We hear all the time now the real money in music is in live shows, not albums, but while music consumption is meticulously tracked through the charts, it's rare to get any real numbers around live shows.
So when the Chicago Tribune reported that The Roots were paid $120K to play at the recent Taste of Chicago festival, with Donnie Trumpet (of the Social Experiment) clearing $15K, my eyes were locked.
$120K for a day's work certainly isn't shabby, but it may not be quite as impressive as it might seem at first. The Roots, like Social Experiment, are a large band, and that money has to be divided between every member, with booking agents, tour managers and managers also taking a cut. The Tribune doesn't state if that money included travel expenses or not - all those people need plane tickets, and separate hotel rooms, and transportation, and food - but regardless, I'm sure there are other hidden costs as well. (Hey, you try fitting a tuba into an overhead bin.)
Playing concerts to adoring crowds may sound like a dream come true, but the life of an actively touring musician is no cake walk. If I travel for even a week I start longing for my own bed and loathing airport security lines, and to do that month after month, year after year, playing thousands and thousands of shows as The Roots have, must get exhausting. No wonder they saw the appeal of a steady late night TV gig.
That's a grind that Donnie Trumpet and company are really just starting, and more power to them. The life of a traveling musician isn't for the faint of heart, no matter how much they're paying you.
By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.
Photo Credit: Do312.com