Due to the pandemic, the musicians in Mastodon haven't worked all year. Thankfully, due to paying corporate taxes on the corporation they formed for the band, the four members are able to collect unemployment while they sit at home and wait out the quarantine to end. If a band like Mastodon is feeling it, imagine how other bands are struggling through the current economic conditions?
To be clear, there is no shame in collecting unemployment. The safety net is there for a reason, and you pay your way into the program through taxes. Mastodon guitarist Bill Kelliher recently revealed to MetalSucks' Quarantinecast that because of the lack of touring all year, the band qualified to collect unemployment through the corporate unemployment taxes they had been paying this whole time. Bill was very honest with his current financial situation, saying:
“Because I’m not going to be able to do Mastodon for the rest of my life and I knew that at an early age. It’s like, this is going to run out at one point, something is going to happen. Hopefully, we can do it as long as we can, but I haven’t worked in over a year. There’s no money coming in. There’s not big royalty checks that just come in every month. And that’s the truth… because people don’t buy the music. I mean, there’s a little bit of residuals from publishing and stuff but it’s peanuts. It’s nothing. It’s quarterly payouts of a couple thousand dollars… if we’re lucky. And it’s all taxable money, just like everybody else.
“Just say to yourself, imagine if you couldn’t work for over a year. I mean, I’m on unemployment. Because I own a few businesses. Mastodon is a business and we have employees. We’re all out of work. And we had the option to apply for unemployment; we pay into it [through corporate unemployment taxes], [so we] might as well use it if it’s there because if I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t have ANY income at all.
Kelliher noted that he did invest in property and generates income through those investments. He currently spends his days fixing leaks and mowing laws. The Mastodon guitarist offered MetalSucks an inside look at how the current economy impacts bands, noting that the money is made on the road.
Kelliher notes "We’re not selling records, we’re not touring. That’s where all our income comes from, getting up every day and going up on stage and playing for an hour and doing it over and over and over all over the world. We can’t do that right now and I don’t know if we ever will be able to do that again."
Even when things back up in two years, he's not sure how many of the venue operators will be left standing, or how they would be able to keep paying rent. Kelliher paints a dire picture "The big places like Live Nation, even they’re hurting. If they’re hurting then the little guys gotta be completely dying."
The Mastodon guitarist explained how this will trickle down to impacting the bands “And I can just see that when it comes around time for us to do another tour, Live Nation will have been hurting so long, they’re going to be like, ‘Well, we can’t pay you what you normally are worth. Because we need to recoup our money.’ And it’s like, yeah… OK, well, where do we start with that? We all need to recoup. We’ve all been unemployed. All of us are hurting. We all have businesses, we all have mouths to feed."
You can hear the interview over at MetalSucks.
"We have been working on a brand new record since October really. So we’re getting ready to record that soon, but it won’t be out until next year some time. You’ve got to stay sort of active and keep putting out music. Times are changing. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to tour next year, so is it worth it putting a record out, does it make sense?
"I always want to put music out, but is it one of those things where you put a record out, it goes straight to Spotify and because there’s no money being made off of it, you can’t survive? If you can’t tour and go out and sell merchandise, those things go hand in hand. It’s like a free giveaway, really."