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Steve talks about finances: I've made a lot of mistakes along the way Print E-mail
Tuesday, 28 March 2017

A really interesting column by Steve in the Daily Telegraph

I was in a cabaret band and we wore matching safari suits and everything, and sometimes we got up to a hundred bucks a night (which was quite big bikkies back then all things considered).


After about a year of that I was kicked out for wanting to play my own songs. This led to a long period in the financial wilderness of forming and breaking up bands, buying lots of public address systems and amplifiers but making no money whatsoever.


In fact it seemed I was always repaying some loan or another.


Eventually I became an “overnight” success at 25 after appearing on Countdown, that golden panacea to every struggling rock band in Australia. I guess we made a reasonably good wage then. Maybe it was 800 bucks a week.


It seems like I’ve been making 800 bucks a week ever since then.


Still, I am a musician and I play because I love to play. And it seemed money would somehow take care of itself. I had no plans for superannuation or retirement funds or any boring old stuff like that. There were charts to go up and down, and new markets to crack, and good and bad reviews to be digested.


It has always seemed an awfully bad idea the way money from records was collected however. Someone from a record company told you how many records you sold and after a long string of deductions for this, that, and the other, there was your cheque at the bottom of the statement.


Publishing was the same thing. You never really knew what you had sold but just had to take someone’s word for it.



There didn’t seem any way of checking other than getting an auditor in, and I never heard of anyone actually ever doing that and getting anything back. I wrote a few hit songs and sometimes I did get a few big cheques and sometimes it seemed like I had been surely ripped off but what could you do?


For instance, someone just used Under the Milky Way in some tourist commercial and my share was supposed to be $25,000 but after a bit of sub-publishing malarky and some “unfavourable” exchange rates my $25,000 turned into $8000, which was applied against an unrecouped advance. So in other words I got nothing.


I still do a bit of touring despite having gone about three quarters deaf and the money is pretty good if you’re doing some show and you’re a hired singer. For example, like the recent Bowie shows with the orchestras. That was a nice earner.


Meanwhile, as everyone has already almost noted to death, the streaming and the legal and illegal downloads have just about reduced our royalty cheques to shadows of their former selves. But a lot of industries would say the same thing and it has hit a lot of people hard.


I have had some good patrons over the years and they have helped out when times get hard. They have helped me/us to go on recording. I was overwhelmed by the response the other day on my Facebook page when I revealed the old cupboard was looking a bit bare. Some people took me up on my offers of work and some just kindly donated some nice sums of cash.


So there you go. I made a lot of mistakes along the way. Being a junkie for 10 years certainly didn’t do much for my financials.


Still I am content with being a musician, and I am grateful to the people who’ve supported me along the way. I am trying out a new site called Patreon. Maybe that will do the trick when I can finally figure out how it works.


So no complaints from me really. It’s music. And they it call it playing, not working.


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