Thursday, 3 June 2010

1000 just isn't enough

In my opening post i mentioned the stuff i'd been reading on the technium about the concept that's been doing the rounds for a while now, that a band can get by with 1000 true fans.

What defines a true fan is probably up for debate but for the purposes of these arguments it can be taken as someone who'll buy everything you release. Which is nice of them, but, and this is where it gets interesting, being a true fan they're more likely to want some kind of hard-copy product rather than just a download.

This, therefore, means upfront production costs. This is particularly true of any merchandise other than music (ever tried downloading a t-shirt?).

Production costs rack up quickly. Let's say that your true fan will spend £25 on your products per year, say, for the sake of argument, an album, an EP and a t-shirt. That's going to cost you about £1500 for a thousand t-shirts, about £1000 for a run of a thousand albums and a similar amount for the EP. These are ballpark figures, you can probably find cheaper if you search around but it's a good place to start.

That's £3500 you've got to find upfront (albeit potentially in installments) to produce the physical item.
Let's talk studio costs now. In fact, let's do it in reverse.
You have 1000 fans all willing to spend £25 (+ or - a few fans and + or - a few £)
So your merchandise income is £25k
less VAT of 17.5% (£3723)
less production cost (£3500)
leaves you 17700 (and remember this is your full time job)
Studio time will cost you probably £20 and hour for the studio and another £20 an hour for the engineer (last time i looked)
Now if you spend every penny of that £17700 on studio time, that works out at about 444 hours. If you compare that to a 9-5 job that's about 3 months. That's probably enough time to record an album and an EP.
But you're not going to be eating in that time, out of that money, partly because you won't have made it yet, partly because there isn't any left.

So you're basically going to need to live off your live performances.

Now i don't know about you but i have found one thing to be consistent on the live circuit - the "better" the venue (i.e. the more it is a recognised venue with appreciative audiences and big name draws), the lower the payout at the end of the show for a supporting act.
If i wanted to live off music i could probably manage it playing covers in bars 3 nights a week in the region. Just*.

But playing covers in bars doesn't get you true fans; you want true fans you have to be playing your own stuff. And that doesn't get you gigs in bars.

I dunno, maybe that's just me, but that's my experience. So basically, 1000 fans isn't enough. 2000 might be, 3000 is probably closer to the mark. And that's for a solo artist/duo. If you're a band then you've got to be looking at around 5000 i think.
And that's a helluva a lot of people to get interested in your music by yourself.

Which i'll come back to in the next installment...

* Money is drying up in the recession, fewer places are putting music on and fewer people are going out.