I remember some years back, Danny
Strachan wrote an article for this magazine on the cost of putting
a band on the road. I don't have that particular issue of the
mag to hand, but I seem to remember that Danny consulted with
Steve James on the cost of gear and came up a total which showed
a 'guestimated' cost of supplying a band with all the equipment
needed to perform, and it was certainly an eye-opener!
Well, this month I've decided to revisit that concept and provide
you with the real cost of running a band in 2003. As you know,
I manage the country band Evangeline and over the past year-and-a-bit
we have put together a band where the musicianship and songcraft
(even if I say so myself) is of very high quality. Raw talent,
of course, does not need fancy equipment to shine through but,
in this competitive world, it is necessary to utilise every available
technology to gain the best advantage.
Whilst good equipment will not make a bad musician a better musician,
it is the case that it can make him sound better! Likewise, a
good musician's performance will be enhanced by good equipment
and negatively affected by poor equipment, for if it doesn't sound
good, he's unlikely to play as well as he can. Imagine my delight,
therefore, to be working with some very fine raw materials (i.e.
the excellent musicians in Evangeline) and having a substantial
budget to buy the gizmo's, gadgets and gear to enhance the sound
of those musicians -what a dream!
Before I go on, I'm not saying that Evangeline has better gear
than any other band and I'm certainly not entering the arena of
comparing 'live' bands to solos, duos, trios, or any other kind
of combos which use preprogrammed music. Those gadgets also cost
a fortune and bands such as Stateline, Carson City and others
have invested heavily in equipment which is every bit as good
as Evangeline's, if not better! No, this is simply a look at what
it has cost to put Evangeline on the road, using real figures,
and I have the receipts to prove it!
The following examines the stage gear used by the band in its
show and I'm sure you'll agree that the cost of putting that show
on the road is nothing short of astounding
Andy Holmes has recently invested in a new Pearl drum kit (£1200)
I don't know what model it is, but it's a nice satin blue colour,
so that's the important thing, eh! When I expressed surprise at
the price of £1200 for a drum kit, Andy then told me that
was just for the bass drum and toms! It didn't include the snare
drum (£320), the cymbals (£650), the hardware stands,
etc. (£410), the bass drum pedal (£190), drum cases
to protect the lot (£260) and a year's supply of sticks
and skins (£110). That's £3140, plus £300 for
Billy Matthews' Audio Technica drum mic kit and £100 of
cables to route the lot through the band's PA, making a total
drum cost of £3540!!! Suddenly, I realise
why so many bands opt for a drum machine at a few hundred quid
but when I hear Andy hit those mother-suckers, I'm convinced we
made the right choice!
George Adams, on lead vocals, doesn't need a lot (phew!) He uses
Billy's Shure SM97 microphone (£200)
John Naismith plays a Ta-kamine G Series acoustic guitar (£600)
and has a Yamaha acoustic (£500) on standby for when he
breaks a string! He plays through Billy's Trace Elliot acoustic
amplifier (£250) and John's assortment of leads, straps,
tuner and strings bringing his total stage gear to £1550.
Billy Matthews plays bass, but he also owns a lot of gear which
we use corporately or for other band members individually. Those
items will be shown against the musician using them, or will be
included in the PA equipment, as appropriate.
For his bass sound, Billy uses 2 Fender Jazz basses, a third (fretless)
Fender Jazz bass and an upright bass for the band's acoustic set
- a total cost of £2000. His amp is a Trace Elliot bass
combo (£450). Total bass stage gear - £2450.
Davie Holland plays an MSA Classic XL steel guitar (£3500)
through his new specially-imported-from-USA Peavey Nashville 1000
amp (£750 + £225 flightcase). His effects case contains
£1150 worth of gear, plus he has £400 of accessories
and upgrades to his equipment. Total steel guitar equipment -
Brian Thomson is another gear geek! Brian plays a custom-built
Patrick Eggle Berlin Pro guitar (£1800), a Fender USA Strato-caster
(£700 + £230 upgrades), a Fender USA Telecaster (£695)
and a Fernandes electro-acoustic guitar (£400) His amp is
a Laney VC50 combo (£595), on which he has spent £265
on upgrades and £225 on a flightcase. Brian's effects rack
is very impressive, housing £940 worth of gizmo's in a £50
flightcase, plus a Line6 POD simulator at £220. Cables,
straps, stands, cases and other accessories come to £290,
with a year's supply of strings costing around £80. Total
guitar cost - £6490.
So far, we have arrived at a subtotal of £20,255
for the individual band members' equipment.
I say "subtotal" because there is
then the corporate equipment which all of the band use to process
and project the 'whole' sound! This includes a 2Kw PA system,
comprising a HK LUCAS 1000 active system (£1400), supplemented
by 2x RCF bass bins (£700) and 2x RCF midrange speakers
(£600) driven by a Peavey 2600 amplifier (£499). Stage
mics for the three backing vocalists cost £300.
The whole stage sound is routed to the Soundcraft mixing desk
(£600 + £160 flightcase) via stagebox and multicore
cable (£200) and processed through Behringer compressor
and graphic equaliser, Lexicon and Zoom multi-FX units. That little
lot, plus accessories, cables and DI boxes to wire it all together
On stage, the band hears itself through 4 stage
monitors (£480) driven by a Yamaha CP2000 amp (£450)
and 2 sets of Shure in-ear monitors for Andy and George (£600).
The subtotal now reaches £27,016
I know from experience that there's a lot more to putting a band
on the road than having the right equipment! In the last year,
Evangeline has spent £512 on marketing and promotion (that's
everything from CMD adverts and stage backdrop to a website domain
name); £695 in travel costs (fuel and accommodation); £1162
in rentals (rehearsal room, van hire) and £2145 to record
our debut album, Beer Talkin'.
I make that a total of £31,530
to equip, amplify, promote, accommodate, rehearse,
record and deliver the sound of Evangeline to your local venue!
Well, it doesn't actually deliver it because you'll notice I haven't
even counted the cost of a van (that's because we use my van!)
Now, I'm sorry if you're bored with all this number-crunching,
or confused by the science of it all, but the moral of the story
is this: If you are a club or event promoter, please don't think
for a second that you're lining the pockets of wealthy, otherwise-unemployed,
lazy musicians (yes, I have heard it said!) by paying them a decent
wage for their night's work. Instead, please do this....
Look out the Yellow Pages and find the number of a plumber or
electrician or car mechanic who lives up to 100 miles away from
you. Ask him to spend an hour or so loading his van up with tools,
travel for an hour or more to get to you, take an hour to set
up the job, three hours working on it and an hour to pack up (do
remember to tell the poor guy he'll get two teabreaks!), another
hour to travel home and maybe another 30 minutes to unload the
van at the end of the journey, perhaps at 2.00am - ask him to
quote you a price for doing this on a Friday or Saturday night!
Oh, I almost forgot, ask him to bring 6 colleagues with him because
it's not a job he can do on his own. Then phone me and tell me
what he quotes you for that job. Go on! I'm genuinely interested
to find out! By the way, don't let this challenge put you off
booking Evangeline or any other band -honest, we're all a lot
cheaper than plumbers, sparkies and mechanics! And we keep coming
back for more! Why? Because we do it for the music, that's why!
If it was money we were after, we'd do something more profitable.
Now, where's my bloody paintbrush?..... Willie