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Weezer laughed off an offer of $10 million to break up, but would it really cost that much?

It helped that it was a slow week, but there was an unusual amount of press attention last Wednesday when Seattle man James Burns boldly offered rock band Weezer $10 million to stop making music.

The concept of paying musicians to retire isn’t exactly a new one, but in this case it reflected a real long-held view among part of the band’s fanbase that, well, maybe retirement wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world. Having spent much of the ’90s and early ’00s as a solid ‘album every two or three years’ band, Weezer have released four in the past five years and the dramatic slide in quality has been noticed by all but the most easily-amused fan.

Whether the petition was intended as a joke or a genuine expression of frustration – more than likely both – the band were quick to laugh it off, with drummer Patrick Wilson joking that “if they can make it 20, we’ll do the ‘deluxe breakup’!” Frontman Rivers Cuomo rather missed the point entirely, reassuring fans that “no petition and no amount of money will stop us from being together!” In any case, spoilsport Burns has since shut the petition down.

It’s a pity – it would have been nice if Weezer had at least have pretended to entertain the offer – but would it really have taken the full $10 million to crack them? The evidence suggests not by a long shot.

First of all, let’s look at the offer that was put on the table: $10 million, presumably in the form of a lump sum, payable to all four members of the band in exchange for a promise to keep it in their pants next time. Hardly an unreasonable amount of money, but certainly not a huge amount more than they could anticipate making from sales and touring over the next decade or so.

But let’s look a little more closely at the group. With a few minor exceptions – guest writers on the new album included Ryan Adams, Desmond Child and Linda Perry – Rivers Cuomo writes all of the band’s music and lyrics. While Weezer probably do split mechanical rights (i.e. the performer’s cut of sales revenue) evenly among the four members, album sales have continued to decline steeply in recent years, even for niche groups like Weezer: 2009’s Raditude sold little over half as many copies as the previous year’s Red Album.

More importantly, Cuomo almost certainly runs away with the lion’s share of the publishing rights, which is swiftly becoming the most profitable area of the music business. The biggest potential loser in absolute monetary terms, should a split come to pass, would be Rivers as he could never hope to replicate the band’s commercial success as a solo artist, even if he does have lots and lots of famous friends.

The main earner for all parties, presumably, is touring and performance income and it’s here that the band can reasonably expect to put away a few hundred grand per year provided they stick to their schedule of an album every 18 months. Small change to Rivers, perhaps, but it’s the kind of steady income that will help put the other three members’ kids through college.

The forthcoming Pinkerton tour will provide a financial windfall, but presumably that will be completed before the full hypothetical amount is raised (barring a multi-million dollar donation from a philantropist like John Mayer or Bruce Willis). Similarly, it remains to be seen whether there is residual value in the commercial tie-in with sportswear company Hurley (after which the album is named, not Jorge Garcia’s serial character as the cover suggests).

The large disparity in earning potential between Rivers, on the one hand, and his bandmates on the other points to a rather obvious plan of action: divide and conquer. Burns should simply have excluded Rivers from the original offer. His earning potential is so much greater than the other three that any attempt to include the frontman can only have the effect of driving up the asking price, and significantly so.

What Burns should have done was to make the offer to Patrick Wilson, Brian Bell and Scott Shriner – or, more optimistically, any two of the above. As Rivers has already pointed out, no amount of money could persuade him to give up his cushy career. He’d only be tempted by something completely mad, like Bono’s head on a pike or a hit single that wasn’t totally awful. And neither of those is even remotely plausible.

Without casting mine own eyes over Weezer’s accounts, it’s impossible to know just how much each member makes in a year, but a conservative guess would be that each member might make an average of $200,000 a year in “new” income, i.e. revenue from the most recently-released album and the year’s touring revenue.

$200,000 x 3 x 5 years (reasonable estimate of continued popularity) = $3 million

Add in some punitive costs for the emotional heartbreak inherent in breaking up the band and never talking to Rivers again (hey, accidents happen), and it’s reasonable to suggest the three would accept around-about $3.5 million in exchange for screwing over their bandmate. It’s a dog eat dog world. A more risky bet would be to restrict the offer to just Wilson and Shriner: in that case, a little over $2 million could be enough to break up the band for good.

Now doesn’t that sound a heck of a lot more manageable than $10 million?





Deviant.
10.11.10
DDS handles my accounts

eternium
10.11.10
A lot of thought was put into reading this, can't imagine how much was put into writing it.

AnotherBrick
10.11.10
amazing idea

VicariousIntent
10.11.10
You did a really great job with this. I honestly wish that fund wasn't shut down, but what can ya do. Weezer will keep making awful decisions about where to take their career and it's not going to change.

theacademy
10.11.10
this was a great post more like this

small typo: "a reasonably guess"

also i can't imagine the members of weezer make an average of 100K per year thats nothing... weezer is a huge kid in a shrinking sandbox but they gotta make more than 100K...

Winsomniac
10.11.10
This is probably one of the most entertaining things I've ever read from the staff section. Good one Dave! You're a legend, Dave!

But I do also think they make well over 100k a year.

mynameischan
10.11.10
obviously they do but he's saying the money they're making from their last three or so albums only

couldwinarabbit
10.11.10
this is why the staff blog doesnt suck

qwe3
10.11.10
haha this was great

deathofasalesman
10.11.10
Indeed. Very amusing stuff. The links were a great touch.

theacademy
10.11.10
"I'm only interested in what new money they'd make by staying together since that's what they'd stand to lose."

i got this part, but it's still tough to believe that a charting studio LP + a major tour would net the three of them only 100K each... i mean, the kid from two and a half men makes 300K per week... joe johnson makes 260K per game...

i wonder what the per show figure is for those guys then... if it's like 1-2K per show on a 60-80 gig tour, why aren't they playing more bar mitzvahs and weddings?, because people would definitely pay more than that...

theacademy
10.11.10
also im not disputing your 100K figure just saying its tough to believe... i have no basis to dispute it... how do these guys get on cribs then with only 100K per year...?

DaveyBoy
10.11.10
I think I'd like the album more if I just kept on thinking it was named after the Lost character. Way to ruin Christman Dave.

DaveyBoy
10.11.10
Christmas, which is named after Christman. LOL.

eternium
10.11.10
100K per year is a lot of damn money. But that's not including revenue from older album sales, of which they probably have a lot that they've kept. Davey seems to be easily amused.

Emim
10.11.10
Christman, ha ha.

Article was really great, although with the recent amount of bus crashes it wouldn't be unreasonable to just hope for a terrible auto accident within the next 3-5 years.

SwagChef
10.11.10
Great blog post, Dave.

tiesthatbind
10.11.10
I'm now sick of seeing the name Weezer. Great read, Dave.

mynameischan
10.11.10
oh man is cribs still a show

ThePalestMexican
10.11.10
More people are becoming jobless and homeless by the minute, and even more are barely living from paycheck to paycheck.

And Weezer is turning down $10 million for them to stop working.

StreetlightRock
10.11.10
Dave wins the staff blog

klap
10.11.10
what's your hourly consulting rate dave

FadeToBlack
10.11.10
haha

TMobotron
10.11.10
yeah man really good read good job on this

alachlahol
10.11.10
150K is a pretty piddly amount even for the non-frontmen of the band. i would be surprised if those guys were making under 300K each annually. and that's regarding 'new money'

AliW1993
10.11.10
Very interesting read, I wouldn't want them to break up now scene as Hurley was a bigg step in the right direction.

ZKG777
10.11.10
I'm concerned about the staff on sputnik.

Nagrarok
10.11.10
So I keep hearing about this band called Weezer...

o971
10.12.10
Imagine if they only released EPs.

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