Apr 19, 2010

Artists! -Don't take an advance, here's why.

Your manager will push you to take an advance from anyone and everyone who will pay it, Record label, publisher, merch co. etc. Why? They look like a champ for getting you an easy fat paycheck and they barely needed to do any work to get it. So you think, "Wow" this person is really looking out for me!" but in reality they just lost you a lot of money.
When someone pays you an advance they will do everything and anything possible to be sure you never see another penny...even if you deserve hundreds of thousands of dollars.
How do I know this? I almost fell into the trap of doing this to someone this week.

We were contacted by an artist manager this week who was looking for Aderra to record every show on their next tour. The artist is a heritage act that draws about 2500-4000 a night, a pretty good size tour.
We made what I think was a pretty good offer. It would have amounted to about $1,000,000 to the artist by the end of the tour in December. But the manager wouldn't do the deal without an advance of $75,000. We went back and forth, back and forth but at the end of the day he wanted $75k for his artist.
So I started thinking, "I can pay this idiot $75,000, do some tricky accounting and pocket nearly a million bucks!"
Because it would be easy to do. I could suddenly inflate the cost of being on the road and come up with a bunch of excuses why we "weren't making money". But then my conscience got the best of me (as always). I've never fucked anyone over and I am not about to start now. You can call me a sucker or whatever, but I know what I am doing. No way I am going to let that karma swing back on me.
So here is how I would have screwed them...
Simple, make sure my expenses are always almost exceeding sales revenue plus the advance. Target= $1,000,000 minus $75,000. I would have found large expenditures on labor, transportation or cost of goods, let alone for administration costs to fulfill online orders and manage publishing royalties. We would have negotiated away origination fees at venues but quoted book rates back and of course we could always play fast and loose with cash payments from fans.
Have I discovered a truly evil and immoral way to take money out of the pockets of fans and Artists?!
No, nothing that exciting. This is just the way that things have been done since the "advance" has become customary. It is a bit like the relationship between the United Auto Workers Union(UAW) and the big three automakers in Detroit (weird analogy but stick with me): The entire relationship is built on a foundation of animosity and the supposition that either side will take no quarter to screw the other folks over. What does that lead to? Screwing each other over to prevent being screwed themselves. So everyone loses. To the extreme that 2 of the big three auto companies faced bankruptcy without the grace of the U.S. taxpayers after the finacial meltdown in 2008-2009.
If the relationship is built on the belief that "the other guy is going to fuck you." No one wins.
Oh, there may be some short term gains but long term both sides never make as much as if they had collaborated to some degree.

So really, the manger who called me wasn't an idiot at all. After decades in the business he just assumes that I am going to do all of the tricks necessary to screw him and his artist out of money so
of course he demands an advance. That at least ensures he'll gets a few thousand. Even if he loses $1,000,000 in exchange for it
My advice to artists is think once, think twice and then figure out how much money you can make long term without an advance.

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