This breakdown of Slayer's earnings proves that the music biz doesn't pay...
Most musicians don’t get into the music industry to get paid handsomely—most understand that it’s tough to hack it in the biz. It’s the hazards, some surmise, of doing what you love.
Still, as music fans, we can’t help but empathize with severely under-compensated artists: We’ve seen their piddly royalty cheques, with some paying out mere cents. We’ve heard that streaming music services pay a tiny fraction of a penny per play. Then, last week, we heard the gaudiest stat of them all: That 1 per cent of musicians earn 77 per cent of the industry’s profits.
Indeed, the music industry’s compensation models are broken. But we never expected that it’d impact bona fide superstars like Slayer, one of metal’s biggest names (and, we’d assume, top grossers).
In fact, if we can assume that Kerry King, Tom Araya and co. are part of music’s 1 per cent, then even its elite aren’t being paid fairly. Their ex-drummer, Dave Lombardo, recently explained why he left the group—and unsurprisingly, he said it was because of how little the metal superstars were paid.
Lombardo, for his part, says that Slayer’s earnings were being completely mismanaged by their management company. In fact, he says, he brought up the situation with Araya and brought a forensic accountant in to examine their situation.
“I had to step out, because you can’t be shackled like that; nobody can take advantage of another person like that anymore,” Lombardo said, of Slayer’s management. “I did it for too many years, and I held my breath. Red flags kept going on in my books. It’s, like, ‘Really? I’m supposed to make more money? Why am I on the same salary? I’m making the exact same thing I’ve been making the past two years. And this is back in 2004. So I knew something was up.”
According to Lombardo, Slayer’s management group then paid to make the problem disappear: He says Arraya and King were each given “a couple of hundred grand” to drop the issue. (He didn’t mention the amount of profits since-departed guitarist Jeff Hanneman made.) Even if that looks like handsome compensation, though, Lombardo argues that it was but a tiny fraction of what Slayer made in real earnings.
In 2011, Lombardo says the band earned $4.4 million, of which they only saw $400,000. That means only 9 per cent of Slayer’s profits were paid out to band members. So, that led to one question, says Lombardo.
“Where’s the four million? And that’s just 2011. [It goes to] lawyers, accountant and the manager.”
Lombardo says that he pressed the issue right up until he left the band. ”On the last day, when I’m at rehearsal with them, and I saved it all the way until the end, I said, ‘Guys, we need a new business plan. You guys have been on the same business plan after 30 years. Now I’m an income participant. In other words, I’m a percentage holder.”
Araya, for his part, claims that Lombardo wasn’t entitled to such benefits. “That whole issue came down to this: Dave had been jamming with us for a while, as a working member of the band, but he wasn’t a partner,”
Araya said, according to Loudwire. “Like all things like that, you have to have agreements, so nobody feels cheated. We had ongoing issues and finally he put us in a position where we had to find someone to replace him. He wasn’t happy, so he decided to have his Facebook rant and told the world about a lot of issues going on within the band that are legally binding and private.”
Those “private” figures, though, are stunning—Lombardo claims he only made around $700.00 per show. In 2011, the drummer claimed he earned $67,000 across 90 shows, which averages out to $744 per performance.
Which may seem like a lot, but lest we forget, Lombardo has a very specialized skill set—he writes and performs signature Slayer drum parts. It’s arguable that he’s irreplaceable—Slayer can’t just ask for resumes demanding his replacement, and all Paul Bostaph’s given us is Diabolicus in Musica and God Hates Us All. So… yeah.
As for King and Araya, Lombardo claims they made $114,000 in 2011, or roughly $1,200 per show.
In the end, it wasn’t enough to keep Lombardo in the band. “Really? It’s disgusting. I’m not gonna… I bust my ass up there playing drums. I mean, I am just sweating, I’m beat. And for the guy in the Hollywood Hills, for his facials, his manicures… No, I’m not gonna play for that.”
Fair enough. Here’s a video of Lombardo’s full statement...