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GETTING SERIOUS: HITTING THE BIGTIME MUSICALLY

HOW BAD DO YOU WANT IT?

Show-biz. Rock-stardom. Sure sounds glamorous, doesn’t it? It sounds like all fun and games to many aspiring singers and musicians, and that, I’m afraid, is a huge misconception. It actually takes a lot of hard, serious work to make it in this business. It takes focus, commitment, dedication, consistency and practice, practice, practice. So, how serious are you, how badly do you really want this and how hard are you willing to work for it? Furthermore, are you choosing this career-path for all the right reasons? If all you really want is to be rich and to have private jets, mansions, sports cars and groupies in every town, you might as well just hang it up right now and consider doing something else with your life. That attitude won’t get you past the confines of your garage or basement in this business. If you did get an actual gig somewhere, you’d come across as a phony and your audience would see through you immediately. Think back on all the rock-concerts you’ve ever been to (doesn’t matter which genre), or even those you’ve watched on TV. You can tell when someone is on that stage because they truly want to be there. You can also tell when someone is doing something grudgingly. That’s usually the same person who blows off signing autographs and answering at least some fan-mail. (Important: even after you attain success, always remember what it’s like to be a fan. Fans can make or break a career. Without fans, you have no career). But if you truly love the music, truly love what you’re doing and are cheerfully willing to accept the responsibilities that go along with this kind of career, the rewards will be plenty. Yeah, I know, I sound like a high school teacher or a career counselor, but hey, in this business, attitude is everything. Record-label execs, A&R people, music attorneys, producers, publicists and promoters (including journalists writing for publications such as this one) do take a band or artist’s attitude into consideration when deciding whether to sign, promote or work with them or not. If you give the impression that you’re not really serious or that you really don’t care, why should any of these people (industry or fans) waste their time, energy and money on you? Especially when there are plenty of acts out there who are serious and do care? Many people only think about the perks of celebrity status and forget about all the work involved. They lose sight of what an entertainer isãone who entertains. Like movies and television, music is a form of entertainment. Another problem I’ve encountered are those who think success is going to be handed to them on a silver platter with little or no effort. For instance, I actually know of a band who thinks that they’re going to hit the big-time rehearsing only twice a week! Come on, guys! Even top-name acts have to practice and rehearse every day or close to it! I’ve even heard a substandard-quality demo from this same band that was obviously slapped together in a hurry. You’re not going to fool anyone attempting those things, believe me. It’s obvious to anyone who ccan hear when the musicianship and vocals need polishing and when the lyrics and song-structures need working and reworking. Even if you have access to a good recording-studio and can put together a perfect-sounding demo, your lack of rehearsal is going to show the second you take the stage. Ask any band who’s ever been booed off a stage and they’ll tell you how humiliating it is. Nine times out of ten, I’ve found that bands like this are spending too much of their time, energy and money on everything but their music careers. Girlfriends (or boyfriends) and leisure-time activities top the list. Playtime has top priority in their lives, then they wonder why things aren’t working out. This kind of career demands that people have their priorities in order. It meansãoh shitãmaking sacrifices. Sad, but true: you just can’t have it all in the beginning. The start of your career is the most crucial time because that’s when you’re perfecting you act, struggling to be noticed and to establish yourself. There is a lot to think about when launching a rock music career. Constant practice and rehearsal, song-writing, gear, clothes, professional band photos, getting a decent bio written, advertising, and getting gigs just for starters. Some of those things require time, others cost money. Let’s face itãas fun as they are, leisure activities place a big demand on one’s time, energy and money. Especially the girlfriend issueãI’m not anti-relationship, but I’ve seen many a promising musical career come to a grinding halt because of a demanding girlfriend. I’ve seen many ads in music publications by bands looking for musicians and singers that say outwardly, “No girlfriend problems please.” Keep in mind that as your career advances, you will have less and less free time on your hands. Once you go out on tour, count on your music career being a full-time proposition. Record companies or anyone else fronting you money (and remember that any money fronted to you is a loan to be paid back) will not spring for you to lug anyone along with you except for your bandmates and crew. Expenses are kept to a bare minimum these days. And anyone who did tag along would be very bored because you’ll be busy working your ass off. It’s not only the show itselfãyou’ll also be required to do in-stores, meet-and-greets, photo-sessions, radio-shows, TV-shows and other assorted interviews and appearances.
In short, this is not a good time to think about tying yourself down. You can’t be in two places at once, and once you spend your money, it’s gone. I know that a lot of you are moaning and groaning as you read this. But that’s how it is in this business. Without ignoring important things in life like school and homework, or survival necessities like a day-job, a roof over one’s head, food on one’s table and clothes on one’s backãyou need to eat, drink, sleep, breathe and dream music as much as you can. Make as much of a commitment as possible, because if you don’t, the whole thing will collapse beneath you. This doesn’t mean that you can’t ever have have any of those aforementioned niceties in your lifeãit just means that you need to put them on the back burner until yyou’ve attained your career goals. Achieve the status of Gene Simmons, Trent Reznor or Kim Thayil and you can have anything you want, as long as you continue to honor your contracts, commitments and fans. A good rule of thumb: When you can afford to live off your music without a day-job, then you go for the other pleasures in life. But this will take quite a bit of patience on your part; Rome was not built in a day. This takes time. Instant gratification has no place here. Things are not like they were in the ’80s, when rock-bands attained fame and fortune in a short period of time. When you do start making money (or if you’re dealing with a loan), make sure you invest it wisely. Don’t hand the business-aspect of your career over to someone else. Stay on top of thingsãthat’s the only way to avoid getting ripped off. Make sure you’re dealing with a good music attorney who will explain the business-end of your career to you in fine detailãit’s all very complicated in the corporate ’90s. While I’m at this, let me touch upon the subject of artist honesty. After the release of BallBuster’s Summer/Fall ’96 issue, we received letters asking why certain demo acts were reviewed, since those same demos were first heard a few years ago. Apparently, these artists felt it necessary to recycle previously-released material rather than spend time, energy and money on a new demo. I’m only going to say this once, folks: OUR INFORMATION IS ONLY AS GOOD AS THE ARTIST’S. If you lie or fudge about any of the info you send us, we won’t know about it unless or until someone who knows otherwise points it out to us. This means that responsibility in this department falls directly upon the band or artist. It’s up to you to present yourself and your music in an honest, forthright manner. Lies don’t get you very far in this businessãyou’d be surprised at what and who people know or remember (and how far back they remember). The truth will come out. Don’t send demos that have already been promoted to the media. And anything more than two or three years old is not an up-to-date representation of your sound. Again, it all depends upon what’s most important to you in life and how badly you want to be a successful singer or musician. Yes, it means making some un-fun, un-cool and even painful sacrifices. But that’s the nature of The Beast known as Show Biz. I was once told by an acting coach that in any phase of the entertainment field, you’d better have your act together, because if you don’tãthere will always be someone waiting in the wings who does. There will always be somebody somewhere ready and waiting to take your place if you’re not up to the challenge. I personally dare and challenge anyone out there with any rockin’ musical aspirations to rise to the occasion.
For those of you who are serious about becoming part of rock music’s next generation of success- stories, here are some good books and CD-ROMs to help you get there:

  • Getting Radio Airplay,” By Gary Hustwit
  • Networking In The Music Industry” By Clevo & Olsen
  • Everything You’d Better Know About The Record Industry” By Kashif
  • This Business Of Music” By Shemel & Krasilovsky
  • Selling Songs Successfully” By Henry Boye
  • The Musician’s Business And Legal Guide” By Mark Halloran, Ed.
  • The Music Business Explained In Plain English” By Naggar & Brandstetter

and there are many more to choose from.

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Many thanks to David LaDuke for providing info for this article.

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