Black Collar Workers


  • Axl Rosenberg


I was updating MetalSucks’ Twitter account yesterday when I noticed that Chimaira vocalist Mark Hunter was in the middle of an absolute Tweet-a-Thon, answering literally hundreds of fans’ questions about the music business. (He also got some other musicians and industry insiders, including including Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe, GWAR front man/MetalSucks columnist Dave “Oderus Urungus” Brockie, and Metal Blade’s Brian Slagel involved.) And this wasn’t just non-specific generalizations, either — Hunter was being incredibly forthcoming on his thoughts about record labels, streaming services like Spotify and YouTube, how much Chimaira makes from physical CD sales, physical DVD sales, and touring, and much, much more. In fact, Hunter went on for so long that he actually EXCEEDED the limit of tweets that Twitter would allow him to send for a day, at which point he moved the conversation over to his Facebook account. I followed the back-and-forth for as long as I could, but had to bow out at a certain point to attend to other things, and made a mental note to write about it all today. And, hey, guess what? As of at least five hours ago, Hunter was still going. Wowza.

So now I’d like to go over a few of the highlights. Even if you’re not a Chimaira fan, this is worth checking out, ’cause, again, it pertains to the music industry, and is not all Chimaira-specific. And so:

  • On the future of physical product: Comparing sales of the last two Chimaira releases, Hunter revealed that “infection sold 11% digital sales. age of hell first week was 40%. reality.” He continued: “i’d love it if we were still in an era of selling cd’s, but we aren’t. it’s never going to go back, so… do something else. shit or get off… my argument is not if we should release physical product. there is still a demand for it. just not nearly what it used to be.” He also discussed how the cost of getting physical product into stores such as Best Buy is incredibly high.
  • On labels: “a record label is a bit like a government handout. it’s great and helps, but a lot of your personal freedoms are revoked… pros of a label – good staff that are genuine music fans (some of them), ability to get your music in stores, bank roll, promotion.”
  • On the financial realities of a record deal: “simple math of hypothetical record deal. 50k advance 35k studio 15k to split between band to eat. label spends another 50k in promo… you are into the label for 100k (hypothetically) – how many records does the artist have to sell to pay the label back? around 100,000… % of bands that sell over 100,000 anymore? pfffff… say you sell 50,000 albums out of that 100k deal. band will make nothing. label will make around 250k or more… so they double their profit, meanwhile you are away from your family, loved ones, your bed all because you love the fans/job so much… most bands are lucky to get 10k for a record deal these days. and it’s a 360 deal… artists can press and sell their own cd’s and make WAY more than if they were on a label. they just won’t get as much exposure.”
  • On 360 deals: “then labels get a % of your merch, your publishing, your touring rev… fuck that.”
  • On streaming services: Hunter professed to be a huge fan of Spotify, and said that “the facebook integration is genius and great for artists to be discovered.” But he admitted that other services pay better: “youtube is good if you use ads.”
  • On the financial realities of touring for a mid-sized band: “agent calls promoter and asks if there is interest. if promoter says yes, they will make an offer… that offer is based on the bands marquee value (how big they are). let’s say the promoter offers 2k. a decent salary for the artist no doubt… 10% goes to agent, respectfully so. they put in a lot of hours. if you travel by a bus, your cost is about $1,000 per day… then if you are paying road crew, flights, strings, batteries, a light show, etc….. let’s say your cost comes out to 1,800. you are now in the black 200 bucks… take that 200 bucks, pay % to manager, lawyer, accountant… say your left with $100 bucks. divide by 6 band members (if you’re chimaira)… most bands are lucky to get $200 to play let alone $2k.” He also revealed that “”the first tour chimaira did we were paid $50 a show. the second tour chimaira did we were paid $50 a show. we went into debt over 15k… i took a loan from a friend to help finance the tours… the first time we went to europe we went into debt over 25k.” He also made an argument in favor of special VIP Meet & Greet sessions, saying they’re “really special for the fans” and “help with income.”
  • On Ozzfest vs. Mayhem Fest:  “how are we not talking about the good ol days of ozzfest??! paying 75k to be on the tour plus the cost of touring!!! RAPE… but bands did it because they so desperately want to feel like their heros growing up must have felt… and they love to play music. mayhem fest – they pay the bands. legit.”
  • On merch: “yes merch is the way bands make money. why do you think when you go to bands sites there are merch ads everywhere?… also, when you buy merch from a band, you are helping them spread the word. you are a walking billboard. wear that shit with pride!” He confessed that he used to worry about record sales because “i thought our future and career depended on it,” and this was assumption was a “mistake.”
  • On being a new band today: “if you are a new band, save your money to pay for your own recording then give it away for free. if it’s good enough, it will catch on. and if only your friends like it, and you never hit the big time, at least you are creating and being artistic. keep your day job. want your band to get on that big tour? let’s hope your manager has clout. even if you’ve sold more than the other bands, doesn’t matter. people ask how we ‘made’ it. luck, sacrifice, pain, and love for what we do. include meeting the right people, and BULLSHITTING THEM.”
  • On managers: “some managers take gross income, some net. if a manager asks you to take gross income, he better be making you hundreds of thousands of $$”
  • When a fan asked “Could band sponsorships be the future? Like what Red Bull and Monster do for their athletes?”, Hunter responded “yes. it happens now.”
  • And, finally, on the future of Chimaira: “here is a reality chimaira faces. if we don’t sell enough albums, the labels could drop us. then what… do i throw in the towel? why? who says i can’t go to the studio, record, put the shit online, and ask you to donate? sure it might not be as big as it used to be, but… i can still make music under the moniker of chimaira and chimaira fans will still want to hear it regardless if we are on a label or not. i can still tour under the moniker of chimaira regardless if we are on a label or not. magazines and blogs will still write about chimaira regardless if we are on a label or not. radio will still play chimaira regardless if we are on a label or not.” He also revealed that “i have not worked a regular job in 12 years. i do make other income.”

Hunter had tons more to say, including thoughts on various media outlets and big chain CD retailers; he even got the aforementioned Brian Slagel to discuss the fact that Metal Blade’s catalog is not currently on Spotify. Our friends at Metal Insider have a great story regarding that one single interaction, and will apparently be interviewing Hunter later today on the topic, so you should check that out.

And I strongly encourage you to start following Hunter on Twitter and friend him on Facebook and go back through all these posts and read the entire thing, because I just edited this blog down by about 50%, and it’s still the length of a Dostoyevsky novel… so just think about all the goodness you’ll be missing if you don’t check out the back-log.


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