Jahfin Posted January 30, 2008 Share Posted January 30, 2008 From Randomville.com: http://www.randomville.com/article/3/intro.html Rock stardom is a large part of why most young musicians decide to get into the business. The temptation of fame, money, and women can be so attractive that reality falls by the wayside. For every Rolling Stones, U2, or Metallica, there are thousands of groups who never make a dollar doing something they desperately love. And then there are the bands that may not be financially backed by a major label, but have established themselves through indie labels and touring. What fate befalls them? Today, we'll look at such a band and the realities of life on the road. Marah (pronounced 'Muh as in "Duh" and "Rah" as in "Sis-Boom-Bah"), is a band from South Philadelphia. Their first record, Let's Cut The Crap And Hook Up Later Tonight was recorded literally above an old automobile service shop with whomever they could find to play. The album effortlessly shifted genres, rock and roll one minute, bluegrass the next...all combined with a soulful voice by frontman Dave Bielanko that wouldn't have been out of place on 60's R&B radio. It eventually won hearts in the alternative country movement, made possible by the national release by fledgling indie label Black Dog Records. In 2000, Marah released their second full-length Kids In Philly on E-Squared/Artemis Records. With an actual recording budget behind them, Marah expanded on the diversity of the first record. Incorporating elements of 50's pop and blues into the mix, while singing songs about their hometown, they achieved stunning results. Esteemed rock journalists such as Greil Marcus and Nick Hornby wrote about the band and the album. Journalist Tom Moon said in Rolling Stone that year: "Marah pick up the manic energy and unspoken hostilities simmering just below the surface of city life, and channel them into music that's full of grand, Whitman-esque wonder and gnarly Lou Reed detail." Such praise propelled the group when they went on tour. It was there that Marah truly showed what a great band they were. The yearlong affair showcased their musical ability and strengthened the already growing buzz. Kids In Philly ended up on many critics end-of-year best of lists. To this date, it remains the band's best-selling album at just over 25,000 copies worldwide. (For perspective's sake, the #1 album on Billboard's chart this week - Usher's Confessions,- has sold over 4 million copies. Or 1000 times Marah's total album sales...) Deciding then to strike while the iron was hot, Marah made their bid for international rock stardom. The goal was to make an album that would sound timeless like the Rolling Stones and T-Rex, "big" rock-and-roll records they grew up with. The group flew to England to work with Oasis producer Owen Morris. Bruce Springsteen added vocals to what would become the first single. The album, titled Float Away With The Friday Night Gods was released also on E-Squared/Artemis in the summer of 2002. While the first single "Float Away" was played on alternative radio (the first for the band), by most accounts the album was a commercial and critical failure, selling around 12,000 copies worldwide. E-Squared/Artemis quietly dropped the band from the label. Rumors of the band breaking up became frequent. Deciding to give their dreams another shot, Marah signed with North Carolina label Yep Roc Records, home to such indie artists as the Minus 5 and Reverend Horton Heat. Their fourth album 20,000 Streets Under The Sky will be released June 29th of this year. To build up the buzz for the album's release, Marah have been touring since mid-March. Here now is an average night's breakdown of a typical show... The 400 Bar is near the West Bank of the University of Minnesota campus. National and local bands perform in the roughly 250 capacity venue every night. It's a Friday, which means a bigger crowd than usual. Admission for tonight's performance was $10. Tonight, two opening acts have been added, none of whom are on tour with Marah. Marah isn't touring/traveling with a specific opener for this leg, which is unusual for most bands. The two groups are Gingersol, an alt-country duo from New York and Moonmaan, a band featuring former Afghan Whigs guitarist Rick McCollum. In most mid-sized cities of the tour (as Minneapolis is), Marah have been drawing around 100 people per night. Naturally, in larger cities like LA or Chicago, more will attend and in places like Arkansas, as Bielanko grimaces, only "six people showed up". Tonight, possibly due to the stormy weather, possibly because the show wasn't heavily advertised, about 80 are there. Nevertheless, Marah plays like it’s 80,000. They rip and rock through a 90-minute set that leaves many speechless. However, the band is in a world of hurt financially. First off, that $10 ticket price. Take 20% of it and give it to the venue. Typically, the house gets anywhere from 15-30% of the door depending on the artist and day of the week the show is. 20% is probably a conservative estimate given the show took place on a Friday and Marah is an established band. Don't forget all the drink sales go to the venue, too. The two opening acts will probably split 10% of the overall profits, or $50, whichever is more. Marah is now left with roughly 70% of the door receipts. Some quick math shows us that 80 people times $10 times 70%=$560. This is independent of T-shirt and CD sales the band might take in during the night, which would figure into the totals also. But since Marah has no new album for sale at this time, this amount will be less than what it could be. The group is offering a re-issue of their first album with some bonus demos added in for $15. But since I don't have an idea of how many Marah sold that night, let's leave it out. A rough guess would be 5-10% of the crowd buying merchandise. Through blind luck, I snagged a copy of the playlist that evening and happened to notice it was written on a piece of stationary from the Holiday Inn's Metrodome location, presumably where the band is staying just down the road. A few quick clicks of the mouse tells me a one-night stay on a Friday there in a single smoking room with two beds for four adults costs $95.38, $107.26 when the 13% tax is added in. Gratuity not included... (The current incarnation of Marah is five members, plus a crew guy. I used the idea that four people would sleep in the hotel room while the other two would sleep in the band's van. Also, by law, four people is the maximum amount that can share a hotel room. It is entirely possible that that rule has been broken many times by Marah however.) This takes the group down to $452.74. Next is fuel for the van that takes them around the country. On the 16th of April, an average gallon of gas cost $1.79 in the Twin Cities. Since we don't know the make or year of the passenger van, a quick study finds an average gas tank capacity is about 26 gallons. 26 times $1.79=$46.54. This leaves them with $406.20. Divide that total by six. Each person gets $67.70 for tonight's performance, or less than a dollar per ticketholder. This doesn't take into effect things like food, equipment maintenance, and entertainment either. Let's assume the band got free beer for the night, which is entirely possible. Marah has been playing 4-5 shows a week for 5 weeks. Using the Minneapolis show as an average example for the tour, we now find that each member has made (assuming 25 shows were played) $1692.50 before taxes. After the I.R.S. has their way, it comes down to approximately $1128.34. Or slightly more than they would make working forty hours a week at minimum wage over the same time period. The 400 Bar nabs $160 from tickets plus all the drink sales, which on a night like tonight, probably add up to $600 or more. ($4 a beer times 70 people times 2.5 beers). Gingersol and Moonmaan split the remaining 10%, which corresponds to $40 each. Luckily for them, they each will get the larger $50 sum as mentioned above. For a local band like Moonmaan, the money isn't as important as the exposure the gig brings, being that the cash amounts to about $10 per member. But for Gingersol, $50 will barely cover the cost of gas to the next show, not to mention a place to sleep that night. Life on the road isn’t as glamorous as it seems. How much would you endure to follow your dreams? Perhaps the better question to ask is: Knowing this information now, how often would quitting cross your mind? Your favorite indie band is in this exact same situation most likely. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.