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Saturday, 23 January 2016

Music, Money And Fame

Me having fun on stage with Lazarus Mode - Photo by
Gary Beresford of Snapped Photography
There’s heaps of reasons to start playing music. Some people want to be rich, some people want to be famous. Some do it to get girls (or boys), some do it to relax, or get pumped up or to be happy or sad. Some just want to create something that’s awesome.

Needless to say, if you’re in the music industry for money, you’re going to be disappointed. There ain’t much money in music. Fame is few and far between too, with only an extremely small percentage of musicians making it into the mainstream,

This is where a lot of new original bands and musicians get caught out. They feel that music will be their gateway to being a rock star and that’s what’s on their minds. It’s this same frame of mind that prevents them from such dreams.

The Rock Star Paradigm

It’s kind of funny when you hear the biggest musicians in the world talk about how they got famous. It’s usually the same thing every time, “I just love playing music, I spend my time writing and having fun playing in bands. I never expected to be famous or make any money out of it, it just happens”.

A line similar that seems to appear in almost every musical biography I’ve ever read (and I read a lot). Whether it’s just the musician being modest or it’s a stone cold truth, it seems that it’s the key to being successful in your music career.

And it makes sense. If you think about it, the people who buy music and make a person famous, they’re not stupid. Potential fans can spot a phoney from a mile away. If you’re in it just for the money and the fame, people aren’t going to wanna know about you. 

People want someone who’s genuine. People want to imagine someone who’s spent their whole lives locked in their basement crafting the greatest musical piece of all time. They want someone who travels the world picking up experience and knowledge and heartbreak and crafting it into a magical piece of art for the world to see.

They don’t want to know about someone who’s paid thousands of dollars to a producer to turn them into a rockstar because they think it would be cool. Fans tend to want the music they listen to to be made by super humans who possess a skill that they don’t have.

The Competition

Another thing to consider is that there are literally millions of artists out there trying to do the exact same thing you are. Some of them aren’t going to be as good as you, but most of them are going to be a lot better than you.

This can be a pretty depressing thought. You need only to go to YouTube to find someone who can absolutely wipe the floor with you in whatever it is that you’re trying to do. There’s always going to be someone better than you… unless you are the best at that thing. If so, congrats.

Even if you are really, really good at what you do, you need money to get started. You need gear, you need to get recordings done, you need to pay for advertising, you need to get yourself out there. Then, maybe, someone will notice you. But that’s just the beginning.

Say you get to a point where you manage to score a record deal. Job done, right? Wrong! A record deal is pretty much the equivalent to a bank loan that you can use to record, press, distribute and advertise your music. 

In this day and age of streaming media, there’s no way you’re going to make that money back, so then you’ll owe the record company money for the rest of your musical career. So you’re better off self funding your music and being able to keep control of it.

So Why Bother?

This is the big question, isn’t it? If you can’t be famous or rich or make it big, then why even try making music? You’d be better off as an accountant or lawyer or even stacking shelves at the local supermarket.

That’s the whole point. Music is supposed to be fun. In fact, taking away the money and fame aspect really brings the original meaning and soul back into what we love doing. If you’ve got fame and fortune and girls on a boat on your mind, it’s likely the music will have less soul.

If you’re making the music you love, it will make you happy. If you sit and home and create a piece of art that improves your life just by playing or listening back to it, then you’re a successful musician. Even if you are playing covers and that brings you joy, that’s the best thing you can ask for.

The best part is that if you’ve created something that you truly love, chances are that other people will love it too. It’s a big win win. And if you’re having fun performing, people will want to see you have fun because that kind of joy is contagious. 

I remember back when I was in my first band, we would fret over which venues we played and how we performed and if people would buy our songs and our image. All of these things are important to a degree, but it all got in the way of our enjoyment and was detrimental.

One day we all finally decided that we would never make money or be famous and that we shouldn’t even try. From that day on, the music was a lot more fun. Practice, gigs and every other aspect of our music became a joy to do, rather than a job.

If you can’t see the point in making music without money or fame, maybe music isn’t for you.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments section below.

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