by MATT BACON >
So I wrote a piece a little while ago about the inherent wealth kind of required to even be in a DIY band.
But after a lot of frustration today I wanted to spend some time talking about how being a goddamn adult is always going to help you be able to create value for your band and guide you in your career as an industry person. Now this works on a lot of different levels and it’s the sort of thing that can be very hard to reconcile with punk ethics. I personally find myself running into it time and time again and I feel like I have my shit pretty goddamn together for a 21 year old. Still, as you start to get anywhere in this industry it rapidly becomes obvious that there is a helluva lot more to this than just being willing to spend some money and dedicate a whole bunch of free time to the unwholesome venture that is independent music. Rather, you need to be willing to seriously drive forward on a very adult level, so let’s look at what that means.
First and foremost, you need to have a credit card.
I know this sucks. It bit me in the ass hard today so I just wanted to take some time to talk about this. I know that credit cards are a bunch of neoliberal bullshit, I don’t have one, I get it. These sorts of things aren’t really targeted at DIY musicians trying to make a name for themselves in the music industry. What they are targeted at is people who want to have the easiest lives possible. When it comes down to it, the extremely shitty tradeoff you are going to need to come to terms with is that you need to balance ease and ethics. Also ease and a bunch of bullshit paperwork. Credit cards are probably the most visible example, but there’s also something to be said for owning your own place, being the sole person on your lease or simply having your shit together on bills. Now I realize that I’m writing primarily for an audience in their 20s and those things are fucking hard to get. But sometimes you need to suck it up so when you’re stuck in Wichita in November you can find a way out.
The other key thing to be aware of is that you need to have some sort of savings built up.
I know this is tricky and you don’t need to tell me how hard life has become in America in the last few years. Half of Americans have $500 or less in the bank. It’s a scary fucking thing. But here’s the thing: when you work in the music world you need to have some sort of safety net. You need to be able to have a few thousand dollars to emergency spend when you have a bunch of shows fall through. You need to be able to order that last run of last minute merch in order to grow your band when shits gets dark. You need to be able to get a hotel room because the place you though you were going to stay ends up being super fucking sketchy. These are all costs tat just sort of happen in the world of independent music. Furthermore, you want to make sure that you’re not the one bearing the brunt of the costs. People always talk about their touring brothers. Well if someones you’re brother, they had goddamn better be ready to spend money when shit hits the fan.
Of course simultaneously when trying your hand at ‘adulting’ in the music industry it’s important to be flexible.
Maybe someone else doesn’t have their shit together quite as much, but you know you can trust them. Maybe you just need to be a little more patient with someone so they can reach the level they really want to be at. Being compassionate has a tendency to work out in this industry. I know that’s sometimes hard to hear, but sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same. There are so many crucial opportunities in this life that are only accessible once you’ve reached a certain arbitrary age for example. Toss in the fact that a lot of these opportunities require a strong socioeconomic background and then you realize why so many people don’t have them. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t fight for those, it just means you need to be appreciative of the advantages that you do get to have.
At the end of the day all of these things are meant to serve as a safety net.
They are supposed to protect normal people like you and me from a lot of the ills of society and mean that we don’t need to worry. Personally I know that a lot of my anxiety is relieved by the fact that my rent is paid three months out and I have enough savings to survive for a good bit with no job. That’s not me bragging, that’s me saying “How can I function in a high risk industry like this one without being a panicky asshole all of the time?” A lot of people lack these fairly basic skills and that’s a serious problem for them. You need to b able to have these basic things, and if you do then you’re immediately going to find that your career is much easier. In fact it will positively impact all sides of your life and lead to an overall better future.
At the end of the day – the music industry is a really challenging place to make a buck and you need every opportunity that you can afford yourself. If you’re unwilling to work in order to make those opportunities appear then you deserve all the bad shit that’s going to happen to you. That’s just how this industry works. There is a very real glass ceiling for dumb bands who refuse to get their shit together or listen to the older bands who have spent years trying to get their lives set up so that they can tour properly and not have to deal with the anxiety of this business more or less constantly. So yeah, I don’t like giving up my soul for this bullshit either but sometimes that’s just the way that the news goes and you need to appreciate this unique breed of misery to succeed.