Mötley Crüe's War With Guitarist Mick Mars Has Exposed Some Fascinating Band Financials

By on April 26, 2023 in ArticlesMusic News

In the 1980s, Mötley Crüe was all about "girls, girls, girls." Unfortunately, today the rockers are spending significantly more time with "lawyers, lawyers, lawyers." But on the plus side for fans of the music industry's financial workings, the group's growing war with guitarist Mick Mars has exposed some fascinating band financials. For the last four decades, since the band's formation, Mick has been a 25% equal shareholder in Mötley's business entities. That 25% share entitled him to 25% of all band profits from touring, merchandise, royalties etc. At the heart of war today is a suggestion that he relinquish his ownership entirely…

For those of you who were born after 1990, Mötley Crüe is a heavy metal glam band that was founded in 1981 by bassist Nikki Sixx, drummer Tommy Lee and original guitarist/lead vocalist Greg Leon. Leon quit pretty soon after the band was formed. One day, while searching for a replacement, Tommy and Nikki saw an ad in a local music paper that said: "Loud, rude and aggressive guitar player available." That ad was placed by a guitarist named Robert Deal. Bob auditioned and got the gig. Bob Deal is better-know today by his stage name, Mick Mars. For lead singer the group tapped a guy Tommy knew from high school named Vince Neil.

Over the next four decades, that primary foursome would sell over 75 million records worldwide. They sold out stadiums at their peak and are still a popular touring act today.

In the 1990s they wisely decided to forego a $10 million payment they were owed from their record company in exchange for ownership of their master recordings. In December 2021, they sold their masters to BMG for…

$150 million

That amount was split equally by all four members. In other words, all four got $37.5 million.

But it hasn't all been parties and cash windfalls over the last four decades. In fact, the Crüe has seen near-constant ups and downs over the course of their career. Everything from overdoses, countless rehab stints, stolen sex tapes, waning popularity, a dozen ex-wives…

Unfortunately, in recent months Mötley Crüe has been in a decidedly low period thanks to a war that has pit Mick Mars squarely against his longtime band-mates.

Mötley Crüe In 1984 (Photo by Ross Marino/Getty Images)

Retiring From Touring

In October 2022, a month after playing what turned out to be his final live show, Mick Mars announced he was retiring from touring with Mötley Crüe.

The announcement wasn't a shock to fans or his band mates. Not only is Mick in his early 70s (he's a decade older than the other Crüe members), he has suffered from a debilitating disease since his late teens that causes vertebrae in his spine to slowly fuse together over time. This disease caused scoliosis that has resulted in Mars being three inches shorter today than he was in high school.  In the band's 2001 biography "The Dirt," Mars described his pain as such:

"…it felt like someone was igniting fireworks in my bones."

According to Mick's very specifically-worded statement in October 2022, he was "retiring from touring with Mötley Crüe." That sentence is key to this story.

From Mick's point of view, he was simply choosing to no longer tour with the group. He still fully intended to maintain his 25% ownership stake in the band, and therefore enjoy 25% of all profits.

From the band's point of view, outside of touring there was nothing else. They had already sold their masters and publishing rights and they weren't putting out new records that would generate new royalties, masters or publishing rights.

According to Nikki, Tommy and Vince, the only money that the band earns today is from touring, so "retiring from touring" meant retiring from everything and relinquishing ownership. The band felt especially strong about their stance because with Mick gone they had bring on a new full-time replacement guitarist, John 5. And John 5 would like to earn his fair share of the spoils going forward.

As a compromise, Nikki, Tommy and Vince offered Mick 5% of all profits earned from their 2023 stadium tour. A tour he will not have participated in. After the 2023 tour, Mick would no longer own any share of Mötley Crüe.

They eventually upped their offer to 7.5%, but that has not satisfied Mick. He's actually gone somewhat scorched earth, accusing his former band mates of faking their live shows with recorded drums, vocals and bass. A claim the band mostly denies, though they do admit some recorded tracks are used to maintain a certain quality of live performance.

The band has countered with their own scorched earth tactics, recently producing statements from a half dozen touring techs to Variety.com that paint a very negative picture of Mick's abilities in recent years. The techs claim Mick has been known to forget which song he's playing mid-concert, or that he'll randomly start play the wrong song, mid-song.

Could You Live On That?

Speaking with Variety, Allen Kovac, the band's manager of three decades, sounded pretty exasperated about the whole situation. And this is where we learn some fascinating financial details about the group:

"They've got (a 2023 tour) they're about halfway through, so let's (estimate) $150 million (in gross), and then you take off for production and commissions, and let's call it 100 or 110 million. What's seven and a half percent of that? He says it's an insult… I think Mick is part of the 1%. Please put that on the record. … Let's say it was seven and a half percent of $110 million. Could you live on that, even if you have tens of millions already?"

In case it wasn't clear, what Kovac is saying is Mötley Crüe should gross around $150 million from their 2023 tour. After removing costs, there would be $100 million in profits left over. Under normal circumstances, all four members would get $25 million. In the band's offer to Mick, he would earn 7.5% of $100 million for doing nothing. That's $7.5 million earned from the comfort of his home sweet home.

Could you live off that? Knowing that you're already worth tens of millions? FYI, by our count, Mick Mars' net worth is $50 million.

On the other hand, Mick spent four decades building a brand with his band mates. A brand that will likely generate lots of income even outside of touring in the future. For example, merchandise. Or what if the band does put out another album, with John 5, that becomes a huge hit? Shouldn't Mick have some benefit?

Let's hope these guys eventually reach some settlement and don't embark on a never-ending Crüe-sade.

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