FEAR FACTORY's DINO CAZARES Speaks Out Against Venues Taking Cut Of Artists' Merchandise Sales: 'You're Basically Paying To Play'

September 7, 2023

In a new interview with Heavy Debriefings, FEAR FACTORY guitarist Dino Cazares once again opened up about the realities of post-pandemic touring, including increased travel expenses — gas, tour buses, hotels and flight costs. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "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."

Dino also addressed the fact that many venues require bands to pay them a percentage of their merchandise sales. Commonly that split is 20/80, meaning for every dollar a band makes selling a t-shirt, the venue gets 20 cents. It's an accepted industry standard that understandably riles touring bands, especially those acts for whom merch income is still crucial for ensuring that a tour is profitable.

"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,'" Dino explained. "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."

Cazares added that the bands have little choice but to go along with the scheme. "That's the way the cookie crumbles, man," he said. "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 previously talked about venues' insistence on collecting cuts from artist merch sales this past July in an interview with The Razor's Edge. Asked if the merchandise cuts that the promoters are taking from artists are getting larger than they were in the past, Dino said: "Yes. That's been the whole debate, that it's been getting larger and larger. Of course there's always been a percentage that you have to give to venues. That's just how it is. Merch percentage — we're talking about merch percentage. But, of course, it's getting higher and higher. So, unfortunately, the fans are the ones who have to pay for that, because once the merch percentages get higher that the venue takes, then you're gonna have to raise your prices on a t-shirt. That's just inevitable and that's unfortunate, [but] that's what happens."

When the interviewer pointed out to Dino that artists do not get a cut of any of the alcohol that is sold in the venues where they are performing, Cazares said: "It's not just the promoters and the club venues; it's also the ticket agencies. It's all a big thing. It's not one thing — it's all of it. And you're right — we do not get a percentage of the alcohol at all whatsoever. But I did hear that there was one artist that did that, and that was Axl Rose. Axl Rose was putting GUNS N' ROSES in stadiums — in soccer stadiums and baseball stadiums — selling out 40, 50 thousand people, but he was, like, 'If you want GUNS N' ROSES in your stadium, you're gonna have to give me a piece of the alcohol,' And I heard a rumor that he got a piece of that alcohol percentage, which is really good. Which probably evened out to what [the promoters] were getting from the merch percentage. But not a lot of artists in my genre have that kind of power, if at all."

Last month, Dino told ADK Metal News, Reviews, Reactions & Interviews that FEAR FACTORY will tour the U.S. and Europe this fall and then embark on a "killer package" U.S. two-month tour in late January. "And then we've got some festivals — April, May, June and probably August [of 2024]," he said. "Then, in the summer, I need to take the summer off to finish the new record, get it out and then get back on the road probably by October, November next year again."

He continued: "It's a lot of planning. We're getting asked to do a lot of things and right now I've been saying yes, just to try to get the band back out there, try to get the band to rebuild our large live credibility. We want the fans to come back. And then you hit 'em with a new song and then you hit 'em with a new album. And you just get back out there and do it again."

An early instrumental version of a new FEAR FACTORY song called "Roboticist" was made available in March to promote Toneforge Disruptor, a virtual guitar rig plugin and standalone app.

Cazares told BLABBERMOUTH.NET about "Roboticist", which was mixed by longtime FEAR FACTORY collaborator Damien Rainaud: "Initially it was just going to be a instrumental for the plugin, but it came out so good that I decided to make it a song for the new album. Maybe the album will be called the 'Roboticist'. It fits so well with our concept."

FEAR FACTORY's next LP will be the band's first with the Italian-born vocalist Milo Silvestro, whose addition to FEAR FACTORY was officially announced in late February.

FEAR FACTORY played its first headlining concert with Silvestro and touring drummer Pete Webber on May 5 at the Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood, California.

FEAR FACTORY's recently completed "Rise Of The Machine" U.S. tour as the support act for STATIC-X marked the Cazares-led outfit's first run of shows with Silvestro and Webber.

Webber has been filling in for FEAR FACTORY's longtime drummer Mike Heller who is unable to play with the band due to "scheduling conflicts."

FEAR FACTORY will play a one-off show on September 17 at the Metal Injection Festival where the band will perform a very special "Demanufacture" and "Obsolete" set. FEAR FACTORY will then launch a five-date headlining "DisrupTour" with special guests LIONS AT THE GATE, which will kick off on October 7. This will be followed by the band heading out on the "October Dawn 2023" tour with headliners LACUNA COIL and openers LIONS AT THE GATE. The 10-date trek will begin on October 13 in Atlanta and make stops in Louisville, Oklahoma City, and Houston before concluding in St. Petersburg on October 29.

FEAR FACTORY will embark on a European tour this fall. The 44-date trek will mark the band's first European shows since 2016. Joining them on this run are BUTCHER BABIES from the USA and IGNEA from Ukraine.

FEAR FACTORY's latest album, "Aggression Continuum", was released in June 2021 via Nuclear Blast Records. The LP, which was recorded primarily in 2017, features Cazares and former singer Burton C. Bell alongside Heller.

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