It’s a not-so-new reality that musicians today have to learn to be content not being millionaires. Sure,there are always a few who would do almost anything to make a buck, up to and including selling air in an empty plastic bags to maintain their financial status. As the years gone by, we have seen a huge decrease in album sales, especially from physical copies.
Periphery guitarist Misha Mansoor recently spoke about this subject during an episode of Sounding Off. According to an excerpt transcribed by Ultimate-Guitar, Mansoor admitted that his earnings from Periphery isn’t enough to fully support himself. He also shared how he believes opportunities still exist in this industry.
“Will there ever be a metal band that sells as many records as Metallica did?
Mansoor: “No! No one’s selling any records anyways now. It’s all gone. It’s all disappeared.”
How do people that are in guitar bands… What do they need to do differently nowadays than they did 20 years ago?
Mansoor: “Make income outside of the band. This is what I do with the signature products. It’s my way of being able to make a living. It’s my way of being able to make a life for myself. People think sometimes, ‘Periphery is achieving a little bit of success.’ We’re not a massive band but we do alright. But we make no money. And people have a really hard time grasping that.
Because even as we started making more money you’ll gross a lot and net nothing. The ability to monetize music has just dropped by a factor of god knows what – 10, 100, whatever. But the cost of touring has stayed the same. It just means that you net very little.
And then if you want to have a nice production like us, you don’t want to just go barebones on everything. You want it to be an enjoyable show, so you spend money on that.
So yeah, we’ll gross a fair bit but we won’t net a lot. We did a five-week tour in Europe last year, we walked away with nothing. And that’s a reality of this – European tours are very expensive.
US headliners will do pretty well but you can’t do them that often because everybody’s touring – oversaturated market, your guarantees will stagnate or go down.
So it’s just not a viable source of income for most bands. Some bands are more fortunate in that, they’re sort of more merch bands and they can just really kill it on merch. But it’s tougher and tougher.
One way of looking at it is, let’s say for the sake of argument, your ability to earn is decreased by a factor of 10 thanks to Spotify and downloading and whatever. You were making a million dollars per year, well now you’re making $100,000. So yeah, you can still make a living on it, you won’t be living as lavishly as before, but it’s still viable.
But if you were making $100,000 before, now you’re making $10,000. That’s not a lot.
I’m 33 and as people start to get older… When I was in my 20s, I didn’t mind sleeping on floors or whatever. Now I’m not gonna be doing tours while I’m slumming in a van, it’s just not fun anymore. It’s not worth it. We all paid our dues already.
So it’s just one of those things where for us music is just becoming more and more about just doing it for fun. But it’s because we all saw this coming. We had no delusions. When I started the band, it was like I’m playing nerdy metal, no one cared about us at all. No one cared about this style of music.
I would have been amazed to get even 100 people to come to the show. So it was like, ‘I’m gonna need to figure out some other way to make a living. This is just gonna be for fun.’ And I think that is more true than ever now.”
Later, Mansoor explained in more detail about his divided income:
“You know what it’s like with the business cycle and product cycles. It’s like they start strong, they dip. So if I’m relying on one thing and it’s the end of a product cycle I still have to buy food. [Laughs] If you diversify everything, you’ll have income.
And it all goes to have as much as passive income as possible to afford myself as much free time as possible to work on music and have fun with it, so music can be what it was supposed to be and what it truly was to me in the beginning, which is just a fun outlet.
It wasn’t this sort of sick dance that you do with the industry where you start out with the best of intentions but then before you know it you’re running a business and you’re trying to ride this fine line in the music business. And it just sucks out a lot of fun from it. I’m trying to keep music fun.
And now that it’s entirely removed form my money-making… Periphery doesn’t have any impact on my finances. So now we can just be truly the passion project that I wanted it to be. And I don’t care if no one buys our albums because they weren’t gonna buy it anyways. [Laughs] It’s not like we’re gonna sell records.
And Metallica and all that – it’s gone. It’s gonna be something else. There are bands who get a ton of Spotify plays and make money, but metal has always been a bit of a niche genre and I don’t think that’s gonna change any time soon. I don’t think that it’s pleasing to most people so we’re not gonna be getting like billions of plays on Spotify or anything like that.
I’m the kind of person that that changes opportunity. Because I know it’s very easy to be like, ‘This sucks!’ And in some ways it objectively does suck. But I like to look at the opportunity. The freedom that comes with this is that we don’t have to anything. If we don’t want to tour Europe again we won’t. [Laughs] We will because we had some good shows there.
But I think we’re also gonna be more strategic. There’s a lot of markets that we worked at for like a decade that have just not grown and are very expensive. We’re going all the way out to Eastern Europe to break even on the show while the gas that it cost us to get there means that we’re actually paying for that show. That’s subsidized by our shows in Western Europe where we get paid better guarantees. I don’t know if it’s worth it anymore…
And that’s the reality. I mean, fans can’t have it both ways, they can’t be like, ‘Well, there’s not gonna be money in this industry but you still have to come out to our town.’ No. We’re gonna get strategic, this is a cost. This is what will happen.
And sure, If you’re starting out and trying to build a name for yourself you’re investing in that. And we did that, we’ve done that for almost a decade now. And now we’re at the point where you can do just whatever we want. We’ll tour whenever we want, we’ll play the shows we want, we won’t play the shows we don’t want to.”