How do local artists make money? with the support of their community.
After get off work at the Replay Lounge on Friday night, bartender Emma Hopkins came home to the familiar sight of people lounging on sofas, smoking on patios and listening to music in basements.
The rental property near Hopkins Plaza doubles as a space for musicians to showcase their talents to 50 to 100 guests. It can also serve as a way for local and touring talent to earn money through their performances.
Local musicians make up a large part of the town’s culture, however, their cultural contributions are often not given significant financial incentives.
According to the Cost of Living Organization’s website, the cost of living in Lawrence, Kansas in 2022 is just under $1,500 per month, while a starting musician in Kansas can earn an average of $10.64 per hour or $1,844 per month, according to Career Explorer. . The median salary for musicians of all levels in Kansas is $18.66.
The median hourly wage in Missouri is slightly higher at $22.54, with a low of $10.30 and a high of $59.01, or an average of $3,906 per month. Career Explorer calculates these wages based on past wages submitted by users and external data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Despite these averages, the occupation’s lack of consistency means that many local musicians take up service jobs in shops, restaurants and bars. Local DJ Chance Penner falls into this category. Penner works as a bartender and DJ at the Replay Lounge on Wednesday and Saturday nights.
“I like to have fun,” Penner said. “I love the lighting and visuals, as well as the sound that complements the club vibe and looks great on the look. Sharing that energy with those around me is what makes my work truly amazing.”
But Lawrence locals don’t necessarily have to be there to listen to live music. Buskers are often heard playing tips in downtown Lawrence. While locals and kids may be delighted with the sound of live music, street performance isn’t exactly lucrative.
Ricky Dreg established a foothold at 927 Massachusetts Street, where he earned an average of $20 a day singing and playing guitar. An Olathe native and US veteran, Dreg has been with Lawrence for the past decade. He got an apartment last year through Veterans Affairs. But to his dismay, Veterans Affairs doesn’t cover all his expenses.
“It’s just staying here until you make what you need. That means some days, you know, they can be better or worse, or longer or shorter, but you have to make it in between choice,” Dreger said.
Live performances are a proven way to grow your followers and make money from your audience in real time. Lawrence is home to several local music venues.
Nick Carroll is the owner of live hotspot Replay Lounge.
“The coolest thing about Lawrence is that we really have all the venues, and they’re machines that work well because we make a lot of music,” Carrol said.
Fortunately for emerging artists, bars with smaller capacities exist. Replay Lounge works mainly with local and smaller bands. Replay’s booking agent, Jake Little, encourages small artists to perform live.
“If you’re local and you want to perform, I’ll do my best to do it,” Little said.
According to Little, Replay Lounge pays artists about 94 percent of what they collect at the door. The only exceptions are sales tax and audio maintenance costs, which are about 6%. No cash came from the door to the bar itself. The premium is $3 per person, which appeals to a wider audience who may not be familiar with performing bands but want a place to hang out.
The Little Book shows six to seven shows a week on Replay: usually only one show on Saturday, and two shows on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Different days and times can bring a variety of audiences, but according to owner Nick Carroll, an essential element of Replay’s audience is a love of music.
Another way to make money at a live show is by selling merchandise. A local business and sister company to screen printing business Blue Collar Press, MerchTable sells custom printed merchandise to artists across the country such as Lucy Dacus, JPEG Mafia, Yung Gravy and more. Hazel Ingram, an employee of the company, said some artists have opted to work with Midwestern companies to make merchandise for easy shipping.
Ingram has worked for MerchTable, Blue Collar Press and independently merchandising for touring bands. The company distributes branded merchandise such as T-shirts, long sleeves, hats, vinyl records, stickers and tapes to bands and musicians.
“People underestimate how much money you make out of merchandise. I’ve done some shows and we’ve done more with merchandise than doors,” Ingram said.
Ingram’s profits range from $300 to $900 while working with touring bands. A basic T-shirt for smaller bands typically sells for $20 to $25, while bands with a larger following tend to charge more, Ingram said. While an initial investment is required, the potential return from selling the item can offset the cost by just selling the item.
Lawrence has a history of young people building their stage to showcase local talent. In the late ’80s and throughout the ’90s, there was one venue that Nick Carroll described as “more legendary than the venue”. The outhouse is known for the artists who perform there. According to The Outhouse documentary, this includes Keith Morris, Henry Rollins, Blag Dahlia, Danny Roadkill and Ice T. The Outhouse draws national artists to rural Kansas to perform in unmoderated punk rock venues.
Originally from Gretna, Nebraska, Emma Hopkins recently graduated from KU with a degree in Female Sexuality and Gender Studies, and moved to Lawrence because of its proximity to Kansas City’s music scene.
Hopkins was inspired by the Lawrence music scene’s historic venue outhouse, when they converted their basement into a toilet. Hopkins books local and touring bands via social media. When Hopkins sees an artist or band anywhere from Colorado to Chicago, they ask if they want to play at Lawrence, either at the toilet bowl or on reruns, where they work as bartenders.
Hopkins took a lot of inspiration from the Lawrence scene in the ’90s, especially when it came to making posters for their events.
“I look at the pictures my friends are taking now for KC and Lawrence’s DIY show, and these look like pictures of an outhouse,” Hopkins said. “They have the same energy, like unbridled chaos and joy. People are just having fun, and it’s amazing that music can do that.”
Toilets work differently than commercial establishments, and there is no charge to enter. The basement can accommodate 50 to 100 guests, but no one is counting. Hopkins and her roommate would encourage people to pay what they could when night fell, but didn’t ask to do so.
In a show on July 22, 2022, there are Four Acts: Rue, Luke Petet, Jalyn Ezra and Juliette Frost. The toilet collected $250 in donations, a better-than-average night, with each artist taking $62.
Hopkins is very familiar with local music, having worked at KJHK and now Replay.
“The thing about local music that also makes it so important…is that local musicians really don’t do it for anyone but themselves…no local artist makes enough money to Make music,” Hopkins said. “They’re all jobs, it’s like going on with life while being a student.”
A career as a musician has always been hectic, not a guaranteed payday. However, if you are willing to work for it, there are local opportunities to start increasing your income as an artist.
While Hopkins isn’t making money by booking artists right now, they do think they’ve been doing it for a while.
“If I could afford to pay rent on a space where I could book my own gig and like to have my own space and literally run it…I think — that’s my dream,” Hopkins said. Kins says