DUFF MCKAGAN Says GNR Toured For Two Years Supporting ‘Use Your Illusion’ Just To Break Even

January 4, 2015

Duff McKagan (Guns N Roses, Velvet Revolver, Walking Papers) was recently interviewed on Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta’s official podcast, “The Jasta Show”.

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Interesting conversation.

On the money he still earns from GUNS N’ ROSES’ classic recordings:

Duff: “GUNS N’ ROSES, it’s a big catalog item for the Universal Music Group. It still is. It’s, like, the second biggest catalog item they have. It sells. In 1994, I’d just gotten sober and I was kind of figuring some stuff out. And our lawyer said, ‘We’re gonna audit Geffen,’ audit our record company. Before that, I lived in this sort of fantasy world that they were our partner in this thing. We were going out and attacking the world together. Well, they didn’t pay us on something like six million records. Six million records! That’s what we found. And they said, ‘Okay, fine. We’ll pay you for two. Or you can sue us.’ This is our record company. ‘You can sue us for the rest, but it’s gonna cost you. We have lawyers on staff.’ So you do an audit settlement. So you settle for about a third of what’s owed you. And we’ve done now an audit every three years. And it’s the same [procedure]. It’s not six million anymore. But it’s a hefty number. But you have to settle, or…”

On retaining the ownership of the publishing rights to the songs he co-wrote while he was a member of GUNS N’ ROSES:

Duff: “I may [sell it] when I’m 65 or something. I might. I don’t know if it’s something I wanna pass down [to my children]. I don’t know if I want my kids to [have the attitude of]… ‘Hey, cool, look at this. Free money coming in.’ I don’t know if that’s the right way… That’s a parenting query that I’m going through at this point. My kids are growing up way different than I grew up.”

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On the perception that the members of GUNS N’ ROSES made millions of dollars while touring in support of the 1991 album “Use Your Illusion”:

Duff: “I know we generated a lot of money on that ‘Use Your Illusion’ tour. Oh, crap, we generated a lot of dough. We were also… Our crew was a hundred and thirty people… A hundred and thirty! We had two stages going — we had an ‘A’ stage and a ‘B’ stage going — around the world at all times. That’s why we toured for two and a half years, ’cause it took us two years to break even — just to break even — on that tour.”

On what the record labels and publishers could have done nearly two decades ago to halt the anticipated bleeding from the advent of digital media sharing:

Duff: “[Free online file-sharing service] Napster, in 1997, said, ‘Hey, we didn’t invent the computer or digital music. We didn’t invent this. It’s out there. We have this central site where you can get all the music.’ They were talking to the four major labels. This was ’97. The labels were trying to sue ’em, sue Napster. And Napster was going, ‘You guys, it’s already out there. So we’re getting all this revenue from ads. Here’s what we propose: Just give us all your music. We’ll share in all this hundreds of millions of dollars of ad revenue that we’re getting, and we can probably get that huger now that we’re all together and you can pay your artists. It’s a win-win.’ And the labels, in ’97, basically buried their heads in the sand and said, ‘We’re gonna sue you and take you out.’ And Napster, the whole time, was going, ‘I didn’t invent this. It’s still out there. If it’s not me, it’s gonna be somebody else.’ And he was right. The Napster company was correct that once music was digital and everybody had a desktop computer in ’94, ’95 or ’96, that it was just… It’s gonna be out there. So I don’t know if there is anything we can do to stop that.”

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