Rodney Holder of Australia's Music Business Facts recently conducted an interview with former PANTERA and current HELLYEAH drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott. You can now listen to the chat using the audio player below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On whether HELLYEAH is a company or a partnership:
Vinnie: "We're just a partnership. We're a partnership, and from the very beginning, we said that we wanted to divide everything fairly between all [of us], including songwriting, publishing, tour income, this, that and the other. And that way, we feel like everybody really puts everything they have into the band. Whereas a lot of bands, they might be built around one guy, and he's the guy that's going home with all the money and the other guys are very envious, going home with very little and don't put much into it. So I really like the way we have things structured with HELLYEAH and the fact that it is a democracy and we all put everything that we have into it and we all share thing equally. I think it's the best way, but, unfortunately, not a lot of bands function that way."
On whether HELLYEAH is still selling physical product or if the band is pushing more towards streaming and downloading as a source of revenue from its music:
Vinnie: "Well, all of that is part of the revenue, but, really, the main sources of revenue for bands anymore are pretty much your live performance and merchandise. Music sales are so weak and so down 'till it's almost a dead breed. I mean, back in the day, if you didn't sell a million records… Well, you had to sell a million to [be considered a success], and nowadays if you sell a hundred thousand records, that's a milestone — that is like a platinum record, you know. The current record that we have [2014's 'Blood For Blood'], we sold a little over seventy thousand units now, and the record company thinks it's a huge success. I mean, twelve years ago, if you sold seventy thousand records, they'd drop you; that just wouldn't be any good. So, it is a different world out there, and the income streams have definitely become smaller and smaller. Thank god they can't take the live show away from us; they can't steal it. You can watch it or on DVD or listen to it or record it, but there's nothing like being at a live show. And if the band is great live and really puts on that energy and the people wanna come back, that's your bread and butter; that's where you make your money."
On his recent comment that music hasn't fully supported him financially since 2000:
Vinnie: "Well, it is very difficult. I would hate to be in a brand new band and be twenty years old and hoping I could make it to METALLICA status or something, because it's just a different business world out there — it's completely different. Luckily, I invested in a lot of things very well when I was coming up, and that was the business side of me. I was always focused on the music, and that was really important, but I made some really good investments — you know, I bought some strip clubs and sports bars, and stuff like that, that continue to make me money all the time. [I got involved in] a bus company that I used for many, many years, so I wouldn't have to rent 'em, which saved me a ton of money. So, a lot of different things like that that I got involved in. I did my own record company for a while and found out that it's very difficult to make money from that, and it's a tough business, and that's why I got out of it, man."
On whether he has other people looking after his non-music-related businesses so that he can focus on HELLYEAH:
Vinnie: "Well, luckily, I do have people that I trust that are great general managers, and people that are partners in some of these businesses that I'm part of, and I really feel comfortable that things are being run the way I want. And then I take my time to make my rounds to all of 'em and make sure they are being run the way I want them. The one or two that weren't being run the way I wanted, or that there were partners that I didn't like, I got rid of 'em and I don't deal with it. [It's] like anything, man — you've gotta have a good team to make anything work. I can't be at all those places at one time, and when I'm on tour, I can't be at the management agency, or I can't be at the booking agency and help them do their job. I have to be able to count on them. So you've just gotta have a great team. You can't do it by yourself, man."
On whether he thinks he would need a record label if he was starting his first band today, or if he thinks up-and-coming acts can do it independently:
Vinnie: "You know, I wish things were back to the traditional way where people held the vinyl and they looked at the record and they knew everything about your band. Today's world is so 'here today, gone this afternoon,' 'I'll download this one song. Who cares what the band is? I just downloaded eighteen songs from eighteen different bands that I love.' They don't really get in touch with the bands [like] they used to. So, record companies are… I think they're gonna be around, and hopefully some day they'll find a way to beat what's been going on with the digital system and everything, but I don't think we'll ever see a day again when there's record companies pumping out two or three million records a week. I mean, I think there was only one band last year that had a platinum record. I can't remember who… Taylor Swift or somebody like that. And that was it. And that's just a huge decrease, you know. So, anybody can put out a CD and say it's on a record label, or this and that and the other. I really wouldn't know exactly how to approach starting a new band. I don't delve in management or anything like that. But I would just say it would be very difficult, man. If you look at the bands that are headlining all these festivals these days, there's no new bands — it's always METALLICA, it's always AEROSMITH, it's always JUDAS PRIEST, VAN HALEN, KISS… It's all these bands that have been around for forty years. The only band I can think of that's come along in the last ten or fifteen years that can headline festivals is LINKIN PARK, and that's really about it. Maybe SLIPKNOT [as well]. There really hasn't been the kind of artist development that there used to be. [When some of these older bands start retiring and they can't play anymore], it's gonna be a shock to the concert system, man. Live Nation and AEG and all these people are gonna have to figure out a way to turn some of these other bands into headliners. Either that or the festivals are gonna go away, you know, because every year, if you look at [the festival headlining acts], it's one of those bands that's been around forever."
On whether he supports streaming music services like Spotify and Apple Music:
Vinnie: "Once again, it's something that would be out of my control. The record company, once you hand them the masters, they own them and they can do whatever they want with them. Whether I agree with what they do with them or not is not gonna matter at the end of the day. So I just think the most important thing is to get your music to as many people as you can get it, and hopefully they like it and they become fans and they wanna come see the live show. Because, like I said, you really don't make any money off record sales or radio airplay, or any of that — it really comes down to your live show anymore. And the merchandise, without a doubt."