I just finished reading an old book of mine that I’ve previously read before. It’s actually quite interesting to do that as your perception of information has a tendency to change depending on where you are in your life. All of a sudden there are elements that become relevant that were mere background noise previously.
So I read a book about the music industry and I guess I should write a long entry about the experience…….
The truth is though that there isn’t much to write about rock’n’roll and/or show-biz literature. In terms of rock’n’roll auto/bio-graphies they all pretty much revolve around the same topics, in terms of “how-to-make-money-in-the -music-industry” books they present a certain template that is usually outdated at the time of publication due to the “ever-changing” nature of the music scene itself. In terms of general interviews across various elements in show-biz there is pretty much three conclusions one can come to….
- Everyone speaks like this: I and William…. Which is incorrect as one should say: William and I. Throughout all of the various interviews included in this book it was consistently done wrong. You put yourself last when you speak about yourself and others, just as if you have guests over you serve them first. If someone asks you to pass something around the table, you serve that person first and then yourself. If someone asks for water for example, it is very impolite to serve yourself first before passing the bottle around….
- Out of all of the interviews I read…(517 pages in total)….I was only left with half a page worthy of notes in my tiny “yellow-book,” listing other books recommended in the interviews. This list also included various movies. In other words there was not exactly an abundance of intellectual information.
- Artist are generally very out of touch with their own potential for legacy. One element of art that nobody ever really seems to contemplate or write about is that entertainment is trend based. Each generation has their heroes, which means that my little sister will be largely ignorant of my heroes, just like I will be of my mother’s.
Unless younger generations receive a well-rounded education in culture from their parents and unless young artist protect the legacy of former artists many traditions and composers will simply die out.
For example, if you don’t have musicians who sit and practise their instruments until the cows come home, classical music and the virtuoso repertory will disappear. Maintaining the tradition also costs, not only due to the hours necessary to become a good musician but because of the maintenance that a musician of a certain caliber has to go through.
When I read my book this time around I googled all the various musicians and performers mentioned and it was quite interesting to see how many of these are irrelevant today.
If anything that you do artistically is of historical value, you rely on music experts doing their homework by going through a plethora of material without being partisan. Usually when rock documentaries or music encyclopaedias are created, there are complaints from fans about all of those who have been omitted. Sometimes it is actually quite glaring who gets left out. Mind you that only signed artists are even considered to be included in any sort of compendium of music.
My conclusion from reading this work is this: you have to enjoy being a musician in and of itself. It is most probable that your work will be forgotten as only a dedicated “cult” of fans who play your music and inform others of it can keep your work relevant past the generation that you inspired. It is also a good idea to take some advice from the squirrel, yes you read that right. Squirrels have such a bad memory that they keep several “food storages,” to remember where their nutrition is. Therefore it is advisable that musicians invest in a wide vocabulary in terms of their skills. Knowing both how to write music and perform music, knowing how to play several instruments and knowing how to navigate between different genres is needless to say a good way of making sure that you don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Being a one-trick pony places you in a very vulnerable position, because when the tide turns in terms of your popularity you’ll most definitely be screwed, in lack of better words. It is also interesting to note how rock & heavy metal legends spend the majority of their adult life keeping the memory of their youth alive. Wouldn’t it be strange if a construction worker, or a nurse or a teacher spent a great deal of time getting an employment, only to be active for 2-3 years, only to spend the rest of their life promoting how great they were in those few years they were active?
The life-cycle of a musician can best be described as:
- Learning how to play an instrument, which takes several years. If you are to reach virtuosity level you can look at 9-10 years of practising.
- Trying to make it. These are the ungrateful years when everybody thinks you suck, besides your first fans and independent bloggers…..until the mainstream media starts mentioning you, then you rock and always did. This can take many years; after discussing it with other musicians we came to the conclusion that most bands have a 3-4 year lifespan. After 3-4 years serious bands usually get to the point where they are “picked-up” by press people who will mention them in their up-and-coming section. Most rock bands break up at this point.
- Unofficially making it…..Those who keep on going will experience a gradual increase in their fame/visibility and will learn that the music business is all about how you “use what you get,” meaning that if somebody in the press gives you a good review, you quote it and use it in press releases. Press/visibility can be used to obtain endorsements,gigs, sales, etc; Any tv-appearance is a golden opportunity to “make an impression.” You always have to treat things like they are very important and major because you don’t know when you will get the same opportunity again. You also have to use what you have on your “show-reel” to see if it can open any more doors. Building a good and solid reputation will eventually reap its benefits and hopefully result in the next step which is….
- Officially making it…this is the point when you land a major contract or run for your life which a lot of rock musicians have actually done…(which is a very good reason for not being in a band)… A major contract will enable you to re-negotiate your endorsement deals, seek out new sponsorship/partnership deals and allow you to get the “infrastructure” of the establishment. This is the point where you seriously “pimp” out your brand name for the simple reason that you do not know how long you will be commercially viable from a corporate perspective. There are pop groups that only run for 3 years, artist that can only hang in there for one hit, etc; There are also bands who can stay en vogue for a substantial amount of time but they do not represent the vast majority. A great number of the artist mentioned in my book were not interested in making money…this came back to bite them in the ass later when they bankrupted themselves paying medical bills for themselves and/or their family….there is no pension plan when you are an artist and the majority of the individuals/bands mentioned in the book had obviously not thought about……
- ….going through a prolonged time of “rainy-days.” Yes that’s correct. If music=trends, then needless to say there will come a time when the music you wrote or performs is out. This issue can be dealt with by either re-inventing yourself, being good with money/investments when things are going well or by having many strings to play on….a great number of the artists interviewed had no idea how to deal with loss in popularity….I’ve heard many stories of artists that were “big once” but then ended up being a starving artist again relatively quickly….there are artist who experience a 10-30 year dip in relevancy….that is quite a substantial part of an artist’s life….
- Comeback. The inevitable comeback that so few survive to experience. In rock’n’roll it will happen when you are 50-60 years when finally you win your very first Grammy. Finally your band will be relevant again and you can go on numerous “final tours” cashing in some serious cash having reached legend-status by simply having survived rock’n’roll….but it will not last long…becasue…
- Death. Yes, that untimely thing. Over 60% of musicians suffer from mental health issues, mostly depression, musicians also have a tendency to die younger than the general population. These are the usual causes of death according to genre → chart. Few can handle being a starving artist, few can handle being an up-and-coming artist, few can handle being a major artist and fewer than anyone can probably deal with loss of popularity, whether it is sudden or gradual. You have to make sure that playing music makes you happy before you pursue the idea of being a rock star and more important than anything: you have to keep in mind that the music industry is a hierarchy officially based on popularity rather than merits, with an unofficial penchant for nepotism/corruption more than anything else. Considering that the output of the majority of artists alive today will be completely forgotten after their death, it could be a good idea to have a more balanced life, unless being a workaholic is your natural inclination.