I’m a ‘Successful’ DJ. Wanna Know How Much Money I Make?

OWSLA's Nick Thayer
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The following comes from Nick Thayer, a producer signed to Skrillex’s OWSLA label in 2012.

Reprinted with permission from the Nick Thayer’s Tumblr, where the original post and a follow-up post first appeared.

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I wanted to take a second to break some numbers down for you. I’m doing this to be transparent. To let you know what the life of producer / DJ looks like from the financial end. People often think there’s a huge amount of money in this scene. There is, but it is very concentrated and in the hands of a very, VERY few people.

The vast majority are on similar numbers to me, running on fumes most of the time to make this thing work. We do it because we LOVE THE ABSOLUTE SHIT out of writing music, playing music and sharing music.

Let’s start with a release.

Here’s the TOTAL sales breakdown for my Like Boom EP (March 2012). This is sales across all platforms (iTunes / Beatport / etc etc). Bear in mind this EP was the #2 overall release for thirteen weeks on Beatport so you can assume it was a comparative success.

  • “Like Boom”: 2600
  • “Facepalm”: 2932
  • “Totalitaria”: 1125
  • “Haters Gonna Hate”: 652
  • “Top Of The World”: 710
  • “What Props Ya Got”: 614
  • “Rise Up”: 658
  • “Like Boom” Nick Thayer Rmx: 1953
  • “Facepalm” Rmx: 969
  • “What Props” Rmx: 509

So that’s 12,722 total sales.

For the sake of making this as simple as possible, let’s be generous and call these sales $2 each (most are a bit less). Then let’s split 50% (give or take) for whatever site you sell through, meaning the site takes $1 and there’s $1 left. Most labels these days run on a profit share arrangement which means you split what’s left of that down the middle too. Let’s also allow for any writing splits where other artists have been involved adding vocals etc. So here we have total income that gets to me after the site, the label and the other artists involved have all taken their cut.

  • “Like Boom” (50% to sample clearance, 25% share to three vocalists) = $162.5
  • “Facepalm” = $1467
  • “Totalitaria” = $562.5
  • “Haters Gonna Hate” (50% to vocalist) = $326
  • “Top Of The World” (50% to vocalist) = $177.5
  • “What Props Ya Got” (30% to vocalist) = $158
  • “Rise Up” = $329
  • “Like Boom” Nick Thayer Rmx (see above) =  $122
  • “Facepalm” Rmx (50% to remixer) = $242
  • “What Props” Rmx (50% to remixer) = $127

So that’s a total income from the EP of $3,673.50.

(I’m not going to include Spotify or YouTube here as they total less than the price of a beer overall).

At this point you pay your management 15% of what you have. Mastering comes in at approximately $150 – $200 per track, so that’s $1500 total. Artwork is $1000 for anything half decent that’s usable across all platforms*.  A decent publicity campaign is about $300-$500. There’s a myriad of other smaller costs involved too. Some labels will cover these costs up front but it will be a ‘recoupable advance’ meaning you have to pay them back before they give you any money so it’s the same as fronting the money yourself*.

So you can see at the end, this EP which probably represented a year of work at actually ended up COSTING me money (though not a lot) to release. If somebody said to you ‘put your heart and soul into this project for a year and at the end give us some money for the privilege of having us listen to it’, what would YOU do?

What about touring?

At this point people usually say ‘well you make a lot of money from gigs right?’  Well not really.  Around six months after this EP came out, so in late 2012, enough time to potentially see the benefits, in the US I was earning between $1000 and $1500 for a show. That might sound like a lot of money, but that is TOTAL.

Let’s say I did a run of nine shows across three weeks (Thurs, Fri, Sat night x 3) at $1250. That’s $11,250.  That’s A LOT right?? Well.  Right off the bat the booking agent will take 15%.  As an Australian in the US I pay 30% up front on tax too (this is reclaimable but Australia has a reciprocal tax agreement with US so it comes out of the amount of tax I owe here in Aus).  So that’s down to $6200 straight away.

Then I have to pay for travel*.

Let’s say return flights from Aus ($1500 economy fare) plus travel in between shows ($200 per flight if lucky) and we’re down to $2687.  You can usually get the club to pay for a hotel on the night of your show, but that’s it.  So that leaves maybe ten nights where you are covering it at $100 a night if you can find it.  Often they will be much more expensive so you survive by sleeping on couches in friends’ places every second night.  That’s $1687 left.

Now pay management 15% and we’re at around $1434. Then there is food to pay for cause you can’t live on bar snacks for three weeks. At $30 per day (that’s $10 for b’fast lunch and dinner) for three weeks is around $600 and at that point all you’re left with is around $800 for three weeks’ work, which is not exactly a fortune.

So what?

This is not a sob story. This is me saying to you please, PLEASE support artists you like in any way you can think of.

Buy the whole EP when they release it instead of just one song. You would not believe the difference this can make. Even buying two songs instead of one helps chart positions which creates exposure which means more people listen and the cycle repeats itself.

Share the links to their music on your Facebook or Twitter or re-post them on SoundCloud or wherever you can. Promoters keep an eye out for whoever is being talked about the most across social media so instead of bugging your favourite artist to come to your town talk about them as much as you can and bug the promoters to bring them.

I want to say now THANK YOU for every single person who has supported me in any of these ways. Who has bought my music, shown their friends, stuck stickers on things, come to a show, or whatever.



*Artwork costs being $1000 / other EP expenses: It has been commented that this is a lot. What I said is that this is artwork ‘usable across ALL platforms’. That is, usable as a digital album picture, a sticker, an ad mat, tour art (vectorised and layered to make for easy adaptation) and more. I also paid for the original photo. I believe in paying people properly for their work.

*Label deals / splits etc: It has also been commented that labels will split costs on a 50/50 deal. Without going into the specifics of this contract, I paid for the art up front. The mastering expense (I just looked up a statement) was $1700 and was split with the label, so yes, that does alter my maths a little. I only tried to provide a rough guide anyway.

I also mentioned other expenses. These include things such as vocal sessions and lawyers (for sample clearance and for record contracts). These came directly out of my pocket (the track with the sample was completed including clearance before the label was in the picture and a label is not going to pay for your lawyer to sort out a contract with them).

*Travel expenses: It has also been commented that venues should be paying for travel. The deals my US agent (AM Only) works on for me are all-in deals. They do not include flight shares. This is not the case for me worldwide (in Aus and NZ travel is certainly added on top of the fee), but I wanted to use a REAL tour to highlight the situation.

I wrote this post as a way of being transparent. I spend money on things I think are important to my art, in this case the costs of mastering and art fall into that category. I now do all my own mastering.

I will also say that yes, there are other streams of income for artists I didn’t include. There is publishing (which is like a lottery and can vary from $5 to $5000 a year with apparently no reason), there are performance royalties (APRA in Australia) that again seem to operate largely on an arbitrary base. There are remixes and session work mixdowns the like too. My point was to isolate one EP and one associated tour.

Once again I want to state that I LOVE what I do. And I want to thank everyone who has ever supported me, bought my music, booked me for a show or let me stay on their couch.

Nick Thayer.

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Check out Nick Thayer’s Facebook, Twitter, and SoundCloud.

91 Responses

  1. Robbie Fields


    Thanks for sharing.

    Keep working on Spotify and YouTube Given other metrics, you should be making at least 3 figures monthly from each.

    Your digital distributor should be collecting the above monies, even if you have your own YouTube channel.

    I am guessing you are digitally distributed by INGROOVES. Even though you are registered to receive both artist and copyright owner royalties from SoundExchange, INGROOVES have been mistakenly paid on a couple of your recordings. Have they been passing onto you this SoundExchange money?

    As well, there are half a dozen instances on SoundExchange where no one is claiming the sound copyright owner share of royalties.

    Go to :

    and submit corrections to SoundExchange’s database. It is easy. And figure out if “Passenger” is entitled to claim sound copyright owner royalties for your work as they are currently being paid for such.

    What would be helpful would be your posting your income history from SoundExchange. I imagine it is also “arbitrary”, fluctuating wildly between accountings.

    See you on the road!

  2. JTVDigital

    Thanks for this info.

    For once we read from an artist who is not complaining / moaning but has a positive message and says “thank you” to people buying or listening to his music.

    I guess this is the type of reading that would motivate other artists to keep on trying.

    Just 1 comment: the promo/publicity campaign certainly costs much much more than the 300-500$ announced, your label certainly invested 4 or 5 figures’ amounts.

    • ben

      the promo/publicity campaign certainly costs much much more than the 300-500$ announced, your label certainly invested 4 or 5 figures’ amounts.

      lol. the label invested nothing. they just send out a promo to some djs.

  3. TuneHunter

    Well, all fish including the biggest one plans to go with the streaming.
    Amazon just concluded $.0000007 negotiations with “owners ” of FREE and Apple announced own streaming desires.
    In real life only the dead fish goes with the stream!
    Our streaming developments are no different, we are drifting with the stream to shallow and dead sea of music.

    I am wondering how it is possible for smart shark like Google to be part of this drift?
    I guess ads are very intoxicating.

  4. Frank Burly

    An interesting read, but it begs the question: who is Nick Thayer? He shouldn’t expect to make as money as Skrillex and Dillon Francis just by copying their style.

    • Sheldon z

      Nick Thayer has been pounding the pavement for years making it possible for guys like skrillex. You this industry wasn’t always arenas and red bull.

    • Rod

      Dude! You need to listen more of NT’s music, He is not a copy of skrillex or DF at all! Show some respect you probably cant even play happy birthday on your keyboard…

    • Rubbernecker

      People like you make me ill. Why are you even here? Only superstars deserve to make a living, right? How many superstars do we not have because there’s no draw to a music career anymore? Maybe we’re not getting another Pink Floyd, or Clash?

      Thanks for bending over to the destruction of the only heroes the working class ever had in the modern world – popular songwriters.

  5. ben

    wow, 3673 bucks for 10 mediocre tracks!

    if the guys wastes all his earnings for mediocre artwork/mastering than it’s his own fault 🙂

  6. James

    For all the haters: Nick Thayer is kicking asses in the underground scene with his huge productions much before artists like Skrillex or Dillon Francis. I hate the way of good producers haven’t the same recognition of the commercial artists of always. I’m tired of see the same line ups, it’s really bored. And I hate the people that haven’t electronic musical culture, and they think they know a lot for knowing about artists like Skrillex, Dillon Francis, or the artists they see in the same line ups of this electronic musical business. It’s pathetic.

  7. GGG

    I mean, regardless of how influential this guy is, and how much time he spends on his music, only selling 12K singles and only commanding $1500/gig tells me nobody REALLY cares too much about him…

    • Andy

      What a totally backwards thing to say. Obviously all the people that buy his music care (and those that ‘share’ it and go to gigs), that’s tens of thousands of people, and 1500 for a gig is totally reasonable for a mid profile DJ producer that has a fairly good rep. He never said he was super famous or a huge hit headliner act, you are just a douchebag smartass that revels in finding something to be negative about. By the way, hope you are enjoying your day sitting around in your underpants eating Cheetos and spreading your negative nonsense on the internet while other people are getting on with achieving worth while things.

      • GGG

        First of all, I obviously don’t literally mean “nobody.” The fact I have to point that out lets me know what type of dumbass I’m dealing with here…Still doesn’t change the fact that at those levels you are hardly a household name, and most likely not even a name outside your niche.

        Secondly, always love when people on the internet call out other people for being on the internet.

        Third, I’m about to close a $2k sync deal for one of my bands, so I’m not doing terribly today. Sorry to disappoint…

        • tippysdemise

          So, GGG, aren’t you the guy who is always reminding everyone that only a tiny fraction of an artist’s fanbase actually purchases a record? Selling 12K singles means that NT has a following that is probably in the 90th percentile. If it can grow to that level, it has the potential to get exponentially bigger. And Nick, much respect for really putting yourself out there (both with your music and this post).

          • GGG

            Yes, I am, but his numbers are also there to see. Anyway, my comment, which was worded harsher than I meant it to be, wasn’t directed at Nick per se, since he explicitly says it’s not a sob story. It was more directed at everyone on here who will jump on this as proof artists can’t make money. Using a mid-level DJ, so someone who has to clear all sorts of samples and forfeit money right off the bat, who is talking about one EP is a little baiting. I’m assuming he’s a good producer/engineer, as well, so can make plenty of coin doing that. I work with a producer who is by no means famous, but gets $2500 a track. And he’s constantly working. He’s also in a band.

            Nick, like said producer, has an upper hand because (I’m assuming) he’s versatile and knowledgable on a lot of gear.

        • Andy

          First of all I obviously at no point thought or made out that you literally meant ‘nobody’, didn’t even use the word, and I understood exactly what you meant. I clearly just pointed out that he has a fair amount of people that care as opposed to the relatively insignificant amount you were saying. Now who’s the dumbass?

          Secondly, I didn’t call you out for being on the internet, I called you out for being a needlessly negative and pompous.
          I understand the internet is just the medium you happened to use on this occasion…

          Third, I ended with a general insult aimed at you because you came across as someone who is compelled to tell people how you are not impressed by the level of success of others for no other reason than your own pride resulting in a belittling negative opinion over others, which pride is confirmed in your last statement. Because nobody gives a shit how much money you make, how successful feel you are or how you think other people’s success isn’t up to your own oh so awesome standards to be worthy of an article.
          You certainly did disappoint, by showing yourself to be even more pompous than you were in the first place.

          • GGG

            Ok, sorry, Mrs. Thayer. Didn’t know Nick’s mom would be reading the comments.

      • rikki

        Damn Andy I used to charge $1500 to dj a fancy wedding in New York City in my prime…….

    • steveh

      Hey Mr GGG! What you just said totally exposes you as the complete arrogant asshole I always knew you were… What a complete tosser you are!

      • GGG

        Yes, I’m arrogant because of objective numbers. Ok.

        Look, since I apparently interrupted your Nick Thayer yank sesh, I’ll point out that I wasn’t trying to knock the guy. He’s got 26K likes on Facebook, that’s certainly respectable. So you can bring the lotion back out and finish up, sorry.

  8. R.P.

    Dear Nick, you really just need to find more revenue streams for yourself, within your music and its brand, but also outside of music, whatever that may be. Manage your time, figure out what your hourly rate is worth, and multiply your revenue streams. As an artist manager I would hate to see my artist beg for fans o support him when he is fully capable of finding other revenue streams in between gigs. It doesn’t devalue you as an artist or your music as art, it simply makes you smart enough to fund the lifestyle you are searching to live while doing the things that you love.

    Everything we love isn’t always meant to be, but if we work and try hard enough then we will see these dreams come true and look back into a great life full of multiple successes.


    Keep rockin’.

    • steveh

      and what are these “other revenue streams” of which you speak? “outside of music”? What an earth do you mean by that?

      • Dustin

        I’d come up with at least 3 for him after just a 30min chat. Guaranteed. Any artist with a modest fan base and good contacts has the ability to make more money than from the traditional routes. It can come from having a good manager but most importantly a focused and driven talent. Most of these guys don’t respond to emails or attend meetings on time and that’s usually money flying right out the window. That’s not to say Nick Thayer is one way or another, but what I’m stating is fact.

  9. Promoter

    Thank you for sharing your personal numbers. That’s very illuminating. I’ve been tracking local live music numbers for years, and I and a partner were once in the distribution game.

    So here’s a question for a lot of the others here. How much are you making on live shows? I’ve paid out a range of $150 (solo/duo) to over $20,000 for acts ranging from national level indie pop/rock and 90’s B-level former hitmakers. I can buy 80s and late 70s acts for as little as $5000. But if I look at my entire body of work since 2000, I can see where the mid-line for local/regional bands used as small event headliners and festival support for national acts is about $700. Over the past decade I’ve seen the local net average come out to about $500 per gig (anywhere from 60 mins to 3 hrs), depending on status of the band, and the type/size of venue.

    Sales of recorded music revenue fell into the drink a decade ago and I haven’t seen it recover at all.

    I’ve seen the average production cost per song hit $1500 out the door (art separate). Average albums I get for promotional consideration are in the 15-20k range. The average local band is selling an avg of 250 cds out of a 1000 run, and releasing an avg of 250-300 pcs for promotion.

    So, I’m not surprised one bit with the numbers I’m seeing here. When we went global with the Internet it changed the paradigm – the way we not only do business, but the possible net positive outcomes are now tied to stratospheric metrics.

  10. mb

    the problem is all the suckers that are leeching the artists…..
    lets say look at beat port and how much they take out of the sales from artists… or tax office who takes too much out of sales of artists that don’t sell that much…….
    or the streaming system. they need to make it more profitable or by making sure artists make something more than money out of their streaming system like letting artists sell artist related stuff while their stream goes on liks ads for their other tracks/album for free.. and single tracks should cost more than 1£/$ 2.5 would be more correct price while album could go for 11-14… if someone likes a song they pay 2.5 instead of 1-1.5….

  11. Trollolol

    First world problems. World wide recession, inevitable fall of capitalism and exponentially depleting resources. Make music, it’s far easier ignoring the problem and living in a bubble of your own vested interests. Complain all you want that you earn more money than more than 50% of the planet doing something you love. Most people don’t do what they love; they work, music is a hobby, a privilege; not a right.

    Look at the classical greats in all arts, be it painting, composing or writing. They mostly never even got the recognition they deserved during their life, what makes you think you should be any different with less talent? I’m not hating but you’re not this generations Mozart, Beethoven or Van Gogh are you? Please enlighten me if you are! But from what i’ve heard it’s generic fad pap.

    I have a couple of suggestions to supplement your “measly” income from music:

    1) Teach, “those who can’t; teach”, those with industry experience get fast tracked.

    2) Become a graphic designer, they obviously get much more than any performing musical artist for a couple of high nights messing with photoshop

    3) Ghost write for people who want to sound like Nick Thayer/Skrill dawg or Owsla pap

    4) Become a sound designer, make sample packs for everyone that wants to sound the same but don’t have enough talent to even rip people off

    5) Go to africa, spend a few weeks without clean water, electricity and all the other general comforts of home. Then we’ll have a conversation about transparency.

    6) Stop being a whining bitch and count your blessings. Others don’t earn that amount of money in a year.

    7) Make better music? Or have you plateaud? Maybe your ego is playing tricks on you, “I should be bigger, I want more money, I want more fans.” Dude be happy the rest will fall into place if you’re a half decent person. Don’t alienate your fanbase because of your midlife crisis. As that’s exactly what you’re doing, blaming others for your own shortcomings. The illusion of success has been brought to (most of) our attention a long time ago, so sorry it’s taken you this far into your professional career to see that.

    8) The people that make money are the middle men, the business minded people with no talent in arts, but a talent at manipulating people. I am sorry that you’ve been manipulated, and it does sound like you’ve been needlessly shafted many times, you can either become a part of the problem and become a label owner/distributor/promoter or create a new way of doing things like the flashbulbs crowd funded gigging thing.

    To anyone else that is reading this, DON’T share the big guys music, we know now they only sell thousands of pounds worth of records!!! Share the little guys music, dig up the guy with less than a thousand followers on soundcloud and make his day, not the day of an over privilege whining “success” who’s not even gonna appreciate your play/follow/download or purchase as much as the little guy, he’s just gonna carry on chasing the uncatchable dragon of fame and fortune that most ego fuelled composers gravitate towards.

    NB Musicians can be manipulated by the charts and what is perceived as successful, they aspire to that level of success; although this is not creativity, this is objectively trying to measure something that is subjective. Make the music in your heart and soul and let the reward be that you’re alive to be even able to create it in the first place. The devil lies in letting your ego do the talking; the eye in the triangle is your ego. We are manipulated through mythologies using the hero narrative, don’t be a sucker like Nick Thayer.

    • Minneapolis Musician

      I agree with a lot of what you are saying here.

      Most aspiring artists don’t realize how much of a lottery it is, once you have enough talent to even be given a ticket to enter the mega music success lotto.

      — Glenn

      • Minneapolis Musician

        Sorry about the ridiculously huge video…I just thought the link would show up in case anyone was interested. 🙁

        • rikki

          The incredible LOST ART of a danceable guitar solo………please i need to find lot of them

          • Glenn Galen

            Thanks, Rikki.

            I am improvising here over a backing track I made of The Police song “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”. This is part of my live one-man show.

    • Nina Ulloa

      “6) Stop being a whining bitch and count your blessings.”

      Could also apply to this essay of a comment you left, bro

    • DJ LMAO

      Funny these clowns call themselves “artists”

  12. James D

    Appreciate the transparency but NT is a little dillusional in how he rates himself. There’s loads and loads of small to medium artists netting $100,000+ per year.

      • Minneapolis Musician

        Loads and loads? Perhaps this is an “urban myth”. Need a source.

    • Anon

      May i ASK BUT how do you know such things?

    • steveh

      DJs do not normally find opportunities to sell merch.

  13. hippydog

    Quote “Let’s say I did a run of nine shows across three weeks (Thurs, Fri, Sat night x 3) at $1250. That’s $11,250. That’s A LOT right?? Well. Right off the bat the booking agent will take 15%. As an Australian in the US I pay 30% up front on tax too (this is reclaimable but Australia has a reciprocal tax agreement with US so it comes out of the amount of tax I owe here in Aus). So that’s down to $6200 straight away. Then I have to pay for travel*. Let’s say return flights from Aus ($1500 economy fare) plus travel in between shows ($200 per flight if lucky) and we’re down to $2687. You can usually get the club to pay for a hotel on the night of your show, but that’s it. So that leaves maybe ten nights where you are covering it at $100 a night if you can find it. Often they will be much more expensive so you survive by sleeping on couches in friends’ places every second night. That’s $1687 left. Now pay management 15% and we’re at around $1434. Then there is food to pay for cause you can’t live on bar snacks for three weeks. At $30 per day (that’s $10 for b’fast lunch and dinner) for three weeks is around $600 and at that point all you’re left with is around $800 for three weeks’ work, which is not exactly a fortune.”

    I’m not saying your getting ripped off.. (as your numbers are in the “valid” range, yada yada)

    1.) if your paying more then 15% in taxes, something is definitely wrong.. I dont know what small business’s in austrailia pay in taxes, but over here the avg should be around 15% (and thats AFTER EXPENSES).. by your numbers, after write-offs, you should have almost zero taxes payable.. (or at least get most of it back at the end of the year)
    again, I never worked out of the country, so I dont know how that works in your case, but its still seems wonky.

    2.) If your an international “artist”, with a nice fanbase, and you paying 15% in agent fee’s, and your only get booked for $1200 (i assume production not included)..
    You might either a.) need a better agent or b.) need a bigger fanbase to support bigger numbers..

    either way..
    a.) your building a fanbase (that you didnt have before) so as long as your breaking even, then your making an investment.. (with an expected pay out with your next EP)
    b.) you shouldnt be touring internationally when you dont have the fanbase to support it..
    either way… its kinda normal.. your building your experience and value..

    as to the “spotify – youtube thing”..
    maybe thats the marketing aspect you need to work on? time to get creative with your marketing and fanbase.

    • cdViking

      Re: #1 and tax, if he’s an individual contractor and international, he can get taxed for personal services, meaning treaty rates that are legally required to be automatically withheld from any pay he gets, and no ability to itemize deductions.

      • hippydog

        thx, I wonder if incorporating oneself would help with that.. (with subcompanies in each country ..)

        wait.. the big booking agencies has to deal with this all the time? how do they deal with it.?.
        If an artist cant deduct expenses when touring to another country? WTF?
        there has to be a way..

    • TuneHunter

      15% in US – U are not homeless but you are poverty stricken – no skiing, no sailing, no trips EU.
      WRONG place for talented musician to be!

  14. don gusto

    Probably the first time I’ve read such an honest transparent account of net income from a mid level artist. Very interesting and respectable. Especially from an artist as dedicated and gifted as NT.
    I remember thinking NT should be a main act rather than opener at a hijack night at YU back in the early 00’s. However, this dude knew how to warm up a dance-floor like nobody you would see in clubs these days. In my mind, this is a very difficult task to master.
    The old NT & BK breaking point vinyl and the feelin kinda strange remix are seminal in the breaks scene. Questioning this dudes talent or suggesting he is a skrillex/DF ripoff is just plain uneducated.
    I can only imagine it would be a bit disheartening to any producer/dj to grind for so many years to see results like this, but the landscape for earning revenue as an artist has changed at an exponential rate in recent years and I guess it becomes a matter of ability to adapt..
    Chin up mate, your royal flush mix is the absolute shit. Having a crack in the US and getting signed to such a prominent label is more than most Aussie artists could dream of. Keep up the good work!

  15. Nissl

    Interesting to get some more numbers, hope more artists do that. Tough to fly to the other side of the world and play only 3 weekends of shows when you’re only making a bit over $1k per show. Seems like it would make more sense to try to do more cities in a 6-week+ run if possible. His economics should be better at home in Aus.

    Looked at the Spotify account. ~750k total streams for the last album. Other indies have reported a payout a bit under a half cent per stream from Spotify. That should be worth more than a beer. Zoe Keating has roughly comparable overall volumes and reported $1.7k last year alone. That isn’t a living, obviously, but he *might* want to look into it.

    • rikki


      Its not done for the money it the BS factor “I dj’ed for thousands in Ibiza for 3 weeks”………..and take pictures to put on your website…..so you can try and command more money.

      Smoke and mirrors

  16. DC

    Thanks for doing this. Small gripe, but taking your food costs off of your earnings is a bit silly, isn’t it? Everyone has to pay for food. Someone working at a library isn’t going to give you their earnings with food costs taken out. You pay for that yourself, out of your net earnings.

    • hippydog

      Quote “You pay for that yourself, out of your net earnings.”
      In Canada you can deduct at least 50% of your meals when traveling for business purposes.
      I’m sure other countries would have something similar.

    • jeff

      Food costs matter cause on tour it’s generally more expensive and must be looked at more carefully than while at home because it’s generally cheaper when you have a kitchen w/ fridge, oven and stovetop to go home to every night and that you’ve stocked up with food that can be prepared and saved for left overs.

  17. sugars

    my god the people here posting seem like a bunch of used car sales people claiming they are a better manager or promoter and this ‘artist’ doesn’t understand the ‘business’

    i see thru you. so should everyone.

  18. Cris

    He deserves no money for any record he plays (Shares). DJ’s belong on the radio.

    • Chris

      Dude WTF are you talking about? If they belong on the radio then why the F are they playing big festivals..

  19. DC

    Another thing I want to point out is that while you are out on tour, this is all of your living expenses. You’re paying your hotels, which is your “rent” so essentially the $800 figure you’ve come up with is just fun money when all is said and done.

    • tippysdemise

      Are you saying that he’s homeless when not on tour?

  20. Back2Basics

    Thanks Nick, great article. Sad but true. Obviously any expenses occurred such as travel and subsistence are tax deductable (which means when you work out the amount of tax you owe you then knock off all your costs in order to reduce the amount of tax you have to pay), but that’s fairly arbitary considering how little profit he’s making.

  21. There is something...

    … very strange here:

    If Nick is paying for manager, artwork, mastering, publicity and sample clearance from his own pocket, why in the hell do he release through a label and lose 50% of his income ? What actually does this label if the artist pays form almost everything ? It makes non sense at all ! If your gonna pay almost everything yourself, set your own label, self release and keep all the money ! At least, you would know where this money actually goes…

  22. curious

    why are you paying for your own flights and hotels? youre on owsla

  23. Anonymous

    Maybe you shouldn’t LMFAO it, your shit sucks. Go listen to the beatles, pinkfloyd, real music.
    Your shit sucks bro, you don’t deserve a lot of money for this…
    Im a producer, just being real.

  24. Matt

    Even if you guys don’t like this guy’s music/art/whatever (I don’t know who he is and I don’t like Skrillex), this is the reality for almost every working musician. Most don’t even have it THIS good. So put your opinions about this particular artist aside and understand that the musicians you like who aren’t on the sales level of, say, Jay-Z or Coldplay have all of the same financial problems that Nick Thayer does, and that this article is informative and speaks to a universal problem, not just specific to him.

  25. steven corn

    So if the label didn’t spend any money on promotions, what was the benefit of signing up with a label? did they cover the manufacturing costs of printing CDs (did they even print CDs)? They do any radio support, advertising, etc.? Sounds like Nick does the majority of the heavy lifting with his booking agents helping out a lot. I’d like to know what Nick thinks he got out of his label deal and if it was worth it or would he have been better off just doing everything he did but without an official label?

  26. soniquarium muzika


    Pretty much in line with my Experience. Not only as a touring EDM artist but label owner with around 8 act’s signed from a few different Styles. Those numbers are true numbers and you are correct, the bulk of the “Big Money” is concentrated at the top.

    See you in IBIZA this summer!

  27. Makattack

    Hey Nick!

    Loved the article, thanks for sharing how income works in the EDM space. As audiences, we hardly see it that way, we always complain about pricey show tickets and etc. I actually work in the tech industry, closely with YouTube and to be honest, you can buy much more than a beer with the money earn on it if your channel is well polished. The online video industry is growing fast and it’s one of the best way to promote for your tracks and earn some $$$. Try putting some time on it and update your content frequently, I’m sure your content will get tons of views :)!

  28. richie hawtin

    Thanks for the article and open information. So touring income = 3,750/week. If you work 45 weeks a year (seven weeks vacation is more than most people get) that’s $169K gross. Everybody pays income tax. A lot of your expenses are tax deductible. Maybe you aren’t sipping Cristal in a hot tub with playboy bunnies every night, but that’s not a bad income you’re making, to do something that you (presumably) enjoy. Best of luck!

  29. DJ Digga

    Nick – as just a local DJ for the past 17 years who has no desire to become more than a local crowd pleaser in my market, I enjoyed your read (and shared it with my followers on Facebook). While I target a market that isn’t too mainstream and most of the artists in my genre fit your financial ballpark, I’ve always attempted to exhaust every avenue from the financier or club monetarily to help make my guest DJs/talent comfortable when I get them flown in from out of state. Nevertheless, you bring up great points and I hope more kids that have zero understanding of our industry read this for the sake of knowledge.



  30. Kris

    It sometimes might not seem worth it but overall he is doing something he enjoys and he is still making some money (not a lot but more thrn other Producers or dj’s out there). I use to be a deejay back in the 90’s and was able to average $350 on weekend (which didn’t seem like much now but living at home it was a good pay check back then). I later become a Producer in 2000’s where the prime time to make money was around 2006 shere most good sounding producers could sell a track for $600 to $800 (beats alone) which artists would pay $1200 to $2000 for a full recording song and mix/master (this doesn’t included the Super Producers who made $20,000 to $100, 000 sometimes as a upfront fee for a Major beat and recorded song (but those days are over). A Super Producer probably makes $10, 000 at most whiles the average producer makes $200/beat because of the supplyand demand of music factor Cd sales are down more then 75% since 2001 and still falling. Only a scattered few actually buy cds whiles thr majority download it for free and share online. Its actually sad that Producers have to still deejay to make money and post blog asking (or in some cases) begging people to go out and support their music (something I personally would never do and have actually taken up a 9 to 5 in order of subsidizing the difference to pay my mortgage, expenses etc..) This is not saying that I don’t love what I do or I am not good at it because believe me I still refuse subpar talent who request production biz and willing to pay above the standard means. But at the end of the day I believe music is about integrity and that’s something I’m not willing to look over for a few bucks and lose my dignity for!

  31. hippydog

    I added some of his songs to my Deezer list a few months ago..

    I’m actually VERY surprised that Facepalm or Likeboom has not taken off.. There are actually REALLY good.

  32. Anonymous

    thats what I always try to explain to my cousin always was assuming and detailing about music artist were making millions and millions of dollars annually of record sales and touring. I actually corrected his opinion because everybody know this phrase, to make money you put money.. but in quick words were all in the same cycle.. youre gonna get taxed the people above you : federal, main bosses, assistant managers, and general managers are the main ones that get more of the pie.. they eat more than you. Anybody not just an individual or particular categorial position.. youre employed you work hard and harder to maintain and protect your budget ragardless youre a signed company icon or independent youre still going to give up half of your earnings to uncle sam so ladies and gentlemen buy you some lottery tickets and hit the jackpot by any means you still kissing ass.

  33. Tomt246

    got interested into the artist and checked out his soundcloud:

    Mistake #1: No Bio!!!

    #2: no links to Twitter/FB/whatever…

    #3: his website promoted a free DL of one of his EPs; The link was broken!

    #4: why would you offer a DL button on a 1min preview?

    there’s definitly stuff to improve your salary!!!

    if you can’t make more money you have to find ways to save money:
    -a lot of great albums rely on simple but nice looking cover art
    -consider learning mastering

    or find other sources of income:
    -online tutoring
    -sound design
    -sonic branding
    -mixing/recording/mastering engineer

  34. chris

    “Let’s say I did a run of nine shows across three weeks (Thurs, Fri, Sat night x 3)” why are you only playing shows less than half the week? is this just an EDM thing touring-wise? Cause it seems like a rock bands don’t do this. I mean i know all rock tours aren’t profitable either but i would think the more shows you pay while on tour the more it would help your profit… or will it? Or will EDM fans only come out on the weekends in good enough numbers perhaps to justify it for promoters? This is a serious question form a musician and artist that does both some rock and some electronic stuff that wants to know this.

  35. Brendan

    If I was in charge of label I wouldnt back any of todays junk either. Once you took the cost to press, ship and sell vinyl out the game you destroyed quality tracks. Now Nick is like why spend time on this track when its gonna sell the same as the b.s. tracks. Fuck tracks sell more stickers… what a joke

    • rikki

      that’s why you become a wedding and party mobile dj, and make a nice income either full time or part time for 25+ years like me.

      we learned early on club work is basically a lo-no pay gig the only big payoff is all the girls you can get.

  36. steve

    ”Buy the whole EP when they release it instead of just one song. You would not believe the difference this can make. Even buying two songs instead of one helps chart positions which creates exposure which means more people listen and the cycle repeats itself” ……….. hmmmm… sorry but i won’t buy tracks i don’t like and won’t play, i’ll use the money to buy tracks i do like and will help another artist.

  37. steve

    ‘$150 – $200 per track”… thats 120 to 160 uk pounds per track.. even for mastering for vinyl that’s steep. rob small, who is considered the man for the job.. 4 Vinyl Masters: £80…

    • AlbumDropper

      You’ve heard of “The world’s most interesting man”? You are definitely not him, you are more like “The world’s cheapest man”. -“I don’t always pay for music, but when I do, actually, I don’t really pay for music.”

  38. Feyd Rautha

    If you write music, are you not a composer? If you perform others’ music, are you not a cover band? If you play others’ music ‘mechanically’ are you not a DJ?

  39. Mike

    Hahaha, you might as well have just said, I really only openedd ableton 3 years ago and have no fucking clue what the music business even is. You are getting ripped off left right and center – go get an education in the topic

  40. danwriter

    The story, and most of the responses, date from March 2014, nearly three years ago. Are any of the numbers updated?

  41. Tony Jarrvi

    Hmm… Nick an interesting article What do you play??? I may advise the EU and or the BRICS as they are up and coming. I also advise to try Israel as well but you may need to change genres. The US is a difficult market so try these markets as well as the UK.

  42. jaston

    “Mastering comes in at approximately $150 – $200 per track, so that’s $1500 total. Artwork is $1000 for anything half decent that’s usable across all platforms*. A decent publicity campaign is about $300-$500. ”

    L O L rolling on the floor over here. It’s one thing to spend money to master well, pay a visual artist, and do some publicity. It’s another thing to spend $2800 dollars to brick-wall limit your ‘song’, use a sans serif font on a picture of a brick wall, and pay .3 cents-per-click for some Facebook adverts that only get clicked on by accident…

    Not saying you shouldn’t spend money on these things, just saying this person could be spending half as much, and getting just as good of quality, if they weren’t a sycophant surrounded by more of the same…

  43. another view

    I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.

    Ecclesiastes 9:11

    The dude had it pegged over 200 years ago.

    Most advice here is guesswork at best. Nick, cool to share – better or worse, most people here giving advice would be very embarrassed to share how little they actually make annually from music.

  44. Alan T

    1. You should window your releases starting with the platforms that pay the most first.
    2. You should probably use more DIY platforms. If you are doing your own marketing, why not send your fans to BandCamp or ClearTracks and reduce the margins you are paying to the stores. That’s an easy 20-40% increase in revenue.
    3. Do you really need a label at this stage? With all the tools available out there, you need to question the value they provide. Artwork is easy to do. Mastering is easy to find. Distribution is super cheap now with the likes of Distrokid. Be your own label. Build your own brand and gain another 50% in the process.

    I don’t understand why artists will spend a year making a song, only to get lazy about the mundane stuff. Then they get jacked by the value chain when they could have done it themselves. #timetogetwoke

  45. Hugo Villanova

    So what??? Did they forced you to do that??
    it’s better to work in a supermarket, i think! loooool
    Stop the crying!
    i’m a producer also (15 years) and i never did that kind of money!
    And i’m still doing it but not for the money, also had to work in another areas to pay my bills, it’s life.