How to be a Rock Star: 21st Century edition
-You won’t get super-rich. Musicians don’t have fuck-you money, bankers do. Accept this.
-If you want a long career, don’t take the record deal. Everything they say they can do for you, you can do yourself. Taking the deal means they MIGHT help with some of the back end workload, but know that you’re an employee and you’re gonna get screwed.
-If you take do the deal, expect the label to take a cut from everything. Music sales, licensing, merch, ticket revenue, etc. Van Halen got home from their first world tour and owed a million dollars to their label. Lady Gaga finished the Monster Ball Tour and owed 3 mil.
-Build a fanbase and connect with them. They are real people, not faceless masses.
-Don’t ignore tweets/shoutouts/YouTube clips/etc from fans. Even Nickelback occasionally tweet back to their fans.
-Think you can party like a rockstar forever? You can’t. I tried.
-You are not Keith Richards.
-Love what you do or don’t do it. Rock and roll kills people.
-Learn, learn, learn. Always learn. Think you’re an expert or a genius? Then you aren’t. Jimi Hendrix said he can learn something from any and all guitarists.
-Don’t be stupid with money. Keep track of it. Don’t let it be smoked/drunk/sniffed away.
-Run the band like a business. It is one.
-Choose your employees wisely. You are your team. Make sure they’re happy.
-Nobody is coming to pluck you out of obscurity and make you a star. How many successful American Idol contestants can you name? 4 or 5 maybe? You need to bootstrap your own way up.
-There will never be another Thriller.
-Don’t look like shit.
-Don’t sound like shit.
-Don’t be a twat. We’re all in this together.
As an independent musician at the beginning of my career I keep getting asked what my position on music piracy is. So here goes (deep breath):
IT’S FUCKING AMAZING.
You have the entire history of recorded music at your fingertips. Think of any piece of music and seconds later you’re listening to it on YouTube.. That. Is. Unfuckingbelievable. Imagine how many round pieces of plastic you would have to own to be able to say that.
“But that’s not fair” says new artists (and formerly me). Of course it’s not fair! But as we all know: that’s life. Music is 1’s and 0’s now. It’s in the ether. It’s free and there’s no going back.
And would we really want to go back anyway? To a time when we had to grovel in front of record labels on our knees and beg for an shitty deal? Nuts to that. These are AMAZING times to be a musician. You don’t need a million dollars to make a record. Your laptop is a recording studio and a video camera. Don’t know how to use a microphone? Not sure how to edit a video? Google that shit. Anyone and everyone can easily place their music up for grabs on the internet.
The downside of course, is that we have to navigate the Seven Seas of Shit. A daunting task to be sure. But if an act is truly good enough, people will hear about them and they’ll find an audience (google Pretty Lights).
As for those musicians who complain that we’re not all rich, what did they think they were getting into? If you want a Ferrari, become a banker.
Of course the dinosaur labels are moaning about all this. “THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END BECAUSE PIRATE BAY”. Fuck ’em. They’ve been overcharging you, suing you, pumping out the same shit over-and-over again, living like kings off the backs of artists for decades. You owe them nothing.
So if you like an artist and want to support them, go see them live. That’s the way they made money in the past, it’s the way we’ll make money in the future.
Music is free now. Enjoy it.