No I can’t make you famous. No one can. That’s not how this works. So why do people like me need to explain this to musicians all the time? Fame is a very intangible thing – and in this day and age it’s largely purchased. By hiring a producer, manager or promoter you’re probably not going to get famous right away. In fact, even having rad music and an entire team behind you does not guarantee that you will make it. It’s only one step forward. Here’s the thing – we live in a world where fame is bought – and any one who tells you otherwise, or that it was ‘better back in their day’ is woefully misguided.
Here’s the thing – even bands you love for their underground roots only made it because they dumped tons of money into their art before ever getting big. Black Sabbath never would have made it if they hadn’t all given up their jobs to rehearse full time and lived with their parents. Meanwhile Nirvana couldn’t have released Nevermind if they hadn’t all saved their money by living in shitty apartments and touring all the time to promote their debut record Bleach. Maybe you don’t want that kind of fame – but even self sustaining bands require ridiculous personal investment – personal investment that no one can really give you – you have to do it yourself. Music is hard because you need to put in a ton of money to even reach stability – and more bands need to realize this.
In fact, and I can not emphasize this enough, if you’re just in a band you’re probably never going to make any money at this. Even if you tour Europe and Asia – you will probably only end up self sustaining – or maybe making a couple hundred bucks a year. A guy like Chuck Billy, the singer of Testament, a man who has sold hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of records and headlined tons of festivals realizes this and runs his own management company to compensate. That’s just the nature of the beast – and the sooner you accept that the easier your life will become. Can you build your band with the goal of it being a career? Of course – in fact I would even recommend that. It will help you to establish something special. But don’t think that it will ever come true.
Now a lot of this stuff you can do yourself for free – but you have to realize that it requires a diverse range of skills and will require a ton of your own time. So much so, that it probably isn’t humanly possible after a certain point. Just the level of networking required is so high that in most cases it could drive you insane. Again – such is the nature of the beast. Even with the right sort of friends you’ll probably find yourself forced to take buy-ons and end up on incredibly long tours that are simply punishing both physically and mentally – but that’s a huge part of what makes the triumph at the end of the tunnel so great.
I’m sure you’ve had that old lecture a million times. That the music industry requires hard work and rarely pays off. But here’s the thing – even your friends who are professionals in the music industry are probably barely scraping by and can’t bring you up ‘just because’. They are going to need some money too. They can introduce you to people and help get your name out there – but even your manager is not going to be able to invest a grand into you with the hope that one day it will somehow pay off. Getting professional people around you is just the start of your music career. It’s the baseline that everyone else who does this full time has. It doesn’t mean that you’re superior to anyone, outside of perhaps the local bands you originally found yourself competing with.
These things cost money – this industry is a struggle for a reason. And to be honest – people who are willing to do stuff for free probably shouldn’t be trusted. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t occasionally step up and take one for the team, just to get some connections or life experiences – but as a general rule – if it sounds too good to be true (Or too cheap to be true) then it isn’t. The reason that not everyone is an artist is because it’s a lot of fucking work and the people who have the passion, love, and incredible sense of dedication that you need to have are extremely rare. As Tomàs Doncker likes to say “Everyone is full of shit. Until they’re not.” As I’ve written in previous articles the music industry is capitalism in its purest form – and if you’re not ready to embrace that, then you might as well turn around and go home.
So what does this mean for you exactly? Well, really it just means that you need to take the time to really think about the consequences of your actions and remember that the people doing this professionally doing this professionally and need to be paid accordingly. The music industry is no place for coward and it requires a very real sense of ballsiness to make this entire thing work .So be ready o embrace a darker future and one that requires a lot of work to really get going. Be grateful to everyone – they are almost certainly doing the best they can. They are more than just a service though – they are a person too, and they need to be respected, even if they are giving their all for the art. If you conduct yourself with a spirit of maturity, respect and friendliness in this industry then things can only go well – I guarantee it.