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Old 09-26-2008, 06:15 PM
austindrummer1 austindrummer1 is offline
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Default Making Money as a Drummer!

I've followed Drummerworld for a long time now, and I have yet to hear anyone talk about Making Money as a Drummer.

Drum Heads, like myself, get caught up in: the groove, rudiments, Steve Gadd, the art of making music, jazz chops, Jeff Porcaro, drumheads, maple vs birch, Jim Gordon, tuning, muffling, Russ Kunkel, dealing with egocentric singers, mic placements, Steve Gadd again, and time. Never do I hear about playing music for a living, and how to do it.

Being an ex-session drummer in Austin, TX, I know 95% of the drummers here are paid per gig: sometimes for tips ($20 - $35), scale pay if you belong to a Musicians Union ($70 - $80), or if you play the reunion/cover band/being a jukebox circuit, a drummer can make ($100 - $300) per gig. Playing these types of gigs is a lot of fun, BUT THIS IS NOT WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!!

I'm talking about playing for a living; either being paid by royalties for sessions, or, going out on tour with an established artist. How does a drummer do this??

First, in my experience the 3 most important characteristics a person/drummer must have are: responsibility, dependability, and if you’re easy to work with. These characteristics are sometimes more important than your playing ability (Sounds like your applying for a job). Well, you are! If you want to play with players at the recording/touring level, a drummer MUST REMEMBER that at that level, everyone can play, everyone is great at their individual instruments, but what sets you apart from other players is what kind of person you are. Are you likeable or a complete turd! It doesn’t matter if you can play Late in the Evening or reverse-paradiddle-diddles. No artist will hire an extremely talented drummer that’s a jerk. Listen to interviews with Gadd, Porcaro, Kunkel, Gordon, they are the most easy going, cool cats, that artists love to hire again and again.

Now, onto money. There are 2 types of drummers: recording and touring.

Typically, an artist will ask their producer to recommend musicians for an upcoming session. You must either know the artist who wants to work with you, or the producer who wants to do the same. Kissing either of these people’s asses is a good way to get the gig! A call is made to you (you must be easy to contact; do not change phone numbers!!). Then a meeting is called to hammer out how much money you want. This is entirely up to you how you charge yourself out. You can either do a lump sum amount (…I’ll do the whole session for $1,000.00 and royalties on sales…), or hourly (…I charge $ 100.00/per hour for my services plus a % of royalties), or a combination of the two. Remember drummers, that the royalty percentage a drummer gets is the lowest of the low. An established artist can get somewhere between 7 – 10% of royalties from the sale of his/her CD. That’s $ 7.00 - $ 10.00 for every $ 100.00 sold. Out of this, the artist must pay his band, producer, food, drinks, instrumentation, etc…An artist will usually pay their drummer a % of a penny, yes drummers a % of a penny!!

I will go into touring pay later.

Please, let me know if those professional drummers out there agree.
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Old 09-26-2008, 07:12 PM
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rogue_drummer rogue_drummer is offline
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Default Re: Making Money as a Drummer!

Thank you AustinDrummer1,

This is good information to know. I would like to read what you have to say about touring.

Thanks again!

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Old 09-26-2008, 07:39 PM
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jonescrusher jonescrusher is offline
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Default Re: Making Money as a Drummer!

I'd say you'd be lucky to get a percentage royalty of anything, as session player.
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Old 09-26-2008, 08:06 PM
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mrchattr mrchattr is offline
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Default Re: Making Money as a Drummer!

There are a good number of us on here who make a living drumming...while a lot of it is the touring/playing local bars, etc, stuff, a lot of us also do session work, and have discussed it a good bit on here.

In my experience, session musicians rarely if ever get a cut of the royalties. Usually you agree to a flat hourly rate (I tend to charge $100-$200 per hour, depending on the situation). Occasionally, it'll be a flat session rate (as you said, $1000 for the CD or whatever), but I rarely run into that.

I can honestly say I've never heard of a session guy (a member brought in to record on a disc, but not a member of the "band") getting a cut of the royalties.

Also, it's hard to say you are either a recording or touring drummer. Most guys do both, even if they tend to focus on one more than the other. A lot of great session guys (Keltner, Vinnie, Kenny Aranoff, etc) end up taking touring gigs periodically.
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Old 09-26-2008, 10:09 PM
austindrummer1 austindrummer1 is offline
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Default Re: Making Money as a Drummer!

Thank you guys for responding.

I agree with mrchattr in that most professional drummers do not receive royalties on sessions, whether they are brought in to play on a couple of songs, or do the entire session. When I was younger and asked that question about royalties, I was always given the same answer by producers…”You can’t copyright a drumbeat like you can melody and lyrics…” which is entirely true.

But if us as drummers have learned anything from the past, besides swing/funk/Motown beats, we’ve learned that the Greats were cheated. These great drummers changed music along with those melody makers and lyricists. I used to take this view when I would negotiate my contract with either an artist or producer. Some would understand, some wouldn’t.

My approach is this: Not only are we artists that can convey feeling and emotion with our playing, but we are also a self contained business. We need not sell ourselves short at the negotiating table because we are drummers. Whether we own an engineering firm, marketing firm, or play music, business is business. An artist will not get me if he/she doesn’t like my proposal for the session. Granted, every situation is different, every negotiation is different…some artists I will ask for royalties, some I won’t

Till this day, I still receive royalty checks from some of the stuff I did in the late 80’s/early 90’s. It all depends on what deal you cut.

Remember brothers: Always let the sins of the past dictate the decisions you make today.

Still working on the touring section…
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Old 09-26-2008, 11:32 PM
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That Guy That Guy is offline
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Default Re: Making Money as a Drummer!

I'm going to try to give my answer in the most simple way I can. Skill, ability to adapt, expertise and an extreme stroke of luck. That is the basic formula for getting passed the bars and clubs. As I said, I am trying to dumb it down and keep it simple. I probably didn't mention anything that you didn't know, but there are others out there still yet to learn the simplicity of the business.
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Old 10-02-2008, 06:39 AM
jdmdrums jdmdrums is offline
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Default Re: Making Money as a Drummer!

It's volume at times, I work my butt off, playing with a jazz quartet (the Eric Mintel Quartet) all year and doing musical theater 4/5 months out of the year...I had 65 gigs in July & August, it was just great!!!
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Old 10-03-2008, 04:58 PM
Trent-Drummer Trent-Drummer is offline
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Default Re: Making Money as a Drummer!

The only way you are going to make any serious royalties as a drummer is if you are the next drummer for ACDC. :-)

Seriously though, at my old music college most of our drum teachers played sessions all the time and never were they paid any royalties. The whole point of getting a session musician to play on your record is the fact that you only have to pay them for that session - thus the name.

The drum teachers at my college made money various ways. I remember one of my teachers (who I only had for about 6 months because he was only in town to do the drumming for the Mamma Mia musical) had his fingers in many pies. He did regular recording session work, musicals, teaching at our college, private teaching, and he was in 2 bands that had regular gigs. I remember just for the musical alone he was getting thousands and thousands of dollars, plus they paid for him to rent the house whilst he was out here and a food allowance, transport allowance, etc. What a life huh!
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Old 10-04-2008, 09:16 PM
stagecustom stagecustom is offline
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Default Re: Making Money as a Drummer!

hey austindrummer1, I am a student at UT in Austin and I recently just met some guys and we are going to start gigging and finally getting paid.... I've been playing drums for about 9 years but never played in a band before! so it is going to be exciting and tight to get paid some money.. Let me know if you can lend me any tips or advice thanks
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Old 10-06-2008, 04:47 PM
austindrummer1 austindrummer1 is offline
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Default Re: Making Money as a Drummer!

Congratulations on your group! I hope you guys have a lot of fun,and I envy your enthusiasm. The best advise I can give is FINISH YOUR DEGREE, and I hope it's a business degree not a music degree. Also, don't get caught up in the 6th Street scene, because before you know it, it is 6-7 years down the road of playing, drinking, girls and partying, and realize you've accomplished nothing.

If you guys are really serious, LEAVE AUSTIN!! Don't try and make it here. Dallas and Houston have much more promise than Austin, San Antonio or the Valley. The misconception about Austin being the Music Capital of World is the biggest farse. The city leads band on that there is promise here, when indeed there isn't. Some of the bands that I've known from the past, that were so gifted, songs were awesome, singing was great, musicianship incredible, could never crack the stigma Austin has on it, according to many A&R reps I've spoken to.

The only bands that I remember making it "to the top" so to speak were: Dangerous Toys and Six Pence None the Richer from San Marcos.

However, I digress, if all your looking for is playing some good music, friends, girls, hanging out with other musicians, then good luck and make sure you keep a good hold on your money..
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