite songs more than a 109 times. So essentially, artists arent technically getting paid less than previous times. HOWEVER, they are indeed making less money because no one buys full albums anymore (thanks to streaming), and thats left a big hole in the bank accounts of your favourite musicians.  

The Stage Pays the Bills

So with less money coming from their music, artists now have to insert a generous amount of touring if they want to earn. In fact, a 2016 report showed that the worlds biggest musical acts earn 75% or more of their earnings from touring. For Beyonce, who earned $62.1 million from touring in 2016, 88% of her revenue came from stage performances. Legacy rockers Guns N Roses earned a staggering 96% of their revenue from touring, which amounts to a total of $42.3 million. So whats the theme here? Touring is where the moneys at for musicians, and the more they hit the road, the more they grow their earnings.  

A Look At Concert Ticket Earnings

Theres no set rate that artists make per concert ticket. It all depends on contracts negotiated between their labels and venues, the artists popularity and following, their ability to pack a venue and the amount of merchandise they sell at their shows. With that said, some of the biggest artists in the world right now make insane amounts of money per show, simply because of their star power - were talking hundreds of thousands and in some cases, a million or more per show. Take a look below:Artist Earnings per ConcertLooking at this list might now give you a better glimpse as to why top musicians focus on touring. It might also have you second-guessing your career choices.

What This Means For Musicians Going Forward

The old model of signing a record deal and expecting millions of dollars to rain from the sky is no longer a reality. For artists to succeed, their music has to serve as a launchpad for other avenues that will generate money. Touring is one of those avenues and any musician who wants financial success will have to make it their focus. It may seem like a losing battle since theyre making less money from their art, but the reality is that touring has always brought greater financial gains than music sales.

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