Entitlement. Now there’s a scary word that a lot of people, not just musicians, don’t like to think about too much. For a generation born to free content and instant gratification it’s sometimes hard to consider a world where one might have to wait and work to achieve ones goals. Now, I’m not trying to rant at you, and I’m not trying to say that this generation is screwed. I get it, I’m 19, I’m part of the new generation of music fans. There is a world out there that is going to take some getting used to, and some of the entitlement we’re dealing with comes from older fans too, people who think we still live in a world where we buy music and record labels should give out massive bonuses (Which were demented in the first place). Trying to tackle entitlement from all angles is too large for the scope of this article, I just want to address a few key notions that need to be dispelled in a world that is far too kind on the surface, and far too cruel beneath.
Here’s the thing, there is no escape from entitlement. Everyone will feel entitled to something at some point. That’s definitely valid, and to some degree society wouldn’t function without everyone having a sense of entitlement. For example, people in the USA feel entitled to clean water. Sadly it’s not a reality throughout the country, but it’s probably something that every individual, regardless of where they are from should feel entitled to. In the music industry basic entitlement relates to things like ‘people not touching you while you play’ and… well that should be about it. Hell, in some genres even that hardly applies. At hardcore shows, musicians are sometimes shocked if people don’t tear the mic from the singer and guitarists aren’t bumped into while fans stage dive.
Perhaps that’s what fascinates so many people with hardcore. Even at the highest levels the sense of entitlement is pretty minimal. It’s only really the genre’s absolute biggest bands, groups like Hatebreed who have any degree of separation from the fans and that’s after years, if not decades of hard work. As a starting point, if you feel frustrated with your band, I encourage you to go to a hardcore show and watch some crappy local bands give their all in front of thirty people as they get roughed up and pounded.
Now, I’m not trying to glorify hardcore, there are definitely major flaws in the genre, and entitlement finds its way in in different ways. One thing that pisses me off to no end with the genre is that bands with no real audience, no press, and no real plan who will go out on month long tours just to ‘get the word out’. That’s a problem with a lot of music, but I feel that it’s a bit more of an issue with hardcore, largely because there is often very little to differentiate one band from another. Yet perhaps this is the perfect segue into one of the biggest lessons a band has to learn, one taken from my good friend Nathan Carson of Nanotear Booking and the band Witch Mountain: Don’t tour nationally if you can’t reliably draw at least 50 people at home.
That might sound like a lot. But guess what, if you can’t get 50 of your friends and neighbors to give a fuck about your band, you’re probably not going to get anybody anywhere else in the country interested, you don’t deserve that glory. Now, there are definitely exceptions. If a big band asks you to tour with them, then take that offer, if your band is originally from somewhere else, or you have a member who has a following from somewhere else, then maybe going out and playing there is worth it. Yet asides from those types of circumstances, you’re going to have to be pretty damn lucky if you want a national tour where you don’t eat shit every night.
Another key point is that many independent bands expect to be paid for their art and get a lot of things, like hosting, advertisements, radio spots and the like for free. The fact of the matter is that people don’t owe you shit. They don’t even need to listen to your music or watch your set. Yes it sucks that people don’t listen to independent music these days. And yes it sucks that producers cost so much, and adding all that on top of the eight million others costs of being in a band is extremely frustrating. However I think it’s time for a second maxim: Nobody likes a band who think that things should be free and they deserve peoples attention. If your band is good enough and you work hard at getting your music out to enough promoters and media folks then you might have a chance. In an industry defined by disappointment all you can do is try, try, and try again.
Now, I know I might be sounding awful jaded right now. It’s true that once you’ve been in this industry for a while you start to see how much things can suck. Yet, for me at least it’s all worth it. I’m getting towards a third maxim, but I want to take a minute to remind you, if you’re reading this, it’s probably because you love music, or you’re my mother (Hi!) I will say that with enough hard work, things generally pay off in this industry. You just have to be willing to put in your 10,000 hours and prove that you have the relentless dedication that it takes to succeed.
The final maxim on entitlement I’d like to give is something that I try to let guide me through life no matter what I do. It was given to me by the modern buddha Timber Hawkeye. No matter what you do in the music industry Be Grateful. Remember if nothing else you got a gig, at least one or two people are clicking on your music, and maybe your girlfriend loves it. The music industry is brutal, but you already know that, and I know you know that. I just want you to remember that if you are perpetually grateful and try to be content whatever the circumstances, then at the end of the day, your enjoyment of your art will increase manifold and many more people will want to work with you.
See, the thing that I think has helped me the most in my walk through the music industry has been endless enthusiasm and having a good heart. The people who hold the keys to the kingdom have hundreds if not thousands of people come up to them asking to be let in, yet it is only those who have actually done something (and continue to do things), maintain their morals, a kind heart and genuine love for the music that seem to get in. Sure you can probably take shortcuts and stab people in the back, but at the end of the day, don’t you want success in the music industry and the ability to retain your humanity?