They Might Be Giants (John Flansburgh, Marty Beller, John Linnell).
John Flansburgh, John Linnell, and Marty Beller of They Might Be Giants discuss the band's new album and how it's managed to stay viable in the modern music industry.
@ Patrik, I apologize for not being more specific. I just didn't want to post "War and Peace" on this forum. Regarding whether one gets rich or not, I didn't intend to imply that one gets "rich" from touring, just that if one IS going to make some money, it will be mostly through touring and merch. There is a guy that I have in mind with whom I spoke about a week and a half ago who told me that he makes an okay living, but he doesn't do it via any record company. He tours and sells merchandise (which can include preorders of his band's music, but it's mostly t-shirts,hoodies,...etc). No weekend warrior either (This guy's band has opened for Tool).
@Rich_P said:"I've talked to more than a few people in bands and they insist that the way to make money is touring and selling merchandise."
Do they merely insist this, or are they *actually* making a living doing this? I know plenty of 'musicians' who say this, but they are inevitably the weekend warriors who earn next to nothing over their entire career, whose experience of touring is at most taking a long weekend to crash at college friends' houses and play for beer. This "make money from touring and selling t-shirts!" is generally little more than a thinly-veiled justification for infringement of artists' copyrights in regards to their recorded output. (I don't mean to imply that you are saying this, it's just that this trope has been trotted out by so-called 'new media experts' as the 'savior' of the music business for well over ten years now. It's time to lay the myth to rest.)
I've been touring for years, and I have to agree with TMBG: touring is little more than a break-even proposition in the best case, and a loss leader for album sales (fingers crossed!) in most instances.
As for merchandise, the margins on goods like t-shirts and posters are razor thin, not to mention that bootlegging of band merch has a much longer history than illegal freeloading of music. Ever notice the amount of people outside a big concert in the parking lot selling t-shirts? Those are all illegal bootlegs.
It's true that some large acts (think Rolling Stones, et al) can make money at the merch table selling $50 t-shirts, but those numbers are well outside the reach of an up-and-coming band. My experience is that the most I can eke out is around two dollars per shirt, and that's only if I disregard all my time/labor spent making them in a DIY fashion. The margins on a moderately priced CD/album are much greater, besides the fact that writing and releasing great music is what I should be focused on, not spamming fans with more third world labor-subsidized mercantile goods.
An unscientific poll of anyone who reads this: what is the ratio of your band t-shirt collection to albums? I'm sure the math will explain itself.
Rich_P said:"How is selling "records" where the bulk of the profits go to record companies (I'm not sure how else the record company could make money) make the artist rich?"
First, let's not worry about anybody getting rich, let's instead wonder how the musicians are going to make a *living.* The vast majority of musicians who actually earn money generally make the equivalent of an unskilled laborer. Twenty thousand a year would be "making it big" in the eyes of most musicians.
Second, it's certainly not true that the bulk of record sale profits go to the labels anymore; for instance, 100% of the profits from my oeuvre go to me and the other musicians who make the music. That is, after iTunes, etc take their cut (no labels needed for that!).
I put They Might Be Giants into Pandora and the second song was Code Monkey by Jonathan Coulton. Just thought I'd let you know!
I've talked to more than a few people in bands and they insist that the way to make money is touring and selling merchandise. How is selling "records" where the bulk of the profits go to record companies (I'm not sure how else the record company could make money) make the artist rich?
I LOVE TMBG! I remember I got a Dial-a-Song T-shirt back in like '93 after seeing them as a HS kid at the Beacon. Just heard you guys talking about what happens when you enter They Might Be Giants on Pandora and I usually get back bands that play at gaming conferences, like John Coulton (now of Glee fame) and Paul & Storm. Anyway my hubs and I make music at home; our latest is at www.luckyghost.bandcamp.comViva la musica unica
Same question I have for all media personalities that are transitioning into cyberspace for distribution....What is the best way for states to recover the lost sales tax revenue from Internet sales. Would you favor states ceding their sales tax authority over to the Feds and let them set up one system for taxing Internet sales?
BTW - Long, long time TMBG fan. Saw you at Darinka. My future wife and sister-in-law bought you coffee before a sparsely attended gig. Saw you at my alma mater. Saw you at The Beacon opening for EC. Saw you downtown. Saw you in Princeton. Saw you all over. Keep it going. I'll stay a fan.
Starving musicians? What else is new? How did musicians survive before recording was invented?
You know I love this topic, how do performers make enough $$ these days (ref http://www.wnyc.org/shows/bl/2013/jan/30/career-change-advice-performers/) - - I've done marketing/publicity for several musician clients but since $$ is so tight these days with bands, we now build them DIY marketing kits and train them to do their own promotion. While I'm sure they'd rather focus on making music vs developing PR skills, I think it's ultimately useful (and economical!) for them to understand how to get attention for themselves over the long haul vs offloading it to someone else.
Long-time fan, first-time questioner - We went for a walk through Flushing Meadows yesterday and paused at the New York State Pavilion, or the remains thereof. Which made us wonder, are the giant dancing heads in the "Don't Let's Start" video Robert Moses?
Last time I saw this band was at the Virigin Mega Store in Union Square. I think it was about a year before the store closed. I was there to buy CDs (still do, but from amazon. Meh). I miss music stores, even the monstrosity that was Virgin.
Thanks for making music Giants.
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