A big fat record deal; a prized event written about in movies and salivated over by musicians. A sure ticket to fame, wealth, and a spoon-fed life. The idea of a whole team of people sitting around a long table in a conference room discussing and canvassing all the details of your tours, image, schedule, and products. Someone to do the paperwork. Someone to make the phone calls or write the emails.
Wrong. Dead wrong.
Because no one will work harder for your band than you. Even up to the highest rungs on the ladder of success in the music industry, artists still have to have the vision and exert the effort, to maintain their business and preserve their relevance.
So allow me to take us through this scenario from the top. To a place that some of us have been to and many of us still remain.
You are a musician. Newly debuted to your local scene with a few hundred likes on Facebook. Friends and family are excited about your music and things seem to be going well. But then you hit a wall. Or rather what I like to call a plateau. A would-be-impasse dressed as a period of stagnancy and lack of progress. You ARE making music still. You ARE playing shows still. But no one buys and no one shows up. It drags on for a month. If you have bandmates, you are all quietly ignoring deadlines and goals you had set when the excitement was high. Finally, it becomes too much and you decide it is time to make a move. It is time to find a solution. It is time to add another brain, another set of hands, another wallet. It is time to find someone with more means, more know-how, more time. You have seen and heard the story of the nobody from nowhere who became someone from somewhere because they found a benefactor, a patron, a sponsor.
I am not here to claim this is out of the realm of possibilities. I am not writing this to discourage you or anyone from trying to get signed. In more ways than one, it IS extremely helpful to bring someone on your team who is willing to work. But remember; they will not work harder than you. Why? Because if you are doing this seriously- they will not be able to. And if they do it will become theirs. They will own it. It will no longer be your band.
The point is that young musicians must turn away from the idea of getting anything for nothing. They must reject the tantalizing propositions of booking agencies and record labels who can talk big and throw big names but merely wave them in front of you like candy in front of a kid. Many of these people have good intentions and what to see you succeed but mostly because it means that they get a slice of the pie. People may be willing to invest in you, but only proportional to your work ethic. Only proportional to your abilities, prospects, and plans. And if your buzz dies out and you hit another one of those "plateaus"; they will be gone as fast as they came. And if you are not careful they may be legally allowed to take your music with them. They may have only signed you to shelf you and keep you away from meddling in the success their very own rising artists.
How do you avoid all this? How can you overcome the obstacles that face you as a no one from nowhere trying to be a someone from somewhere?
You have to be hungry. You have to want it. You have to work very hard for it. The same effort that all success requires, waits for you along your journey to be a successful musician. You must change your identity and learn to wear more hats than just 'musician'. You are also an entrepreneur, a graphic artist, an event planner, and if you have bandmates like mine you might even learn to be a mom. Never outsource labor that you can feasibly do yourself or learn to do yourself. While that seems like a tough deal, I actually think it is what makes the current climate of the industry a musical golden age. Anyone from anywhere can acquire all the tools and resources needed to be a successful touring musician. So don't give up. Let successes lift you up and let failures teach you. Be kind yet honest with EVERYONE you cross paths with on the internet, in the studio, and on the road. In closing I leave you with some words from our beloved Jack Black:
"There's nothing you can really do to prepare to rock. Do you prepare to eat a delicious meal? Are you hungry? Then you're gonna eat it."