Touring Economy [excerpt]

Akron Beacon Journal

During the tour of Traffic, Free and John Martyn a reporter researched the economics behind touring and promoting. The following part is particularly interesting because it shows a) that musicians tend to be too naive, b) John was right about his mistrust of the music industry, and c) Chris Blackwell cares about his artists.

WHAT DOES the individual performer in Traffic know about the group's financial status? In the dressing room, 25-year-old Winwood was tuning his guitar. How much does he get paid, he was asked. "I don't know, it's set by Chris (Blackwell)," he said. "We get paid after every tour."

Does he have any complaints? "The ticket prices you know, are closely bound by the promoter and the agent. They tend to be a bit expensive, but often I don't even know what they are."

Winwood, a piano player and composer, was asked how much Traffic will make on the tour. He looked up, his eyes vacant. "I don't have a clue," he said. How much did he earn last year? He stared, smiled slightly and said, "I don't have a clue." A few minutes later he was on stage, his body twisting at the piano, his voice screaming into the microphone.

FINALLY there are, in the end, the figures -rows and rows of figures- when Ruffino, Blackwell and Coliseum officials meet. The total proceeds from the 14,700 patrons - $84,763.50- are initially divided three ways; The Coliseum gets $12,715, or 15 cents on every dollar; Concerts East gets $36,808.50, or 44 cents on every dollar, and Traffic gets $35,240, or 41 cents on every dollar.

But out of their share the promoters must pay for advertising ($5,000), lighting and sound ($1,250), John Martyn and Free ($1,250), security ($2,000), Coliseum expenses like box-office rental, ushers, stagehands and food ($15.000), and finally Ticketron, insurance, limousines. They are left with about $8,700 profit, or 10 cents on every dollar.

Out of the group's share, Blackwell must also dole out for numerous items: Barsalona gets 10 pct., or $3,524; the lawyer back home gets a standard 5 pct.; expenses -transportation, hotels, staff- eat up another 20 pct. Finally, Blackwell's share is reportedly another 20 pct. That leaves about $20,000 for the group, equally divided six ways. It amounts to $3,388 a man, or four cents on each dollar spent to see them. Their share is just about equal to Barsalona's, it is less than the Coliseum's, less than the promoters' and less than Blackwell's.

IN THE END nobody is happy. "The manager always thinks we make too much money," Ruffino said a few minutes after the payoff. "In fact, they don't think we should make any. They want it all. They don't want to know that you have losers, an act grosses $47,000 and you lose money. I mean you have to have winners too."

Nearby Blackwell was standing outside the dressing room, playing with a pen knife. "In a hall like this what would you say draws all the people," he said, his voice rising. "Who brings them in? The group, right. What would you say is a fair amount the group should wind up with on every dollar a kid spends for a ticket? I would say 60 cents on the dollar should go to the group. Now we are getting less than 50 cents on every dollar, in some cases much less."

The meeting probably took place 8 Feb 1973 in the context of the show at Nassau Coliseum, New York.
This text was part of a bigger publication published in the Akron Beacon Journal (Ohio) on Sunday 25 March 1973.