Fear Factory’s Dino Cazares Says Bands Basically ‘Pay to Play’ With Merch Cuts

Dino Cazares: Alexey Komarov, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en, Wikimedia Commons
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Back in December 2022, Dino Cazares of the Los Angeles band Fear Factory spoke about how financially rough it is for bands to tour nowadays, speaking to such matters as inflation and venue merch cuts. Among the points he shared, the guitarist said “the cost of touring is making it impossible to make any money.”

In the time that’s passed since Cazares expressed this sentiment, other artists have spoken up about the financial struggles that come with touring and what they’ve experienced while on the road. During an interview from this past July, while talking about venue merch cuts, Cazares said, “Now the club owners and the promoters are taking a cut of your merchandise, so it’s making [it] harder and harder for artists to survive out there.”

Fear Factory has been on the road quite a bit this year, and according to Cazares, the band has encountered some of these modern struggles. During a new interview with Heavy Debriefings, the guitarist shared that Fear Factory has become “victims” of what it’s like to tour today; between there being a scarcity of buses, travel accommodations being “difficult,” and more,  he says things are “really difficult out there.” Speaking to the financial difficulties of touring nowadays, Cazares shares (as transcribed by Blabbermouth):

“Now that we’re out there touring, we’ve been victims of what it’s like touring at 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.”

The Fear Factory member goes on to talk about venue merch cuts, providing a hypothetical breakdown of how much a band may lose if a venue’s owner were to ask for 30% of what the band made:

“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 ways 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.”

Concluding his points, Cazares shares that when it comes to this system, “unfortunately,” artists “just got to deal with it.” Alongside this, he says the cost of things like tickets and merch are going to rise, and that gas prices are already pretty rough:

“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.”

Dino Cazares interview