It's always encouraging to hear about bands that can maintain longevity in the ever-changing music industry. But for Seattle pop rockers the Posies, it wasn't just a case of putting out a new album every two or three years. Instead, the members of the band, best known for their 1990 Geffen Records debut, Dear 23, have had to branch out, scaling down the group's activities while taking on production work and other projects.
In an interview with NPR, Posies guitarist/vocalist Jon Auer talked about how the band survived their major label years (the band still owes Geffen money) and came away with careers that actually make them a solid living. He also shed some light on how label advances can backfire on bands tgat aren't hyper-aware of their spending.
"If you look at what [the A&R guys] send you - eventually - these amazing itemized statements, you're gonna find every hotel room they ever stayed at," Auer said. "I mean, if [an A&R guy] went and bought baseball cards, they probably put it on your account. It was amazing to sit down and look at and realize it was all on your dime, basically."
While the band probably will never see any royalties from their key major label offerings released in the '90s, the most money they ever made was due to song appearances in two hit movies: Reality Bites and The Basketball Diaries.
"We made a lot of money," said Auer. "I mean, I think we had a $250,000 publishing advance, and I think just off those two movies we managed to recoup that entire advance and make money on top of that."
The band left Geffen for Bellingham, WA indie PopLlama Records in the late '90s and made more money selling 25,000 copies of an indie record than they ever did during their major label heyday. It's a model that Auer said can work for any band with an established fan base.
"I actually saw a cheque for that record that went in my pocket," Auer told NPR. "I never saw a cheque from the sales of any of the records I've made on the major labels."
Now, Auer and Posies co-founder Ken Stringfellow have moved into the world of record producing, recording engineering and backing up other bands, working with everyone from R.E.M. and Snow Patrol to Monostereo and Tad.
Meanwhile, the Posies have kept active over the years, releasing records and touring when they can. But modesty is the key word. They don't use tour buses, fancy hotels or over-market their music, instead opting to keep it real and manageable.
Ultimately, it's not about the money. "I love what I do and I get to do what I love," Auer said. "That's amazing currency in my estimation."