Fame & Fortune: Rocker Duncan Sheik

Bankrate: Does that mean you've never received a royalty from "Barely Breathing?"

Duncan Sheik: No. That's why I talk about publishing. I've absolutely received royalties from "Barely Breathing" and from many other songs from soundtracks or television shows, but that's all publishing income -- master and sync uses and mechanical royalties, things of that nature. That's really the way I've been able to keep a roof over my head and a warm meal in my belly. That being said, I did go through a period -- which was kind of the past eight years, and one of the reasons I started doing stuff in theater -- where it was kind of tricky to make ends meet. Because if I'm touring with a full band in a bus, it costs me $30,000 a week. So I have to be getting pretty good guarantees in these rock clubs to be able to afford that, and it's very hard with where I'm at as a touring artist. Sometimes I made money, and sometimes I didn't. But that can be true of Bruce Springsteen. And in terms of records and record sales, the way the business is set up, of course I'd get an advance. I'd be able to put some money in the bank. But unless you're selling a million records every time, you're not going to see a lot of royalties from albums. And I wasn't -- so I wasn't. The revenue stream had to continue to be from publishing and ancillary things, like public appearances, or one-off shows where you might get a really good guarantee because it was a special show. That's how I kept the ship afloat. But it was not easy, and it hasn't been until this year with "Spring Awakening" on Broadway, where I had a consistent income. Things are more comfortable now, and I don't have to always go from show to show to pay my mortgage. And when "Spring Awakening" recoups, and when it goes on the road and happens internationally, Steven and I and Michael stand to do really well. So all of us are crossing our fingers that that happens.

Bankrate: At this stage -- where the show is a hit, but a new hit -- have you seen any of the benefit from it yet, or is that all looking forward?

Duncan Sheik: I do, of course, because as the composer of the show there's a certain amount of money per week, a minimum, that I get paid. I'm not going out and buying Ferraris, but it's definitely better than what I was getting. There's a saying in musical theater: You can't make a living, but you can make a killing. It's really kind of true. Here's one scenario. We could have done "Spring Awakening" at the Atlantic -- and I love the Atlantic, they're amazing -- but from that whole process, and the seven years leading up to that, I think my entire income from that run was less than $10,000. Think about working on a piece of theater for seven years and getting paid $10,000. It's crazy. But then, once the show goes to Broadway, and certainly once the show recoups, then you're talking another order of magnitude of income.

Bankrate: Up until now, what was the hardest time for you?

Duncan Sheik: It was touch and go for a while. I remember when (his album) "Daylight" came out, which was like, 2002, and I was doing the music for "Twelfth Night" right after I finished recording that album. I had been able to buy a loft in TriBeCa (a neighborhood in Manhattan, N.Y.) in 1999. So I had a piece of real estate which was now valuable, but I still had a pretty big mortgage, and like I said, there wasn't a huge amount of consistent income. So at that moment I was waiting for a couple of decent-sized checks, but they hadn't come in yet and I wasn't sure when they were coming in, and I literally had no money in my bank account. Zero. That was pretty scary, to have done your fourth record on a major label and be gearing up to go on tour, and to not have any money in the bank. That's a bad scene.

Bankrate: Seeing how well "Spring Awakening" is doing, do you think the success for you will be greater than your success from "Barely Breathing?"

Duncan Sheik: Far, far greater. No question about it. It's also the fact that the success of "Spring Awakening" has made it possible for Steven and I to get our other shows rolling. The momentum for these shows is really great right now, and it seems like the work I'm doing in the theater will continue to be a great thing for me financially.

Bankrate: Overall, have you done a good job of saving or investing, other than your home?

Duncan Sheik: It really has gone into my home, and into various things I've been doing. I have a recording studio in my loft, so I'm always investing back into my means of production. I'm constantly upgrading my studio and buying different instruments and guitars and outboard gear and microphones, and esoteric things that sound really great. That's kind of where I've spent my money when I've had it. Look, I'm 37 now. It's time to be an adult and start having proper investments, so I think Steven and I really want to start having a financial stake in our own shows. So I'm sure in the future, I'll be investing in myself in that way.


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