So you want to be in a rock band?: The Facts: It’s not easy being a musician
Consumers and club owners feel no need to pay us well (or at all really), record labels make it their personal mission to exploit and commodify us in every which way they can. Technology allows even the most talentless people imaginable (ah hem Paris Hilton) to pawn themselves off as “artists” and there are innumerable scams lurking around every corner just waiting to steal what little resources we have, often the only way we can attain mainstream success is by abandoning our principles and deeply held values. If we are to survive all of these hardships and merit for ourselves just the slightest bit of celebrity, the fans who once respected us as being “underground” and “indie” will degrade our newly found popularity by claiming that we are “sellouts” - that we’ve gone mainstream - failing to appreciate that just like every other professional, we deserve to be paid for our work.
As if the transience of fame wasn’t enough to contend with, the criticisms with which musicians have to bear are well beyond the realm of “constructive” or “insightful”. Instead, they are laden with downright personal attacks, dehumanizing irreverence, and unfortunately, poorly researched and written from a place of sheer ignorance (yet that doesn’t impede their impact on consumer purchases).
All of this, of course, brings to mind the question: Why the hell do we do what we do? Simply put, musicians are a breed of their own, one that wider society rarely understands, yet is so quick to judge.
Being a musician is not simply a decision - something that can be switched on/off on a whim - it’s a calling, a central piece to our identity, something we live with every day, and something we take with us to the grave. And though it may not make sense to the rest of the world, we refuse to go down without a good fight - if only the sides weren’t stacked so unfairly against us, maybe we’d have a chance. But, my friends, I hope you’ve been paying attention, because if you have, you’ll have noticed that change is on the horizon as the industry has proven that its current infrastructure is in need of a radical overhaul, if it is to survive. This overhaul may prove to be the very remedy that musicians have been seeking for years - a means to take back what rightfully belongs to us: our industry, our music, our art. So then, why the grim introduction?
Well, as you’ll learn over our year together, I’ve never been one for sugar-coating the truth, and in my humble opinion, there are enough music rags out there that gloss over these pertinent details, and instead continue to perpetuate the long-standing myth that artists can be overnight successes. To break it down more simply, I don’t believe in bullshitting, and feel that you, my fellow rockers, and greater society deserves more, and I intend on fulfilling that void in the best way that I know how. But enough with the prelude already, I’m sure you’re wondering who exactly am I and what makes me so credible?
After years of being signed to a major label, touring incessantly, selling out concerts, and being graced with multiple prestigious awards in the indie music community, yet still struggling to make ends meet, it occurred to me, after a fan of my band’s snarkily remarked at us that we should be buying him and all of his friends Jaguars, that the average person, moreover, the average musician, doesn’t have a clue as to how the music industry actually works!
After my own experiences, I can honestly say that I’m not surprised in the least why so many artists end up embittered and strung out on drugs, because let’s face the facts straight-up: it’s set up for you to fail, and if you are successful, you often lose your soul in the process.
I’m not here to bitch and moan about all that I think is fucked up about the industry, rather as an advice and insight columnist. I’m here to not only try to help you avoid making the same mistakes that I did, but as well, I hope to try and inspire change - not just within the music community. I hope to bring to light the truth about the lives of musicians to anyone who is willing to listen. So if you’ve got a story to share, please do, I’d be honoured to act as your voice - to share the blood, sweat, and tears that you, just as I have, exuded for your craft.
Many philosophers have said, over the years, that the first step to progress is education, and I really think that they are onto something. What I’m about to share with you, over the next few months, will not be found in any textbook, lecture, or popular music magazine. Though I value all that the educational system has to offer, there are some things that only real life experience can teach you. So, consider this your first step towards a real musical educational - if you really wanna be in a rock band, I hope you’re paying attention. And just as I’ve said every year previous, if you have any ideas for topics you’d like me to cover over our year together, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
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Next Issue: Rockstars with Brains? I Never Thought the Two Could Co-Exist!