Bill Kelliher of Mastodon Talks Bands Not Making Money

Mastodon guitarist talks poor payoffs for bands, song writing and more.



Bill Kelliher of Mastodon appeared on the Let There Be Talk podcast and was very frank and honest about the lack of money bands make now from record label deals, royalties and why merchandise on tour is so expensive.

“The record company fronts you that money. This is how it works – they give you the money up front, they say, “Here’s $600,000, you’re gonna make a record that’s gonna cost $575,000.” So there’s that money. You owe that money back to the record company and they own your music.”

On streaming music: “I could live a thousand years and if Spotify played all day long, I’d maybe make a couple of thousand dollars. I don’t know, it’s very minuscule. The only way to make any money is to get out here on the road and tour, tour, tour constantly.”

On expensive merch on tour: “A lot of people say, ‘Why are your T-shirts $50?’ Well, newsflash, the venues take up to 20-25-30% of that right off the top. So our $50 T-shirt, we’re only getting $30. But then that $30 has to be split up between management, lawyers, taxes, everything. Tour buses, just to rent for a month is $60,000.

Spotify says that the average payout to rights holders on average is between $0.006 and $0.008 per play but a large number of artists get payouts well below that, at around $0.004. An anonymous artist in the EDM scene posted his royalties breakdown for 1 million plays, which worked out as 0.0048 per play and netted him less than $5,000. With record labels taking cuts from all money made by bands, illegal downloading and the demise of CDs getting closer, bands are making less and less money.

Kelliher and Mastodon drummer Brann Dailor are staunch supporters of the Music Modernization Act which, if passed, will require digital platforms to pay artists “fair market value”.

The podcast is over an hour long and is a very interesting listen.