The economics of being indie…

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June 24, 2008 by: Scott

We cover bands like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, that have successfully gone into self promotion, and the money they make is impressive. Do they still count as indies? I think not… When I think about the true indie artists we’ve covered here in our spotlight, I wonder if they’re going to be economically viable in the future.

I’m in California, so gas here is hovering around $4.50 a gallon right now. Diesel is right around $5.00 a gallon. If you’re driving a van that gets 10 miles per gallon, and gas is $4.50, it costs you $.045 to go 1 mile. Go on a 100 mile tip for a gig – 50 miles each way – and you’re talking $45.00 just to get there and back. Nevermind if you have to rent a PA or pay someone to help you load in and out… Almost half a C-note JUST TO GET THERE?

I haven’t paid for a show for a while… but I’m sure prices are going to go up. Does that even make being an inde, that has to travel for a show, viable anymore? Rodney and I were invited to go to Creationfest at The Gorge up in Washington State later this summer. Due to gas prices, we had to pass. It’d cost us $300 in gas just to get up there and back, and we both drive tiny little cars that get 35MPG! It’s crazy.

So, my indie friends… the road warriors that pack it up, drive all night and do it day after day… is the van still rollin’ as much as it used to? Are you charging more for gigs? Staying closer to home? Driving smaller distances? I’m curious to know… How’s this affecting you. If you’re on a label, does it afford you more opportunities to get out there and be seen?

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4 Responses to “The economics of being indie…”
  1. Dustin says:

    timely thread.

    We just had to cancel our first major gig due to the economics. After totaling expenditures it was going to cost us about $700 just to get to Cornerstone back. Not counting the pay to play fees.

    We are definitely having to charge more than we ever have and turn away more shows just because of the expenses involved.

  2. Eowyn says:

    To be honest, I think it’s not only indie artists that are being affected. I would say in this market, the indie artist may end up having the upper hand.

    What I mean by this is that label artists, owe a lot to their management, booking agencies and then CD percentages to their label. (a label artist has to buy there album then sell it.)

    As an indie, for myself anyway, what I make is what I make. Not to say that this market and fuel costs are not hurting all of us right now! I was talking to several Tooth and Nail bands the other day and they were saying how July is looking bad for a lot of people right now. In my ministry we realized that fuel prices are definitely hard to cope with right now and that sometimes it’s actually easier to stay out as best as you can and plan good routing then to have to come all the way home in between shows.

    The one offs as they are called can really hurt any band. I have to give props to my friends “We As Human”. They are independent…and their schedule is amazing right now. I really do believe that the way we are going to survive during these high fuel costs is better routing and God’s help of coarse! :)

  3. Scott says:

    Here’s an interesting story from AOL Australia…
    High Fuel Prices Put Brakes on Indie Band Tours

  4. This is a loaded question… especially for faith-based, ministry minded bands. As a christian independent artist, I put my faith in God to oversee the economic obsitcles that come my way. We recently drove to the northern end of our state for a handful of dates, then drove back. When all was said and done there was no out-of-pocket expense, but no profit margin either :) With that being said, their were several people that made 1st time decisions for Christ. For me, that was the payoff. This past weekend I made the same trip again to lead worship for two church events out there… this time I flew and there was actually a profit margin to be had…. mostly because my costs were down, and the offering was up :) I don’t think I can give a fare response that will cover all indies, because for me, God meets my needs. No matter what the gas prices are or how high my overhead is, God will have His way. Where He leads, He supplies. Because I put my faith in Him, the ministry has not been affected by the recent changes in the economic climate. So my advice to struggling indies? Put your faith in Him and He will supply all of your needs according to His riches and glory! peace,

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