There is a myth in music today that it takes years to build up from the underground in order to become a big band. You might be saying “Sure folks like Bieber can come up out of nowhere but they are pop stars with big money behind them, my tiny indie band can’t blow up like that!” And I mean yeah – the odds are you can’t. The odds are it’s going to take you years to get to a point where your band is sustainable, and if it ever makes you any money for your own benefit then you should count yourself as lucky. The point being – your band can get to a point where you are being flown out for gigs and getting in all of the hip magazines – and surprisingly quickly at that! It just requires a lot of personal investment, not just financially but also work-wise, being willing to give everything up for the dream and being willing to dive into anything.
I know it seems unlikely, but just look at a band like Ghost. I remember just a few years ago when only Radio Fenriz was hyping them, five years on and they have won a Grammy and just last month I saw them play a festival show to fifty thousand people. Obviously there is a giant apparatus behind the band that stemmed out of their half a million dollar advance in 2010 for their debut record, but still they proved that if you know the right people then it isn’t unrealistic for a band to go from nobodies to arena fillers in just a few years. This works on a more underground level too. Chrch are currently asleep in my living room – those guys only formed up in 2013, put out their only release a little over a year ago. They have already toured Europe and just got flown out to do a small handful of East Coast dates – and they’re not even playing easily accessible music! So yes – it IS possible to go out and reach beyond to better your band and your future in a very short period of time.
The main thing to be aware of is that the bands who do this are generally bands that have at least one member with a background in the music industry. They are probably local promoters or booking agents so they already have the connections in order to make their band explode. The process of finding these connections is a huge part of why it takes so many bands so long to get off the ground. As I’ve always said on this blog, networking is the key to everything and if you have someone in your band who does that in the music industry for a living and who has proven that they are worth working with then you’re off to a good start. You need to remember that in the music industry everything is about proving your legitimacy and showing that you are not going to screw people over. That’s something that not even a manager can necessarily bring to the table all the time, since there is still that degree of separation from the band.
Legitimacy in the scene is great and all, but you also have to admit the obvious, the bands who explode quickly are the ones who are damn good. Take Pallbearer for example. They went from basement shows to playing three hundred person clubs basically on the strength of one Pitchfork review. Of course the review was of one of the best doom metal albums of all time. They didn’t have any members who were especially involved in the industry but they were nice guys who had a hell of a product and knew it. Even the bands who have major industry connections going into the whole thing have some really solid music. The aforementioned Chrch are one of my favorite doom bands in the world and I have written many a piece referencing their future greatness. At the same time – their main dude is also the main metal booker in Sacramento which helps – a lot. It’s just one of those things you can’t skimp out on, and though it sounds obvious you’d be shocked at the number of people who think they can get realistic sustained success on the strength of connections alone.
Rocketing to success isn’t always a good thing by the way. I know a lot of bands who once faced with everything they thought they wanted wish that they had had a slower path to the top and could have had a little more time to figure themselves out and their personal dynamics out. It’s obviously very difficult to go from being a local level act to a major touring band. The level of musicianship and maturity required is hard to get quickly and that’s what drives a lot of these bands to only be one hit wonders – being in a major band is a hard thing and you have to really be ready for it if you want to go in and not end up just suffering and having your dream cruelly ruined for you. Sometimes it’s a good thing that it takes years for your band to get off the ground because it means that you have a chance to get closer to your bandmates and figure out those important relationships. It’s a case of being careful what you wish for – and sometimes what looks like the dream can actually end up being hell.
So yes – success can be a lot closer than you think – especially if you associate your band with the right people an have the right band members working to take on the world. Success is not this weird nebulous thing that you will never be able to access – rather it is an opportunity that lies just beyond the horizon, and the only thing that’s keeping you from getting there is yourself. If you are willing to put the time, money and networking in then you too can get onto these huge tours. It’s just the building up of the network and establishing the financial backing to do all of these things that holds most bands back. If you have a product that you truly believe in though and one that other people seem to love then what are you waiting for? It will be worth it. You might as well seize the bull by the horns and dive into your bold and terrifying future.