Is Shania Twain worth $300,000? James Brown, $50,000? Evan Serpick looks at the fees musicians charge for concerts -- and tells you which stars are worth the money

By Evan Serpick
Updated September 09, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT
Shania Twain: Olivier Berdina/Retna

Is Shania Twain worth $300,000? James Brown, $50,000?

It’s long been the music industry’s worst kept secret: The REAL money is made on tour. With all the cash labels spend to record, promote, and market CDs, they usually wind up keeping most of the profits. For artists to bring home the bacon, they gotta sizzle on stage.

Clear Channel College Entertainment keeps a list on its website of booking fees for various artists, providing a telling look into the machinery of the concert biz. I reviewed the list and found some truly startling things. For your perusal — and, if you have a couple hundred grand lying around, your consideration — these are 10 of the best and worst deals available.

BEST DEALS

1. Basement Jaxx, $10,000 I think my bar mitzvah DJ cost more than this — and HE didn’t even have a second turntable, let alone some of the best dance tracks ever.

2. James Brown, $50,000 Okay, so he’s old and fat, he sweats a lot, and by now, I can do better splits than he does. It’s still James Brown, and I’d pay 50 Gs to watch him eat a salad.

3. The Flaming Lips, $7,500 What? These guys put out arguably the best album of the last 10 years (”The Soft Bulletin”) and they make less money in a night than my uncle Phil, the barber (but he does give some snaaaaazzy haircuts).

4. The Beta Band, $5,000 Radiohead’ll run you $100,000. For a fraction of that, you can host their opening act and hope Thom Yorke and Co. tag along. It’s worth it either way.

5. Dilated Peoples, $7,500 For the $125,000 you’d have to pay for a night with P. Diddy, you could get this expert indie crew — who rap circles around Puffy the magic drag — to crash on your couch for, like, a month.

6. Blind Boys of Alabama, $6,000 Great live band, worth every penny. And if you pay ’em in Monopoly money, who’s gonna know?

7. Ja-Rule, $60,000 to $75,000 ”Ja Rule” goes for $125,000, but according to this list, if you add a hyphen, the price drops by 50 percent. What a bargain.

8. Local H, $8,000 They recently auctioned off a live show on eBay. The winning bid was $9,701 — poor bidders could’ve saved some cabbage if they’d done a little research.

9. Vanilla Ice, $5,000 For an extra thou, you get to dangle him off the stage by his ankles.

10. 6 Gig, $500 I have no idea who they are, but I’m willing to pay the fee to find out.

WORST DEALS

1. Carson Daly, $35,000 What the hell could he POSSIBLY do that’s worth that much money?

2. Creed, $200,000 I think I might pay this fee just to get them into my basement so I can lock the door and lose the key.

3. Henry Rollins Spoken Word, $10,000 to $12,500 I’ve spoken a few words to Henry Rollins. Trust me, it ain’t worth 10 grand.

4. Huey Lewis, $100,000 This is the God’s honest truth: Lewis played a free show in the lobby of a hotel I stayed at in Kansas last summer. I went to bed early.

5. Rockapella, $10,000 I REALLY don’t like the sound of that.

6. Paula Poundstone, $15,000 I hear there’s a discount for elementary schools. (Ouch. Sorry.)

7. Insane Clown Posse, $20,000 Why don’t you just spill a couple bottles of RC Cola on the floor and throw up on yourself. That’ll only run you about $3.50.

8. Barenaked Ladies, $100,000 It’s been one week since I lost my mind, and I’m still not willing to pay anywhere NEAR that.

9. 3 Doors Down, $50,000 Why don’t you go back and try the first two doors, okay, fellas? Maybe deaf people live there.

10. Shania Twain, $300,000 This has to be a joke, right? I mean, for that money, I’d rather watch 3 Doors Down six times in a row.

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