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To live outside the law you must be honest...but must you be poor?
November 27, 2012 7:15 AM   Subscribe

How much does a member of Bob Dylan's (or any other big musician's) touring band get paid? Are they likely paid per show, or some other arrangement? Would they receive lodging and per diem in addition to a salary? I assume they'd get stuff from the dressing rooms at the shows, but would they have their own stuff in the tour rider? (Some of those guys have played with him a long time.) (Other touring musician information welcome!)
posted by OmieWise to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's standard for everyone on a touring show to get a per diem, unless they've worked something else out (assuming the show is of decent size). Many people who know how to eat cheaply end up bringing home a little "bonus" by not spending much of their per diem each day.
posted by markblasco at 7:31 AM on November 27, 2012


From watching a Dylan drummer's documentary recently it seemed the lodging and per diem were covered. He seemed like he thought he was paid well, but the timing of it wasn't discussed.
posted by ldthomps at 7:36 AM on November 27, 2012


I think it depends on the union they are in. In NYC...And for Travelling Musicians.
posted by Yellow at 7:38 AM on November 27, 2012


Any idea how big the per diem is? Is it paid on days with no show but during the tour?
posted by OmieWise at 7:46 AM on November 27, 2012


I have heard that in this article on Bruce Springsteen, he treats his band members very well.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 7:59 AM on November 27, 2012


I don't have it in front of me, but Ian "Mac" McLagan's (delightful) autobiography has several chapters about touring with Dylan, the Stones, and others through the '70s/'80s/'90s in which he discusses all of these issues (though I don't recall if he gives specific dollar amounts).

In general he was able to make a decent living as a touring musician for most of that time, though he did have stretches of pretty desperate financial straits (and this is even with Mac being extremely well-regarded by his fellow musicians for the work he did with the Small Faces and the Faces). I do recall one scene in which he had to have it out with Mick Jagger when he realized Jagger was trying to rip him off, but then Jagger's always been a bit notoriously cheap about these things.
posted by scody at 8:55 AM on November 27, 2012


Lodging will be provided for any tourist musician - either in a hotel or on the tour bus. A per diem will be paid, on top of this, for every day of a tour, including days with no concerts. The per diem is meant to cover meals - I can't imagine it being more than $100, even for major touring acts.

The musicians will be paid their salary/rate on top of this; often this will be a weekly rate for the length of the tour, probably several thousands.
posted by Marquis at 1:02 PM on November 27, 2012


First, here's a page I found (Touring Musician Pay Rates) that pretty much agrees with what I've learned about this over the years - sort of. Which is to say, there are certainly stories out there about SuperStar Artists paying a LOT less than the supposed 10 - 20k per week mentioned on that page.

My experience is in the tech end of things, and I don't work at the Bob Dylan level (although I've got some friends & acquaintances who do work for Big Name Acts), so some of this is extrapolation, plus, of course, here in the US people openly discussing how much they get paid is kind of taboo.

Also, the music biz being what it is, compensation can be HIGHLY variable. So at best we're gonna be talking fairly wide pay ranges & ballpark figures, rather than hard numbers.

Some of my extrapolation is based on the fact that members of a "backing band" (a.k.a "sidemen") generally get paid somewhat better than the tech crew, but not a LOT better; not, like, twice as much. For all that some of Dylan's guys may have been with him for decades, in some sense they're still just hired guns, temporary employees. Maybe. More on that later. (Note that being an actual member of a band, like Robert Trujillo is an actual member of Metallica, is an entirely different situation.)

Lodging is covered by the tour, as Marquis says, either hotels or tour bus. Rule #1 of the bus is "No Pooping in the bus toilet." A common thing on a bus tour is to get one hotel room so everyone can shit, shower & shave during the day.

Basic transportation costs to get you to & from the gig are covered. The definition of "basic" is open to debate - if you've got a couple of days of no shows & you decide to stick around Chicago to visit your cousins, it may be on you to cover the cost of getting to the next gig. Plus, "cheapest flights" often mean red-eyes or weird routing or inconvenient layovers.

Relevant expenses are covered - shipping your instruments, picks, strings, etc. etc.

You'll be provided at least one meal per day, usually at the venue after soundcheck.

Generally, yes, per diem is paid on days when there are no shows, including, for example, days where you spend the whole day on a plane getting to the gig. The lowest PD I've ever heard of is $15, $20-$30 is pretty standard for "get in the van" tours. Like Marquis, I strongly suspect it doesn't go much over $100 - the point isn't for the musician to have another layer of under-the-table cash income (I've actually had per diems included in the totals on 1099 forms), but to ensure they have walking-around cash for food and personal expenses and cab fare and such.

"Stuff in the dressing rooms" (including the daily meal I mentioned above) is outlined in the "hospitality rider" attached to the gig contract. How this works depends a lot on the artist and his/her relationship with the band - I've definitely seen one rider for the Name Artist and another for the band/crew. Cigarettes, socks and underwear are often on these riders. Also really astounding amounts of alcohol.


Generally speaking, pay is set out & negotiated in weekly terms. Sometimes this works to the artist's advantage (11 shows in 7 days), and sometimes to the musician's (if you can convince management to pay your weekly rate for a 4-day string of shows, even though 2 of those days are travel days & 1 day is nothing at all).

One very common scenario is to have a "show week" rate, and then be paid a much lower rate per week or month to be "on retainer" - you agree to make yourself available for anything that pops up at the last minute. If it does, you'll be paid your "show week" rate, or some portion thereof. How much of a portion is often a point of negotiation.

Actual dollars? Well, as the article I linked to says (more or less), $700 - $1200/week is on the low end, appropriate for less experienced musicians and/or Name Artists who are not so hot anymore; $2k - $3k/week is mid-level, and I suspect where the majority of touring musicians fall, and working for a superstar is probably $5k and up.

Now this sounds like real good money, but there are some things to consider. The first is that regardless of your relationship with the artist, you're actually negotiating with the artist's management, who are treating this completely as a business and keeping a sharp eye on the bottom line. So it's entirely possible to price yourself out of a gig. The second is that a lot of touring musicians and tech crew aren't working 50 weeks out of the year - it's 3 weeks with artist A, then a month of nothing, then 6 weeks with artist B, then 2 with artist C, then 2 months of nothing, so on and so forth. So I'd say that an awful lot of touring musicians are bringing in around $40 to $75k a year, between one thing and another. Not bad for only "working" 2 to 4 hours a day, but hardly Donald Trump income.

Cash bonuses and really expensive gifts at the end of a tour are not uncommon, but of course not to be relied upon.

One way to make a little more money is to serve as the Music Director - you come up with the arrangements, write out sheet music, find & audition the other musicians, rehearse the band without the artist having to be there, like that. My understanding is that the MD will get an extra 25% to 50% on top of their standard rate.

It's entirely possible to be flat-out on salary - you get paid "$X" per year, and do whatever shows the artist comes up with. AFAIK, there's no kind of "non-compete" clause; if the artist isn't particularly busy, you can do whatever else you want to to bring in more dough, as long as the artist is absolutely your #1 priority. How much that "$X" is is undoubtedly one of the more highly variable numbers - on the one hand only artists with a large steady income can afford to pay a salary even if they're not really touring, plus they want you badly enough to pay you enough so that you'll drop whatever else you're doing if they call, so they might be willing to pay you a lot; on the other hand, you've got a guaranteed income in a very uncertain business, so you might be willing to take a slightly "lower" weekly rate in exchange for that guaranteed income.

Tech crew rates (including yearly salary rates) tend to plateau at around $150 - $250k per year, except for (maybe) the very very very top guys, the guys who are virtually RockStars in their own right. So extrapolating from that, I'd wager that even Dylan's top, longest-running musicians are probably getting around $300k per year.

Also, setting up a Dylan-level tour is an enormous undertaking, so it's very likely that the the musicians are paid a flat rate for the entire tour. Of course, all of the above considerations and more come into play as the musicians and management negotiate that flat fee.

In short, the members of Dylan's band may actually each be getting paid something quite different, and while they're getting paid well considered on a daily or weekly basis, in terms of annual income they're likely making middle- to upper-middle-class money, but hardly millions.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:29 PM on November 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


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