Face it: Most of America's remaining successful rock bands—and I'm talking about all those wieners from New Jersey with the stupid haircuts—got that way because they don't have jobs, and their parents buy all of their equipment from Guitar Center. For the rest of us, being in a band is expensive: On top of all of the expenses that a band inherently compounds, bands have to find ways to pay rent while they take a month off from their job silk-screening T-shirts to go "live the dream." But is it really financially worth it to go it alone? Here's a breakdown:
When it comes to making the band, the setup is where the big dollar drop is going to hit. If you don't mind looking like one of those tools from New Jersey, you can probably muster a band setup—guitar, bass, drums, and amps—for between $1,500 and $2,000. Looking and/or sounding cool, on the other hand, will probably set you back considerably more. Split four ways, however, and you might just beat out mister laptop, with his bare-bones iBook ($999) and the software to go along with it (ProTools for $349, Reason for $499, and Ableton Live for $499). If you're savvy enough to use any of them, however, you've probably already pirated all of these programs from your friends' bootlegged copies—plus, you won't have to pay for studio time. Score one for mister laptop.
Now that you've got your equipment, it's time to actually write and perform some music—and unless you've drafted a drummer with a basement and incredibly accommodating roommates, your band's going to need a practice space. A quick look through the Mercury's classifieds section and on craigslist offers spaces at anywhere from $175-300 a month—which doesn't look too bad when you split it between four people. Then again, all mister laptop needs is a coffee table—and Ikea's got those 'tween $20 and $160. Laptop=two, band=zero.
So you've written five songs and practiced the shit out of them for, like, a month and a half—isn't it time you guys started playing shows? Question is: How are you going to lug all of that shit all the way over to the Tonic Lounge in your sporty little Geo Prizm? You need a van, my friend—which means you also need insurance. You can probably muster a rusted-out ol' deathtrap for around $600 if you're lucky—but with insurance, things get a great deal more soul crushing. And our friend with the laptop? He can just ride his Razor Scooter ($28.99) down to Holocene, and voila!
But let's face it—there's no way that rust bucket's going to make it down to San Diego. Wouldn't you just be better off renting a van? Well, for a month-long tour, a cargo van rental's gonna set you back around $1,500—and you can expect to spend twice that much to fill the beast's bottomless gas tank, plus extra fees depending on how far you're going to drive the thing. And that doesn't even begin to account for the daily food and drink expenditures of four people. That laptop asshole, on the other hand, can rent a fuel-efficient Honda for right around $1,000 a month (with less gas costs, though the same extra cash for mileage), and take home 100 percent of the door/drink tickets—and let's face it, you know that guy doesn't eat anyway. I'm totally beginning to hate this guy.