How much it costs to hire your favorite band

by on May 21, 2014 at 2:39 pm in Economics, Music, Uncategorized | Permalink

Craig Richardson sends me this story with some interesting numbers.

Los Lobos and George Clinton and Bone Thugs and Harmony and Toots and the Maytals charge in the 20-35k range for appearances; that’s not so much considering what you get.  Fountains of Wayne (remember them?) goes for 20-30k.

De la Soul goes for 15-20k, as do the Indigo Girls, and for Jefferson Starship it may go up to 25k.  The English Beat and PM Dawn (still underrated, apparently) cost only 5-10k.

Bruce Springsteen is a million dollars and up.  Many artists I have never heard of go for 200k and up.

Dave Matthews tribute band is 10k, while Dave Matthews is $1 million.

1 Ted Craig May 21, 2014 at 2:44 pm

I was just discussing this with some folks who know about these prices. They said Indiana casinos have been driving up the market.

2 Mark Thorson May 21, 2014 at 11:10 pm

Indiana or did you mean Indian?

3 Ted Craig May 22, 2014 at 10:19 am

Indian. I suppose tribal or Native American would be more PC.

4 sourcreamus May 21, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Neither original member tours as PM Dawn. One went solo and was replaced by one of their cousins and the other had health issues and had to retire.

5 Steve Sailer May 21, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Indian casinos are also keeping golf course architects in business in America. (There is a lot of work for American designers in East Asia.) Tiger Woods’ Stanford golf teammate Notah Begay gets more work putting his name on new golf courses as their nominal architect than does Tiger because Notah is a full-blooded Navajo and Indian casino resorts are one of the last niches building golf courses in this country. One reason is that environmental laws don’t apply as strictly on reservations, so courses on Indian land can be built faster and better.

6 Rahul May 22, 2014 at 2:04 am

I always found it counter-intuitive that a golf course would find environmental laws so constraining. Either there’s something wrong with how we run the courses or how we write the laws.

7 andrew' May 22, 2014 at 4:20 am

Well, you get two guesses!

8 Grant May 22, 2014 at 2:01 pm

I would imagine that golf courses use a lot of chemicals in the upkeep of their grounds. That and a lot of watering, especially in dry areas, produces a lot of harmful run-off.

9 Eduard May 21, 2014 at 2:57 pm

That “story” is just a re-post of the actual story from Priceonomics (, i.e. the ones who did all the heavy lifting. And at their site, you can see from the comments that the listed prices are (perhaps wildly) inflated; sure, the Dave Matthews reps might say that their official asking price is $1 million, but they’re quite likely to settle for $500k. Priceonomics, by the way, churns out consistently interesting stuff, yet they’re still little-known. One to watch (and no, I’m not affiliated with them at all, just a fan).

10 Priceonomics Fan May 21, 2014 at 5:27 pm


Yes Priceonmics is the source and deserves it’s fair share of recognition here.

11 Rohin May 22, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Hey there, I work at Priceonomics. Just wanted to let you know your comment made my day! Thanks so much.

12 prognostication May 21, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Inside knowledge suggests to me that there are some questionable numbers in there. Also, generally there are different prices for different types of shows. Except for maybe the very biggest acts, musicians generally get paid a lot better at festivals, for example. And asking prices are sometimes more negotiable than is implied.

13 Brian May 21, 2014 at 3:22 pm

But how much does it cost to put up stages, provide roadies, rent hotel suites, fly in musicians and their entourages first class, and rent the venue? If an act is asking for under $20k, most of the price is going to be other than the band fee.

Seems that the elasticity of price would keep the bands charging under that $20k mark from getting out of town work.

Lots of my favorites are on there for $20-100k. I don’t recognize most of the $200k plus acts. Maybe you have to be under 30 to understand this market. I would think that it would be the over-50 types that have that kind of money to spend, though. Perhaps they’re spending it on their kids’ birthdays and such, trying to buy their love after the kind of absence that a career that generates $200k in petty cash requires.

But one Mr. Piketty is telling me that kind of money mostly accrues to the beautiful idle scions long standing fortunes.

14 Anthony May 21, 2014 at 3:29 pm

I wonder if there are different rates if there’s a gate split with the venue. Also, this might include travel expenses, putting the bands that aren’t in the U.S. in a higher price category.

15 So Much For Subtlety May 21, 2014 at 7:27 pm

But how much does it cost to put up stages, provide roadies, rent hotel suites, fly in musicians and their entourages first class, and rent the venue? If an act is asking for under $20k, most of the price is going to be other than the band fee.

But that is missing the important question – who pays for removing the brown M&Ms?

16 Brian May 21, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Disgusting brown M&Ms. Why doesn’t the Mars company just sort and remove them from the M&M harvest before packaging up the fruit?

17 So Much For Subtlety May 21, 2014 at 8:46 pm

I actually like them. But given the other article has a link to someone claiming that psychopaths will happily eat chocolate shaped like dog turds, perhaps I shouldn’t admit to enjoying what look like mouse droppings.

But you wonder what their marketing was thinking.

18 Anthony May 21, 2014 at 3:25 pm

The Priceonomics article mentions in passing that this is what those bands/acts charge *now*. It would be really interesting to see a time-history on a few of the longer-lived acts.

19 Steve Sailer May 21, 2014 at 3:29 pm

Best concert I ever attended was the English Beat opening for the 9-piece version of Talking Heads in 1980. Of course that was 34 years ago. Saxa would be about 90 today.

20 ant1900 May 21, 2014 at 3:43 pm

From my experience a decent indie act will play your livingroom for $1,000 to $6,000, based on kickstarter prices. Anyone that was social chair in a fraternity will have a really good sense of what bands go for.

21 Sir Barken Hyena May 21, 2014 at 4:28 pm

I’ll play the ukelele for you for just $5.95 a night if you act now

22 dearieme May 21, 2014 at 4:55 pm

You can listen to Louis and Bix free on the internet.

23 Art Deco May 21, 2014 at 5:07 pm

I see my preferred bands are no longer touring, bar Steve Miller and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

24 Urso May 21, 2014 at 5:13 pm

Talk about a bait-and-switch! The band listed as “Creedence Clearwater” is almost certainly Creedence Clearwater *Revisited*, which includes the CCR drummer & bass player, but neither of the Fogerties.

Who you’d want to book is John Fogerty, who is still touring but, I’m guessing, costs much more than $50K.

25 Art Deco May 21, 2014 at 6:20 pm

Actually, I’d prefer David Bowie, Elvis Costello, or John Mellencamp, but they appear to have hung up their shoes.

26 The Anti-Gnostic May 21, 2014 at 7:52 pm


As in, “They appear to have hung up their spurs.”

Another one that drives me nuts:

“Free reign.” It’s “rein.”

27 honkie please May 22, 2014 at 12:37 am

Hanging one’s spurs, hat, and boots all have history and make sense. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.”

28 Joerg May 22, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Costello still tours. Bowie’s retired.

29 Grumbles May 21, 2014 at 6:02 pm

A band I only know of because I went to high school with a member charges $10k per performance as a base negotiating rate. They generally do better.

It is unlikely that you know their name, and also unlikely that you haven’t heard them.

30 Cliff May 21, 2014 at 8:58 pm

Thanks for not telling their name. It lends your comment an air of mystery and charlatanism

31 Jay May 21, 2014 at 9:33 pm

I know a guy who told me that hasn’t paid taxes in the last 10 years!

Fact: hasn’t paid taxes in the last 10 years because they have not made their private records public.

32 Jay May 21, 2014 at 9:34 pm

Does not like certain symbols? Try again…

I know a guy who told me that INSERT POLITICIANS NAME hasn’t paid taxes in the last 10 years!

Fact: INSERT POLITICIANS NAME hasn’t paid taxes in the last 10 years because they have not made their private records public.

33 Andrew Smith May 21, 2014 at 6:31 pm

This list looks a bit old. Is anyone paying $400K to see fun. now? Doubtful.
Is Pharrell Williams really getting only $125K after happy and get lucky whilst Chris Brown is getting $250-$400L? Also suspect.

34 Chipper May 21, 2014 at 7:21 pm

Markets in Everything: Tom Morello charges $20,000 to rage about the evils of capitalism.

35 So Much For Subtlety May 21, 2014 at 7:34 pm

$10,000 for Solange Knowles? Will that go up or down after she smacked down Jay Z?

I am surprised Joan Jett is such good value. I would have thought there was a bigger market for aging leather-clad lesbian rockers.

36 Art Deco May 22, 2014 at 8:01 am

I seem to recall that Grace Slick said a generation ago that she thought performing by rockers over 50 was sort of silly. (I think she’s 75 now; do not recall when she quit touring).

37 Josh M May 21, 2014 at 7:53 pm

At the amount of money people pay for weddings, why not just go double and be the wedding that had Spoon or Mogwai?

I’m guessing though that the charge for a private performance that doesn’t pull in any potential advertising/merchandising/etc is much higher.

38 So Much For Subtlety May 21, 2014 at 8:47 pm

Weddings? At the lower end, it is also viable to hire them for a School Prom.

I would be tempted for De La Soul. Assuming I was to go back in time and graduate High School again.

39 Steve Sailer May 21, 2014 at 8:00 pm

It’s interesting that pop acts can’t change members indefinitely the way the Berlin Philharmonic or the New York Yankees do. The closest I’ve seen have been the Isley family that had pop chart success over about two-three generations. I recall reading in 1980 that The Temptations were convinced that they could keep The Temptations brand name going forever by continually recruiting outstanding replacements. It seemed reasonable at the time, but it didn’t work out.

40 Nick L May 21, 2014 at 8:33 pm

The Yankees have a 25 man roster…a symphony has 50 or more pieces. The average pop band is usually four members; each individual member has much more prominence, and this the band as a whole loses much of its unique sound when a member leaves/is added

41 Steve Sailer May 21, 2014 at 11:37 pm

The San Antonio Spurs have been basically Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili for roughly ever, but when those guys are put out to pasture, the franchise will hire some younger replacements and carry on.

42 So Much For Subtlety May 21, 2014 at 8:44 pm

AC-DC survives even though they have replaced their lead singer – with an utterly inadequate replacement in my opinion. But hey, it is not as if their music is complicated. They must be going on for two generations.

An example – although don’t quote me because, you know, they are vile – is another Australian band Little River Band. They have not just played with no original members – as Foreigner has – but actually I think as things stand now, the band contains no original members at all. The rights to the name and everything belongs, I think, to a stand-in session musician for some weird reason and he is not giving them back.

The other stand out is Guns’n’Roses. Which now consists of one original member. But he is Axl Rose so go figure.

It seems to be a Western thing. The Japanese do it without too much trouble – take AKB-48

Not that I recommend watching their music clips. It probably gets you put on a Potential Child Sex Offender register.

43 bartman May 21, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Never heard of Menudo, huh?

44 Z May 21, 2014 at 11:50 pm

Molly Hatchet has no original members. I think the remaining living members sold the act to the new members, but I may be misremembering. A decade or so ago I ran into them and learned that none of the original members were in the band. The only reason I recall it is I never heard of it happening with other acts.

45 Ak Mike May 22, 2014 at 12:11 am

Pop acts are more appropriately compared with string quartets rather than orchestras. Quartets rarely survive with more than a couple of personnel changes, although there are exceptions (e.g. the Budapest Quartet, lasted fifty years with several generations).

46 Axa May 22, 2014 at 6:27 am

What’s the point on sustaining a pop act forever if novelty is one the most important attributes for sales?

47 Steve Sailer May 21, 2014 at 9:38 pm

I guess popular music is mostly about who was big when you were age 16, so the notion of a group holding auditions to continually replenish itself with new members doesn’t hold much appeal.

Oddly enough, I followed a college sports team model with my college bowl quiz team at Rice U. in the 1970s. We won the first Rice tournament when I was a sophomore, but then two members graduated/dropped out, so I held tryouts and picked two 16-year-old potential superstars. We won the Rice U. tournament the next two years, then after I graduated, they held a tryout to replace me and that team went to the National final.

So, classical music is more like sports, where skill is objective, while pop music is about personality and nostalgia.

48 Ricardo May 22, 2014 at 4:41 am

Personality/hero worship, yes. Visual arts is another field where individual fame means a lot. People pay good money to see or, if they are millionaires, own original works of art by famous artists. Replicas and/or forgeries attract much less interest; the fact that it is so difficult even for some “experts” to distinguish forgeries from authentic originals says something about both the mystique we attach to famous people (or objects owned or created by famous people) as well as the extraordinary — even objective — talent possessed by these largely unknown forgers.

49 Art Deco May 22, 2014 at 8:03 am

Try comparing rock bands to folk/acoustic groups – e.g. Peter, Paul, and Mary or The Weavers.

Just adjacent is James Taylor, who still commands top-dollar according to this.

50 anon May 22, 2014 at 8:15 am

> I guess popular music is mostly about who was big when you were age 16, so the notion of a group holding auditions to continually replenish itself with new members doesn’t hold much appeal.

The new singer makes the Gang of Four look totally ridiculous.

51 Sarah M May 21, 2014 at 9:45 pm

Some of those prices seem widely inflated. It goes to show how much people value artists/ entertainment. The demand for an artists is very elastic, however. Though these prices are unreasonable in my opinion the prices do not stay the same for long. For example, when Britney Spears first entered the industry she probably was worth 1 million dollars to just show up at a venue. But, because of her publicity a few years back she exited the market temporarily (or what had seemed to be exiting.) In recent years, she has made a come back with the help of her previous success. In order to stay at the top and keep the same monetary value to the public artists have to consistently be innovative.

It would be interesting to see what artists would go for in the 40s as well.

52 Steve Sailer May 21, 2014 at 10:05 pm

Los Lobos was just about the best live band in America in the later-1980s. David Hidalgo is a superb musician.

Evidently, there’s not a whole lot of money in being terrifically talented Mexican-American musicians.

53 DK May 22, 2014 at 11:06 am

+1 on Los Lobos.

54 Steve Sailer May 21, 2014 at 10:24 pm

Do any rock stars get better as live performers as they get older?

Very young stars get better as they get more experience. Back in the day, I could see from concert to concert people like David Byrne and Bono getting better. I can recall the 3rd U2 concert I saw, with U2 billed about 6th at one of Steve Wozniak’s US festivals, when it finally dawned on me that U2 wasn’t just going to be another Clash-like band that appealed to college boys like me, but was going to be really, really big. Part of that realization was that Bono was mastering the tricks of being a huge star.

But it seems like the learning curve is pretty short for rock stars and by their mid-to-late 20s or so they are as good as they are ever going to get. After that, staying almost as good as you were when you were young is about as much as anybody can hope for. Bruce Springsteen in 1981, for example, was 95% of what he had been in 1978 and in 2003 he was 75%, and that’s really, really good. You can’t ask for more than Springsteen delivered at any given age, but rock music is so much about being young that the whole thing seems bound to be disappointing.

55 boba May 22, 2014 at 8:57 am

Nena @ 24:
Nena @ 50:
The band has changed, younger musicians, but she has improved over the years.

56 Scoop May 25, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Late to the party, but if anyone is still listening:

I’d say Pearl Jam was better 10 years after they broke through than they were in their first five years. They’ve since declined some as a live act (but very little) and that peak (performing not composing) was when they were in the mid-30s not their mid-20s.

I’d say Elvis was a much better performer on stage in the five years after the 68 comeback special than he ever was in the 50s.

The Stones peaked in their 30s.

But, then again, I’d say Springsteen was better in 85 than 75, from what I can see online, so Steve and others might take issue with these assertions.

Non rock, it’s pretty common to peak around 40. That’s certainly where Sinatra reached his prime. He’s unwatchable at 25.

57 Yepi 4 May 21, 2014 at 11:15 pm

Your information is very interesting, but I never thought that I would be able to hire a band for me, it’s too expensive for my ability to pay.

58 Steve Sailer May 21, 2014 at 11:40 pm

Here’s a question: what share goes to the different musicians in the band? What does Charlie Watts get v. Mick Jagger? In my experience, music journalism has been remarkably uninformative about these natural questions.

59 pds1979 May 22, 2014 at 3:17 am
60 carlospln May 22, 2014 at 12:13 am

For their ’08 Reunion Tour, Mr. Gordon Sumner got 60% and Mr. Stewart Copeland and Mr. Andrew Summers each got 20%.

I believe these figures are comparable for the Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette Standards Trio.

61 Steve Sailer May 22, 2014 at 12:27 am


Is that kind of information the dark matter of music history? When a band disappears for awhile, you usually assume that they are on drugs or in rehab or whatever, but are the members often just arguing over who will get the biggest piece of the pie from the next tour and trying to outlast each other before incipient poverty forces them to cave in?

What were the Beatles’ cuts (outside songwriting)?

62 ziel May 22, 2014 at 12:40 am

The Beatles always shared all Beatles income equally, and that continues to this day with Paul, Ringo and the widows..

63 Steve Sailer May 22, 2014 at 1:11 am

Do most bands start out with a Beatles-like even split and then undergo a power struggle over money, with either the star going solo (the legendary “creative differences”) or enforcing a new division? Or are songwriting royalties often enough to paper over many problems?

It seems strange that the money side of the music business is seldom discussed explicitly in the press, whereas the money side of baseball is a topic of great interest to baseball fans. I can recall an old man telling me in 1975 that free agency would ruin baseball because it would destroy the mystique with all the naked greed on display in the newspapers. I can recall thinking at the time that theory sounded plausible, but not proven. But then it turned out that fans liked hearing about contracts.

64 So Much For Subtlety May 22, 2014 at 5:42 am

The interesting one is the Rolling Stones. As Mick Jagger and Keith Richards get the lion’s share of the cash. And Charlie Watts was paid per diem for years. Apparently Bill Wyman and Ronnie Woods wanted to make him a full member. But Mick and Keith said no. Then Bill Wyman left and they agreed to give Watts his share.

65 Urso May 22, 2014 at 11:18 am

I think it was Ronnie who they refused to make a full member.

66 ziel May 22, 2014 at 1:05 am

In the Eagles documentary from a few years back that’s on Showtime, Frey/Henley demanding a bigger cut caused a good deal of friction, with Felder refusing to join the tour under any non-equal share terms.

67 Steve Sailer May 22, 2014 at 1:16 am

Thanks. I’ve read a lot about artists v. record companies. (Music biz people make movie biz people seem like Doctors Without Frontiers): e.g., Creedence v. Fantasy Records. But power struggles within groups over money seem hushed up. (Creedence was an odd case in which the supporting cast imposed its wishes on the star: on their last album, the three spear carriers insisted, in the collectivist spirit of the time, that they each get 1/4 of all the songwriting and singing responsibilities. Of course, John Fogerty’s 1/4 was the only good part.

68 Art Deco May 22, 2014 at 9:36 am

(Music biz people make movie biz people seem like Doctors Without Frontiers) –

Allen (“If there’s no conflict, there’s no interest”) Grubman, father of Lizzie. The man has been described as ‘cartoonishly crude’.

69 carlospln May 22, 2014 at 12:14 am

ps I agree with Mr. Sailer on David Hildago

70 VandalsStoleMyHandle May 22, 2014 at 3:44 am

I don’t see Bernanke on the list; how much to hear BB share his innermost thoughts about the FOMC with you and a few friends at Le Bernardin?

71 EconStudent_ExtraCredit May 22, 2014 at 5:11 am

These numbers are somewhat surprising and questions can be raised. For one, are these numbers negotiable? It seems like they may be suggestions by the bands, but they may take lower bids if necessary. Many of my favorite bands are between $50-100 k, which is not nearly as expensive to book as some of the pop stars. The prices that range close to, and above, $1,000,000 are simply ridiculous. Of course, acts want to make a profit and live off of their success. This is understandable, but with the amount of shows that they play per album tour, they are making an insane amount of money. This raises another question. Are these prices really necessary? These prices are higher than they were in the past and I wonder if this is because of the willingness to give into these artists demands. It is likely that inflation has played a giant role in the dramatic increase paid out to book these acts, but it still seems excessive. These costs are then trickled down to the consumers and concert goers, like myself. Unfortunately, in the end we personally feel the brunt of such price hikes.

72 Art Deco May 22, 2014 at 8:57 am

James Garner offered this many years ago, “Oh, I got a good salary; I used to feel guilty about getting a good salary until I realized somebody could pay it”. That’s what the market will bear or they are telling people to leave them alone.

What I am curious about is whether these figures are net or gross. You have equipment, travel and lodging expenses, and ancillary staff to support. Is the fee quoted covering that or are those separate charges?

73 Art Deco May 22, 2014 at 9:03 am

If they are benefiting from rents, it would be those derived from the vagaries of copyright law. There are not any legally-mandated barriers to entry in this market, the bands cannot collude, the transactions are arms-length, the market is not an artifact of public policy, nor are the services bundled up with a mess of filler you do not want.

Compared to what accrues to attorneys, real estate agents, corporate CEOs, social workers, and college teachers, their earnings are not corrupted by pelf.

74 aaron May 22, 2014 at 9:34 am

“The prices that range close to, and above, $1,000,000 are simply ridiculous. Of course, acts want to make a profit and live off of their success. This is understandable, but with the amount of shows that they play per album tour, they are making an insane amount of money.”

This is (supposedly) what it costs to book these bands for a festival or corporate event, not how much they pull in per show on a tour.

75 bartman May 22, 2014 at 11:05 am

Bon Jovi played a private party at Princeton reunions a couple of years ago. Hard to imagine getting $1 million for such a gig, but given some of the alumni (Bezos, Schmidt, Whitman, Icahn) it’s possible, I suppose

76 Ricardo May 22, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Yes, but the only question that matters is what is the going rate for Throbbing Gristle??? Because at least they would incinerate and destroy the menace to society that is Jon Bon Jovi and thus remove him and his alleged band “members” from the circuit of unbelievably horrible bands that charge this type of rate to American mainstream musical mental retards and thus start to render this thread useless over time. To quote Boyd Rice (or perhaps Loren Malvo), “If ever I get me a license to kill…”).

77 Sigivald May 22, 2014 at 6:42 pm

I don’t think they’re touring – Sleazy’s dead and the rest of them say it’s permanently over.

(Also, get over the superiority complex to people who like mainstream music.

It’s about as pathetic as Rice’s posturing*.

* I say that as someone who really likes most of this music, but can’t stand his authoritarian posturing and general assholishness.

And I don’t like Bon Jovi, either.)

78 Ricardo May 27, 2014 at 9:38 pm

Wigi Sigi-how did you find my post? Like a needle in a haystack in this type of discussion on MR I have to imagine. I am so very sorry for being “pathetic” and maybe ruining your day with my “assholishness”. Even already knowing that Sleazy has long left this mortal COIL I now clearly see the errors of my ways through someone like you who is far more superior to I and Sleazy would most likely agree and probably even Gen but perhaps not Chris and Cosey because they appear to be kind souls despite that clear fact, according to a deity like you, I need some discipline in here. Bollocks, ya wanker though I am glad you don’t like Bon Jovi but then again how hard was that to admit? Geez-sounds like you need some Terminal Cheesecake in your life to take the angry edge off-but I guess my huge level of sarcasm didn’t translate on internet paper the first time around to one like you. I am guessing you don’t get Jim Goad’s diatribes on Taki Mag either.

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