Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Cash-Making Punks

About  a month ago, the D.I.Y./punk/music website Dying Scene ma a list that showed the ''10 Punks Who Are Richer Than You Think''. Here it is:

10. Marky Ramone: 2 million
9. Lars Frederiksen (of Rancid): 10 million
8. Tim Armstrong (founder of Rancid, Transplants, Operation Ivy, and label Hellcat Records): 13 million
7. Davey Havok (of AFI): 20 million
6. Ian Mackaye (of Minor Threat, Fugazi, The Evens and founder of Dischord Records)
5. Billie Joe Armstrong (of Green Day): 55 million
4. Dexter Holland (of The Offspring): 65 million
3, 2 and 1: Blink-182, who have two members worth roughly $60M each, and drummer Travis Barker (also of Transplants) who would be worth 85...

Notable absentee were Henry Rollins (whose worth is etimated at $12M but includes revenue from spoken performances and film work) and Brett Gurewitz, co-founder of both the band Bad Religion and the biggest punk label Epitaph. Then again, the list was about those you didn't expect, and you sure as hell expect those two to be on it.

Also, Green Day, The Offspring and AFI haven't been ''punk'' in a long time, and Blink-182 might never have been...

I've had many an argument with some folks about the veracity of these estimates, particularly Tim Armstrong and Ian Mackaye.

Let's start with Mackaye. As owner of Dischord, who not only sold their CDs to stores worldwide (mom-and-pop shops as well as huge surfaces) but also by mail at $10 a cassette and $12 per CD. They have released nearly 250 titles, some of which sold very well. Fugazi themselves have three albums that sold over a million copies each.

Of the 12 bucks, say 3 goes to the band, 6 to the label, and 3 to overhead and distribution... the band revenue gets split 4 ways, the label profits gets split in two. Mackaye gets shares of both for all of his projects, plus songwriter revenue (he always writes at least half the songs); he gets label revenue for all the other bands he puts out. Then there's touring revenue - not all that high considering Fugazi played for years with tickets prices below $10 a pop, but it's safe to say they at the very least didn't lose money touring. Just through Fugazi, Mackaye would have made 5-10 million, easily. He doesn't drink nor take drugs, either, so it didn't go up in flames - or down in vomit. Add the rest, you get your 25.

Once that is established, the case for Tim Armstrong becomes intriguing: Rancid are much ''bigger'' than Fugazi, but Hellcat Records are distributed by Epitaph - which means label shares are smaller. Armstrong isn't as clean as Mackaye, so some of the money he's earned did go to, uh, waste. On the other hand, he did venture outside of punk, writing a few songs for P!nk, producing records for Jimmy Cliff and a bunch of punk bands, and collaborating with mainstream artists such as Cypress Hill. Also, Transplants licensed a song to a shampoo commercial that ran for three years - and Rancid's music was in a Gap ad. On the other hand, he did go through a really messy divorce with Brody Dalle (of The Distillers fame, now married to Queens Of The Stone Age head honcho Josh Homme). Those cost money...

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