One of the weird things about the music world is that if you’re really in it, then you need to find separation from it. Now this sounds a little bit crazy, after all you probably fantasize about quitting your day job and just pursuing music full time. You want to play two hundred shows a year and you want to keep growing your band so that everyone in the world can see how much of a genius you are. Outside of the obvious fact that this lifestyle is highly romanticized and not for everybody aside, it also means that you need to make a lot of lifestyle changes you might not have expected and which you might not be super comfortable with or especially pleased about. I know that sounds silly and even crazy. But look at it this way – if you’re active in your scene you probably personally know that one band who are hometown heroes, who have been to Europe on tour, who get written about in big magazines, do they go to shows? Are there girlfriends in the scene? Didn’t think so.
This is one of those tricky things that no one really wants to think about but which is frighteningly relevant to the day to day of everyone in a band or trying to make it in the music business. It’s a case of getting into music because they loved it, but then not knowing how to operate outside of that world. In other words – you end up like me – your entire social outlet for years of your life was shows, and then you’re not sure how to operate when you’re not going to shows. You don’t have another way to meet people. It’s the catch 22 of the industry. It requires you to be an obsessive, but being an obsessive happens to also be really fucking unhealthy. It means that you’re dick out of luck when it comes to trying to make friends and it leads to stressful and unfortunate situations all the way around. I’m not sure if there’s a way out other than sitting down and figuring out what interests you want to pursue outside of music.
Tied into all of this is a sense of ‘scene cred’. That is to say, if you’re not out there constantly pushing for your band then people aren’t going to hang out with you and it’s just going to become weird and shitty. People forget about your band and suddenly the drive to go see you is lowered. It’s less significant. You are no longer hip and hopping. I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do when you’re in that situation, it’s tricky. You want people to come to your shows and the best way to do that is personal interaction followed by interaction on social media. If you’re not doing that you’re hurting your brand. In my eyes you need to find a balance. The thing is, if you’re still growing your band then you need to be out there a lot, and even when your band is big you need to be out and about doing cool shit. However, once you start to tour a lot and make a name for yourself and become a respected figure then things are a little bit less urgent and life becomes a little smoother.
Not constantly being in the scene can be a good thing for your band too when it comes down to it. If you have a cool interest that is ancillary to music then a lot of people are going to find that cool and it can be a selling point for your band. There are countless groups who use their band members exciting interests or cool jobs as selling points. Hell – there are magazines that do features on these sorts of things. There is no reason not to include that in your bio or to use it to market your group. And if it boosts the mental stability of everyone involved then it’s only going to be a good thing. The problem is ultimately that you don’t want to shit where you eat and this is a great way to gently grow your band but also make sure that you are getting the sort of external attention and love that you need in order for your band to get into a place that is going to actually help and not just leave you a jaded husk who doesn’t want to interact with the scene.
There are exceptions to this, and perhaps my angry hermit like nature prevents me from seeing this clearly. There are people I know who are dating someone in the scene, who are at every show and who have a balanced life around their work in the scene. Hell – some of the heaviest showgoers I know are also professional touring musicians. Which is a thought I just can’t wrap my head around. Or at least – it’s something that I don’t think a lot of people want once they have it. Don’t you want to have interests and a life outside of all of this, a life that allows you to grow as a person and not just feel forced to trot out the same tired cliches? I certainly feel that way. Still – if you are the rare person who is able to be in the scene constantly with everything you do you have my respect. It’s not an easy lifestyle you’re carving out for yourself, but it’s certainly one that can be a lot of fun as long as your body has the tolerance for it.
Nothing is easy, everything is terrible, and I’m constantly scared about the shittiness and inherent drama of any independent metal scene. People can ruin lives by being vindictive and social media has removed the need for any sort of fact checking. There is a lot of stress with having only one social group, especially if it’s also the social group where you are trying to make money in. So maybe take a step back and don’t make that mistake. I know it can be extremely tempting, but at the end of the day, do you want your art to remain pure, or simply be the sort of terrifying clusterfuck that makes this business so difficult?