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Metallica’s ‘Master of Finance’ Explains Band’s Rush to Play European Markets

Metallica
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Everyone knows about the constantly fluctuating exchange rates between the American dollar and foreign currency, but most people don’t give any thought to how it might impact rockers’ touring plans.

Cliff Burnstein, manager of Metallica, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and other big-name bands, is an exception — and his close eye on the financial meltdown in Europe will directly affect the acts that overseas audiences can expect to see over the next few years.

“We’re a U.S. export the same way Coca-Cola is,” Burnstein explained during a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal. “We look for the best markets to go to.” And right now, market instability means that Burnstein’s acts will end up visiting those “best markets” as quickly and as often as possible.

“Look, I’m not an economist, but I have a degree, so it helps,” Burnstein told the WSJ. “You have to ask yourself, what’s the best time to be doing what, when and where.” For Metallica, this means bumping up their plans for a 2013 European tour, and instead taking a 2012 “European Summer Vacation” that will include dates in Germany, Austria, and Britain.

For the Chili Peppers, it meant putting off plans for a U.S. tour in order to visit Latin America this fall. As Burnstein points out, the Chili Peppers — along with a number of other bands — see most of their touring revenue from non-U.S. audiences, and in order to maximize their return, they need to match the financial markets to their plans.

The fluctuating dollar can impact artists directly, as Loaded/ex-Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan discovered on a European jaunt a long time back, when he unwittingly dropped 40 large on some Italian suits. The experience inspired him to take business courses, which in turn led to his gig as the finance columnist for Playboy, and eventually led to McKagan launching a wealth management firm for his fellow musicians.

The bottom line?

The immediate future looks bright for overseas fans of American artists. “Over the next few years, the dollar will be stronger and the euro weaker, and if that’s the case, I want to take advantage of that by playing more of these [European] shows now, because they will be more profitable for us,” said Burnstein. His sentiments were echoed by promoter Bill Zysblat, who said simply, “A weak dollar is the best thing for American rock ‘n’ roll.”

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