Just how much DO drummers make?

Drumsinhisheart

Silver Member
Was just driving around thinking about this. People ask what they can do to make a living playing drums. Aside from many variables about "making a living," does anyone know what professional drummers make in the lines of those like Steve Smith, Dave Weckl, Vinnie, Virgil, and others who are top players, but not in huge rock or pop bands, but may tour, record, do clinics, have DVDs, maybe teach, etc?

I have gotten the feeling that while people can find out what doctors or nurses make, what lawyers make, what pro athletes make, or plumbers and electricians, or IT pros, or a mayor or governor, or senator, there seems to be a mystery around what professional drummers make.

Some here may be hesitant to answer this? I understand. Just curious. I know they aren't millionaires (unless they have invested very wisely).
 

MrPockets

Gold Member
For people under your classification I would guess anywhere from 70k to 1000k per year.

Steve Smith was in Journey
Weckl was in Chick Corea's Electrik Band
Vinni played on one of Megadeth's recordings and now tours with Herbie Handcock
No Idea about Virgil's run ins with big names

Better people for your list might be people like Keith Carlock
 

tamadrm

Platinum Member
The simple answer is,some make more than others,but like most private contractors,unwilling to discuss financil matters.I find nothing wrong with that either.It's really ,and I'm being polite here,none of anyones business,except my accounant,and in the US ,the IRS.Discretion has it's place here also.

Some guys have to hustle to make ends meet,while some guys have the resume,talent and the skill,to be in demand.There's no single ,all encompassing answer here.Personality,communication,networking and work ethic,also play a big part into making music for a living

I'm sure guys like Gadd and Vinny,who are at the top of the food chain,do ok,while others,need other sources of income to keep the lights on.

The one thing for sure is,that it's getting tougher to make a decent living as a musician,and tougher still,breaking into the field.

There was a list published of the top paid drummers,and while some guys like Ringo, Dave Grohl,Lars Ulrich are worth a few million,some like Peart are worth less,than you'd expect.I'm sure, wise investing,and tempered spending also play into personal worth.

I still think it's good to have at least, a plan B.

Steve B
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
I do agree it's very odd so many musicians hide their income like a state secret.

I was listening to an interview with Matt Chamerlian on "I'd Hit That" and he was even discussing how despite all his high profile gigs, he was unsure how much he should really be getting.

One aspect is, it varies. If you're touring, you get a weekly salary for the weeks you're touring. One the tour ends, you're not paid any more. That's where it gets tough, as some guys might do really well per week when they're working, and then zero when they aren't, and at the end of the year, the average may not be all that.

And the salary itself varies widely from tour to tour, depending on the band that is hiring.

Steve Smith has talked about some of his projects make money, some don't, and he just hopes at the end of the year it balances out.

Recording used to be determined by Union scale, but from what I gather, many top guys no longer follow scale, as there just isn't the money in recording anymore to pay that.

Josh Freese has discussed in interviews, he has a sliding scale on recording depending on how much he likes the project.
 

drummer-russ

Gold Member
Steve Smith has also said that when he decided to leave Journey he had to adjusst his lifestyle, less or cheaper home(s) and couldn't fly first class everywhere anymore.
 

Drumsinhisheart

Silver Member
"Steve Smith was in Journey
Weckl was in Chick Corea's Electrik Band
Vinni played on one of Megadeth's recordings and now tours with Herbie Handcock."

Vinnie also played with Sting and other bigger names. Smith's days with Journey were long ago. Or did he do some reunion tour recently?

But these players are not members of big name rock bands or pop bands now. Like Dennis Chambers. Steely Dan. Tower of Power. Jobs.

Even Chick Corea's tours have limitations to venues, like most fusion artists do. I love RTF, but RTF is not a big rock band by any stretch, are they? No fusion band ever was, though MO and RTF got as close as any of them and drew big numbers back in the 70s. Weather Report, too, I imagine.

But sure, what does a Kieth Carlock make? But even there, playing with Steely Dan. Big name artists. But, again, just a tour, then back to something else. As big as they are they are all free-lance jobbers. And if 100k is what they take in in a year I think many people have their livings over-estimated.

I have often wondered if some big names also work other kinds of jobs to make ends meet. Competition is so heavy now. So many fantastic players.
 

MrPockets

Gold Member
"Steve Smith was in Journey
Weckl was in Chick Corea's Electrik Band
Vinni played on one of Megadeth's recordings and now tours with Herbie Handcock."

Vinnie also played with Sting and other bigger names. Smith's days with Journey were long ago. Or did he do some reunion tour recently?

But these players are not members of big name rock bands or pop bands now. Like Dennis Chambers. Steely Dan. Tower of Power. Jobs.

Even Chick Corea's tours have limitations to venues, like most fusion artists do. I love RTF, but RTF is not a big rock band by any stretch, are they? No fusion band ever was, though MO and RTF got as close as any of them and drew big numbers back in the 70s. Weather Report, too, I imagine.

But sure, what does a Kieth Carlock make? But even there, playing with Steely Dan. Big name artists. But, again, just a tour, then back to something else. As big as they are they are all free-lance jobbers. And if 100k is what they take in in a year I think many people have their livings over-estimated.

I have often wondered if some big names also work other kinds of jobs to make ends meet. Competition is so heavy now. So many fantastic players.

So it strictly depends on the person. How many jobs they can get and how much they get paid. Like most artists, there is so base salary.
 

Pachikara-Tharakan

Silver Member
Charley Watts ..the luckiest drummer in rock n roll... simple beats, tour around the world, member of the greatest rock n roll band ever, no drugs, family man, everyone respects, doesnt have to open his mouth during business meetings...never put out any so called instructional DVDs.....and MAKE MILLIONS!
 

Souljacker

Silver Member
I'm not sure I would consider Megadeth one of Vinnies more lucrative adventures

Sting maybe ?

or Joni Mitchell , Jef Beck , Zappa


it's guys like Hal Blaine , Steve Gadd, Bernard Purdie, JR Robinson , Paul Liem etc...who are on all those hits that make the loot

They do well for themselves no doubt, but the wealthiest drummers are the guys who play in successful bands. Larry Mullen, Lars Ulrich, Chad Smith, Charlie Watts etc
 

larryz

Platinum Member
Charley Watts ..the luckiest drummer in rock n roll... simple beats, tour around the world, member of the greatest rock n roll band ever, no drugs, family man, everyone respects, doesnt have to open his mouth during business meetings...never put out any so called instructional DVDs.....and MAKE MILLIONS!

I don't know about "lucky", but hey he's keeps his mouth closed and does his job well. Sometimes being a good person and leading a clean life can get you respect and money. Let those other fools do the booze and drugs and act like idiots..

And no instructional DVDs by Ringo (that I know of). But I'd buy it if he ever decided to make one.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
No one has mentioned royalties, I suspect that is where the career drummer eventually makes a living, though I suspect they have to be on very many tracks at an early age for that to amount to much, before they die.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
No one has mentioned royalties, I suspect that is where the career drummer eventually makes a living, though I suspect they have to be on very many tracks at an early age for that to amount to much, before they die.

You only get royalties if you are a member of the band, and/or helped write the song.

A session drummer does not get royalties.
 

poika

Silver Member
Unfortunately, I suspect a lot of drummers aren't receiving royalties as they should.
They might have had a bad contract, or they simply weren't listed as composers etc

I think a lot of session drummers only got paid by the session, at least in the earlier days of pop music. No royalties for those folks.

I remember reading a quote from Shirley Bassey, about ten years ago when Kanye West sampled her Diamonds are Forever -track and it was all over the radio, that she was expecting to get a nice paycheck from the royalties. When the money didn't start coming in she started to look into it and found out that she actually didn't own any of the rights to the performance of the song - hence no money for her.

Industry rule #4080...
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
Unfortunately, I suspect a lot of drummers aren't receiving royalties as they should.
They might have had a bad contract, or they simply weren't listed as composers etc

I think a lot of session drummers only got paid by the session, at least in the earlier days of pop music. No royalties for those folks.

I remember reading a quote from Shirley Bassey, about ten years ago when Kanye West sampled her Diamonds are Forever -track and it was all over the radio, that she was expecting to get a nice paycheck from the royalties. When the money didn't start coming in she started to look into it and found out that she actually didn't own any of the rights to the performance of the song - hence no money for her.

Industry rule #4080...

Yeah, it kind of goes back to the drum eat drum mentality. Its not a musical instrument they don't have definite pitches you can't tune them those aren't compositions, you can't copyright the swing beat. etc.
 

longgun

Gold Member
There was a list published of the top paid drummers,and while some guys like Ringo, Dave Grohl,Lars Ulrich are worth a few million,some like Peart are worth less,than you'd expect.I'm sure, wise investing,and tempered spending also play into personal worth.

There was a thread on it awhile back................the biggest surprise I remember, was Steven Adler ......................he was in the top 10 IIRC
 

Jeremy Bender

Platinum Member
This topic is sometimes approached as a taboo among 'polite' company. Though I believe it's a perfectly valid inquiry since most people studying their chosen profession have researched income potential before starting college. My teenage Son has already investigated average salaries in his chosen field before starting Freshman year at the University.

Music as with any artistic endeavor is more elusive however. If I could have predicted failure or success 30 years ago, I would've needed a time machine to see my own future.

Bill Bruford mentions earning a living in his autobiography and that he compares his gig with King Crimson to the equivalent earnings of a first-chair symphonic musician. Which (adjusted for inflation after 25 years) would probably be around 100k annualy.

It's really a lousy situation to want to go into a profession with all your heart and soul without knowing if you're going to end up homeless doing it.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
This topic is sometimes approached as a taboo among 'polite' company. Though I believe it's a perfectly valid inquiry since most people studying their chosen profession have researched income potential before starting college. My teenage Son has already investigated average salaries in his chosen field before starting Freshman year at the University.

I have an CS background, mostly because I liked computers in high school, in the long run, I don't expect that it will be any more profitable than the arts, once you take out the the half a dozen billionaires, its pretty modest, and they only list the salaries of the people who get/have jobs, if you were like me graduating in 2001 then later in 2008, boy I could do with a few more music courses. I don't think I ever had an entry level CS job. Not to mention that CS courses are almost as expensive as music courses, except music courses are a lot more fun and don't have as many toxic personalities.
 

tamadrm

Platinum Member
I also think that drummers/musicians in sucessful bands,make the most money,especially if they get song writting credit AKA "mailbox money".

On the recent "History of the Eagles" cable special,Glenn Fry was talking about who they were going to get to replace Randy Meisner on bass/vocs.They decided on Timothy B Schmidt,who was in Poco,at the time.

Poco was a major label ,signed and touring band,but Schmidts weekly salary at the time was 250-300 per week.Schmidt got a huge increase in salary.

How much do you think Randy Meisner was making,or better still,how much do you think Don Henley was or still is making.Henley by the way,considers himself a song writer and recording artist,not so much a drummer. Henley, ...had a plan B

We see our favorite band,drummers/musicians even actors on TV ,at concerts, making CD's,so we sometime think,wow,that guy has got to be rich....when,most of the time,the're living paycheck to paycheck....just like most of us.

It's called the music/entertainment "business" for a reason,and you have to get the best deal you can,while you can.That takes management and lawyers,and the "art" becomes secondary.Money.,once you have it..... is what allows you to do for the sake of art,not the other way around.

Steve B
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Was just driving around thinking about this. People ask what they can do to make a living playing drums. Aside from many variables about "making a living," does anyone know what professional drummers make in the lines of those like Steve Smith, Dave Weckl, Vinnie, Virgil, and others who are top players, but not in huge rock or pop bands, but may tour, record, do clinics, have DVDs, maybe teach, etc?

I have gotten the feeling that while people can find out what doctors or nurses make, what lawyers make, what pro athletes make, or plumbers and electricians, or IT pros, or a mayor or governor, or senator, there seems to be a mystery around what professional drummers make.

Some here may be hesitant to answer this? I understand. Just curious. I know they aren't millionaires (unless they have invested very wisely).

ONE MILLION DOLLARS!

;)
 
I'd imagine Matt Cameron makes a decent living. I mean being the drummer for Pearl jam AND Soundgarden must come with some luxury

But, I've never expected drums to be a career. It's just too small of a chance, and I figure even if it ends up being a "job" for me it wouldn't be enough to live off. Doesn't mean it wouldn't be nice though :)
 
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