The music industry can feel hopelessly opaque, especially when it comes to finances, but our feature Balance Sheet attempts to dispel those mysteries. Today, John Vanderslice breaks down the income and expenses from a 12-date west coast tour.
John Vanderslice has done the near-impossible: earn a “middle-class living,” which, as he tells Consequence, is “so hard to accomplish in music!”
It helps that the 55-year-old experimental icon has a deep and varied discography, as well as his Oakland recording studio, Tiny Telephone. But on his 2021 “Living Room” tour, Vanderslice relied on a wily bag of tricks to stretch every penny, from a hotel “scam” to petty larceny, as well as something that many rock stars would find even more unbelievable: tactical sobriety. In emails with Consequence, Vanderslice broke down his finances across five categories: travel, lodging, food, entertainment, and of course, income.
The prolific Vanderslice isn’t slowing down anytime soon, though his goals have changed. “Songwriting is inherently conservative, and I just don’t have the mindset to write something like ‘Exodus Damage’ again. I want to make music that poses more questions than it answers,” he said in a statement. “You have to move on to more challenging silos, or you’re just going to be a boring fucking artist.”
In that spirit, he’s now announced his new album CRYSTALS 3.0, titled after a method of LSD synthesis. It’s out April 14th, and he’s offering a preview with lead single “Crystals 26,” an 80-second jaunt through some of humanity’s most challenging emotions and concepts, all paired with an ear-worm melody and vibrant samples that practically bounce off the eardrum. “Love, small word,” he wails, “Alcohol, big word/ Art, too small/ Friendship, big word.”
Stream “Crystals 26” now, and peruse the CRYSTALS 3.0 artwork and tracklist below. Read on to discover how Vanderslice made over $15,000 performing 12 concerts.
The last house show tour I did was a West Coast tour in 2021, September 16th-30th. I played 12 shows in on the coast and mountain states, driving my Subaru Forester and traveling alone. The car is packed with records, T-shirts, a guitar, and me!
I almost always stay in hotels. At the time I had this scam as an Instagram influencer where I could get 3-star hotels for a flat $45 a night. It was so fucking rad. I probably used that scam 100 times on tour. Basically, this company convinced Marriott and Hyatt that touring musicians have pull and reviews from them would matter (they don’t). I used burner accounts and posted up in nice hotels for years.
I have a cooler and TONS of good food in the Subie. I religiously steal from Whole Foods around the country. I bring my own coffee, tea, snacks, granola, wherever I go. It is so much easier to just have the basics. I always find one bomb casual restaurant/tent/truck wherever iIam for dinner, or meet friends before the show and let them decide!
I love hotels, so it’s very easy for me to do nothing on days off.
I always schedule days off to hike or hang out with friends. I swam in Santa Barbara, the Yuba River, a few hotel pools, and my friend’s house in Seattle. I hiked in Point Reyes, the Sierras, and the Rockies.
I love drugs and have no issue with drinking but I haven’t done either on a tour. It feels completely insane to add that to an impossibly difficult run of shows, so no drug/bar expenses.
The Spotify checks are insulting. The income from “Living Room” shows allows me a middle-class living, which is SO HARD to accomplish in music!! If I sell out a 50 seat room, I walk with $1062 after fees to Undertow [Music]. I can do that in big markets but not often in smaller ones. I will sell between $0 and $2k at the merch table. That’s where shit can really happen. I have LOTS of vinyl with me.
If I didn’t still run a recording studio in Oakland (Tiny Telephone), I would have to tour constantly to survive. I don’t know if I could do that!
Concert Revenue: $8064
Merch Revenue: $9220
Total Profit: $15,489
CRYSTALS 3.0 Artwork:
CRYSTALS 3.0 Tracklist:
01. CRYSTAL 9
02. CRYSTAL 19 Puzzle Dust
03. Crystals 26
04. video tape cleaner
05. Crystals 31
06. CRAYSTALS 10
07. CRYSTALS 15 (DIE!)
08. Crsytals 29
10. CRYSTALS 13
11. Crystals 20
12. video cassette recorder
13. CRYTSALS 15 (77)