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FEAR FACTORY's DINO CAZARES On Merch Cuts: "You're Basically Paying To Play"

".It's just a way of making more money for them."

Dino Cazares

It’s no secret that one of the hard realities of the post-pandemic landscape is the skyrocketing touring costs in the music business, making it really difficult for bands to make a profit. It's something that obviously affects smaller acts in a harder way, but seems to be the new norm across the board at this point.

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Fear Factory's guitarist Dino Cazares is one of the musicians who has been vocal about the situation, and in a recent interview with Heavy Debriefings, he once again spoke about the impact of the "new reality," which includes, but is not limited to increased expenses in areas of utmost importance for any tour, like gas, buses, hotels, and flight costs, amongst others.

"Now that we're out there touring, we've been victims of what it's like touring in this day and age and how much it costs out there. And the lack of availability of a few things — like no buses; buses are scarce right now. Just traveling accommodations are difficult and the prices of a lot of things are just through the roof. And all the percentages that the club is taking and things like that, it just adds up. And it's really difficult out there right now."

Cazares also addressed the issue of venues taking a higher cut of the band's merchandise sales. He acknowledges that this is a common practice in the industry, but it can be difficult for bands to make money when they have to pay back the venue high fees, in turn resulting in a much lower profit margin for them.

"Well, the venue owners are, like, 'Look, if you're going to sell merch in my house, you're gonna have to give me a cut'. It's basically how they look at it. It's just a way of making more money for them. In other words, let's hypothetically say, let's just throw a number out there, let's hypothetically say they're paying you five thousand dollars to play the show; let's say you're getting paid five thousand dollars. And let's say you sell fifteen thousand dollars worth of merch. And then you take 30 percent of that. How much is that? I don't have the calculator in front of me, but let's say you have to pay them back two or three thousand dollars from your merch cut. That means they only paid you two thousand dollars in guarantee. So you're basically paying to play."

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There's no easy or immediate solution to venues taking such a large cut of merchandise sales, and Cazares is fully aware of it: "That's the way the cookie crumbles, man. You've just got to deal with it, unfortunately. The unfortunate part is that ticket prices are going up, merch prices are going up and gas prices are insane out there right now. And just paying for gas for a tour bus or any kind of travel, whether it's an RV or a van, it's expensive — it's very expensive. I think a lot of people don't realize that. And I don't understand why they shouldn't realize it because they're also paying a lot of money for gas when they're just going to work. So, imagine that when you're doing a big bus and you're spending 500 a night on gas."

The rising cost of living and travel is a challenge that all businesses face. However, bands are particularly vulnerable, because they often travel long distances and require lodging for weeks on end. Archspire's Dean Lamb explained in detail what happens during tour preparations recently, and it really gets crazy really fast.

As costs rise across the board, and as bands face increasingly limited resources at every turn, touring has become outrageously expensive for even the most renowned acts. Merchandise cuts have made bottom lines for bands tighter than ever before, and the ticketing fees are through the roof. This unpleasant economic reality is one that has begun to shape the state of touring across the world, and likely will for the foreseeable future.

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