Backstage costs

Local bands may love what they do, but they rarely make enough cash

Who doesn’t love a local show? It’s an evening for hanging out with friends, watching cool bands for cheap admission and drinking beer. Winnipeg loves its local performers and they love us back. However, most of us are not cut out to be in the bands we enjoy seeing - the hours are long and irregular and it often takes months before they see the kind of cash they need to move forward. New bands need a combination of talent, energy and a determination that is downright stubborn.

“If you want to be in a band you need material to show promoters, but to get the material you need to play shows to make money,” says Daniel Baron of Winnipeg’s FINN. “It’s a vicious cycle.”

Playing shows is the easiest way to make money. Not only does the band make a cut from admission, they have a chance to sell merchandise, although that can be difficult at some venues.

“We sell more merchandise at all-ages shows,” says Alex Paradoski of A Waste Odyssey. “At bars, people are thinking, ‘should I buy the shirt or three more beers?’ But when you’ve already had a few beers, more beer is usually the priority.”

When it comes to producing an album, Paradoski says there’s a decision to make between making money and gaining exposure.

“We put out this album for however much you want to pay,” Paradoski says of A Waste Odyssey’s recently released Humberstone. By making it available for free, more people have access to listen to and share it.

Baron notes that an easy way to make a few bucks is playing cover tunes in a bar. These shows usually allow for the band to sneak in some originals, too. 

“It’s fun to learn covers, to play them for people and to make money, so why not do all three?” Baron says with a laugh.

The biggest expenses include recording and producing albums and merchandise as well as going on tour. All of these are essential to new bands hoping to grow beyond the local scene.

“We need to get a van and how much is food going to cost? How much are we going to make at each venue?” Baron says of planning their upcoming spring tour. The decision to go on tour overrode other projects, such as filming a music video, which would have cost the group around $5000 (editor’s note - a video can be made with an iPhone and an idea for $0, just as an album can).

For A Waste Odyssey, producing its latest album Humberstone, has been the biggest cost, despite recording with the album’s namesake James Humberstone, who worked at a reduced price.

However, when all is said and done, it’s a labour of love.

“It’s totally worth it,” Paradoski says. “Creating something like a song - that lives on. Money doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things. I don’t want to die with a lot of money, I want to die leaving behind the things I’ve created.”

”The music business is motivated by money. Music is motivated by energy and feelings.” - Erykah Badu

Published in Volume 69, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 14, 2015)

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