So say you do get on the record label of your dreams, or the PR company you’ve always wanted to work with, or the manager you’ve admired for years. These things do eventually happen if you work hard enough long enough. That’s awesome – it feels good to get recognition from the industry and for things to work out in your favor like that. However, as soon as you start to really think your teeth in don’t be surprised if not everything is as you hoped. Maybe you don’t get the attention or interest you think this whole thing deserves. This might be for a variety of reasons, but I wanted to take a minute to look at what why some of our most vaunted industry institutions can sometimes feel a little bit hackneyed when we look behind the curtain. At the end of the day, everything in the music industry is a human construct, and because it’s music the odds are that whoever created it in the first place was on drugs.
I think this is often most obvious when you start to see the structures of various businesses throughout the music industry, be it a band who are still managed by an old friend, or hell who don’t even have a manager or a label that has been locked in the same shitty distribution deal for five years because they didn’t know any better when they signed the contract. This is because a lot of these companies didn’t set up a solid base and then suddenly things got out of hand so now they’re sitting here fifteen years later having worked seventy hour weeks the entire time and never having had the time to go back and figure out how to properly structure a company in order to not get fucked by the taxman. This is actually pretty normal and the more I learn he more I realize that people in this industry are often still just playing it by ear because things worked out early on and now they don’t have the time or budget to figure out how to streamline things.
Most of the time this isn’t necessarily the end of the world but it does mean that you are often going to find weird little quirks that work against the companies in question. This is often compounded by the fact that oftentimes accountants and people who help make these things run a bit more smoothly often ave no context for the world of independent music. I know technically that all businesses should have similar terminology and be able to at least hold some things in common, but in our world things are set up by punk rockers who did a ton of LSD back in the day. It means that we need to figure out how to interface with everyone else, but after having spent so long in the scene that we love it can become a little tricky and mean that we are oftentimes struggling to help our bands out because we need to figure out how to make it all work with an infrastructure that can feel like it is bursting apart at the very seams.
Beyond that, you can often find at major companies that once you are inside they don’t quite function as you might think. This is because labels, above all else, operate on image. They want bands to go to them cause they think they will help them deliver the most refined and best marketed product. This image needs to stretch from the industry people like managers and consultants who get bands signed all the way down to the fans who might one day be in bands or even just have friends in bands. Oftentimes you’ll look at big league labels and think that they must totally have their shit together on every level and be veritable kings of their craft. Of course you then become a part of them and realize that everything s done in a hectic halfway falling apart manner. The behind the scenes can be way crazier than anyone wants to think about for a lot of reasons and it can lead to a lot of the stress that defines this entire industry.
It is also why you may often feel like you are not getting the attention you deserve from whatever company you are working with. Because everyone is so busy and hasn’t really had the time to set up the infrastructure to make things run as smoothly as possible at all times we as artists can often find ourselves wondering why the label is letting us run free and choosing our own art and doesn’t care about our creative process outside of the final stamp of approval. It’s simply because with budgets being what they are and the industry being where it is we just can’t afford it. It would be great if A&R men and managers could get into the nitty gritty of the album creation process of every band they work with, bu frankly they don’t have the time or the energy, at least not if they want to make money off of it and not have to get a day job. The nitty gritty is still left up to the band because at this point it often feels like we have no real choice, no one wants that headache, so they dump it on the artists.
So yeah, this entire thing has been slapped together out of whatever we could find and the little spare money we had from the time our punk single blew up a little more than expected. I know that sounds kind of nihilistic but that’s where we are at. The internal structures of these companies often leaves a lot to be desired and a lot of energy is expended trying their best to look as powerful and in tune as possible. If you can’t do that then your organization is fucked. So try and keep your head above water and be careful when choosing who you are going to work with, but also realize that even the titans can have a lot of difficulty getting all the resources to the right places on time.