Behemoth Bassist Orion is Tired of Cutting Venues in on the Band’s Merch Sales
Amidst all the talk about how these days record sales are in the shitter and the best way to support your favorite bands is to go to their shows and buy merch, there’s one little caveat that people usually don’t mention: the venue is gonna take a cut of the merch sales. (The percentage of that cut, naturally, varies based on several factors, including the size of the venue, the size of the band, the venue collector’s level of dickishness, and ability of the band, their merch dude/lady, or their tour manager to negotiate.) I don’t know why this doesn’t get mentioned more frequently; I assume it’s because musicians are afraid of burning the bridges which enable them to play live in the first place.
Regardless, it’s always struck me as total bullshit. The real estate within the venue the merch area occupies is generally not that valuable and would not be earning money for the venue otherwise. It’s not like playing a concert is a big communal endeavor in financial terms, either — which is to say, the venue gets a cut of the merch, but the band doesn’t get a cut of the venue’s alcohol sales (and as you would imagine, venues make a lot of their money from selling drinks). The venue basically takes money from the band because they can, and the band pays because they must.
Someone else who finds this practice to be excrement from the anus of a male cow: Orion (né Tomasz Wróblewski) from Behemoth. Blabbermouth reports that in a new interview with FreqsTV, the bassist had this to say on the subject:
“Record sales nowadays, it’s not really a source of income for musicians. So the most money that we earn is from touring.
“It’s super important for us to bring our merchandise to the people. And they know that they can buy some unique stuff at the shows, which is much appreciated, ’cause this goes directly to us. And that’s great it’s happening.”
“Some venues, they start charging bands for selling their merchandise, which causes bands rising prices of the merchandise.
“I was, three nights ago, counting everything that we need to leave in the venue; it was 42 percent altogether. So this is becoming a bad trend between the venue and us and everything. It’s becoming like a Mafia. People should be able to get whatever they want for the prices that are fair.”
Forty-two percent! Holy shit! That is fucking nuts.
And, come to think of it, it probably hits mid-size bands like Behemoth hardest. If you’re Metallica and your guarantee is a billion dollars and you’re gonna make another billion selling t-shirts and then tomorrow go place somewhere else and make another two billion dollars, you can afford to give away a substantial cut of the merch, ’cause even after you do that and pay your crew, lawyers, booking agents, managers, etc., you’re still gonna have more money than God leftover to pay yourself/blow on a horrible movie. And if you’re an underground grind band playing to twelve people in a basement somewhere, X percent of nothing is nothing, so, by all means people who run the basement, help yourselves (plus everyone in the band has a day job and no one was expecting to make money anyway). But if you’re a band like Behemoth, who don’t need day jobs but probably do need to spend nine out of twelve months on the road to keep your business going, well, now your livelihood is being fucked with a substantial way.
So what can you, as a fan, do to help out the band? Uh, well, nothing, really. No longer patronizing the venue isn’t really an option, because then the venue will close, and the band will have nowhere to play. I guess you can bitch about the price of merch less, but that still won’t put any money in the bands’ pockets. This is really one of those things that’s shitty and is just part of The System as we know it; The System would either have to willingly change or be overthrown, which is probably not gonna happen anytime soon.
So, basically, as is so often the case in all things, shit continues to flow downhill. Aren’t you glad you read this? Yay life!!!