So you wanna be in a rock band?: Rock on...
With that said however, there’s no need to despair, as I promise you that all of my articles will remain accessible (in full) online, and anytime you wish to field questions my way via email, I’ll be more than happy to respond.
In what seems like a short time together, we’ve covered everything from finding the right bandmates, to booking your first gig, to generating press coverage, to music piracy, to album sales certification, to Canada’s grant associations, and even drug use and sexism in the music biz. I’ve done my best to answer all of the questions that I once had when I first began my musical journey as a wide-eyed naïve 15-year-old with rockstar aspirations. It only seems appropriate, as I lay my column down to rest, to revisit some of the initial pieces of advice that I offered in “So You Wanna be in a Rock Band?’s” very first issue. I feel these words hold just as much, if not more, truth today than they did when I initially wrote them.
So, if you truly wanna be in a rock band, I suggest that you take them to heart. In the words of one highly respected industry expert with whom I had the pleasure of speaking earlier this year, “the world doesn’t owe you anything, and being a musician is supposed to be hard. If your stuff isn’t good enough, or if the public chooses not to like it, there’s nothing you can do about it,” (Alan Cross).
1. There is no such thing as an educational program that can ever prepare you for the harsh reality of how the music industry actually functions.
2. You may be the greatest innovator and songwriter since John Lennon, but if you can’t sell 10,000 CDs without label support, good luck and God-speed.
3. If you want to be successful on any level in the music biz, the first thing you need to realize is that NO ONE, and I mean no one, will work harder than you on promoting your music and/or band. So, if you don’t have much of a work ethic, I suggest you pursue other interests.
4. One of the biggest misconceptions about the music industry is that once you are signed, your work ends. Wrong....it only gets harder, because now you are competing in the big leagues with bands who are not only signed, but have full time publicists and booking agents working around the clock to get their name out there. Oh wait... I’m sure you thought that a label would provide you with a booking agent and publicist once you signed a contract with them right? Wrong again!
5. If you think that being a musician will lead to immediate gratification and financial remuneration, you couldn’t be more off, especially if you are an original act. Believe it or not, in general, cover and tribute acts (without representation) are compensated about ten times that of an original act for a single show.
6. Further on the subject of making money… in order to attain a position of financial and career stability (of course, it can never be entirely stable), musicians often work for ten-to-15 years and then finally, just when they think they’ve had enough, they break. In other words, there is NO such thing as an “overnight success.”
7. There is always the risk of becoming a one- hit-wonder. Labels, plain and simply, just want to make money, and musicians are a dime-a-dozen. Don’t think for a second that they care about your integrity, dignity, or the longevity of your career. If a label can make the most profit off of one single, than that is the route they will take.
8. The word “fair” does not exist in this industry, nor does “honesty.” Promises are broken everyday, and as I said before, I cannot stress enough how important it is to realize that the music industry functions as any big business.
9. If you are not marketable, you will not be successful. Music industry execs don’t want to take risks with something that may or may not sell. Hence, the reason why you see trends constantly regurgitated, and why next to every band on the radio sounds the same.
10. Please, if you wanna be in a rock band, do it for the right reasons: a love of music, because you want to inspire others, or so that you can act as a positive rolemodel for future generations.
I wish you all the best of luck in your musical journeys, and remember, music saves lives.
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