Man, this is a big one, and also a pretty depressing one. Just my cup of tea! Long story short – there is a reason industry people don’t trust musicians, and a reason industry people will tell you ‘all musicians are the same’ and that “bands don’t know what they are doing” It’s not just because they spend more time researching this stuff and do it in a variety of circumstances. No, that’s just why people hire managers etc in the first place. No – the reason that industry people don’t trust musicians is that they know that at the end of the day musicians only care about their particular band. Many of us would tell you that’s not a good idea because odds are whatever band you are in now isn’t going to be your band for the rest of your life and you might want to preserve your connections from band to band. Alas – musicians are, as we are all well aware, oftentimes drunks and degenerates and it’s them the suits have to rely on.
Now I know that sounds reductive and it’s certainly not always true. I have met many a musician who knows exactly what they are doing and what they are doing and knows how to think over the long term. They realize their place and relationship with the music not just from an artistic standpoint but also in relation to the community. There are also a lot of industry people who also have successful careers as musicians and who help to bridge that gap. They are vital because they help both sides remember the humanity and inherent value of the other. This is something you can really take advantage of since it brings everyone closer together and allows to rally once more behind our common cause. I’m not trying to say musicians or industry people are bad guys but merely that sometimes there is a lack of communication we need to appreciate.
It makes sense too that artists often have a hard time trusting industry people. Music has a well established history of screwing musicians over and has led to countless acrimonious interviews with players on both sides who end up extremely frustrated and unable to see a reasonable path forward through all this. They only want to look out for themselves because they are afraid that industry people are going to throw them under the bridge the second something better comes along and are worried that politicking is going on around them that they are unaware of but that could leave them perpetually screwed. Industry people have a history of doing exactly this and it’s a practice that when unchecked gets really out of hand and leads to all sorts of unfortunate repercussions that no one wants to deal with, except maybe lawyers.
But can you really blame the industry people though? These are guys who are trying to create and maintain careers in an extremely volatile industry and who punish themselves day by day to help out drunks and degenerates only to have them turn around at the end of the day and fire them for some asinine reason. Of course they are going to do all the politicking they can in order to maintain their already highly volatile and stressful lifestyle. Of course they are going to spend a lot of time preparing contingency plans so that when the next big things comes they can snap it up and make more money. Sure it might not work for everyone or work out all the time, but the odds are your band isn’t generating nearly enough income to have a personal manager and they probably never will – that’s just the way it goes. Which means instead if you want a manager or a label or whatever you are going to deal with people who take people out to fancy dinners and continue trying to grow.
This creates a circle of instability obviously, even if it’s supposed to work out great in theory. While on the one hand it makes sense that artists want to hire manager who are growing and who don’t have all their eggs in one basket (That way they can have access to the resources their peers are using) on the other it means that any sort of entitlement or hope that you won’t have to deal with bullshit is going to get quickly quashed. Trust me – if the politics weren’t necessary I don’t think people would engage in hem, but the simple financial realities of the industry are such that anyone who wants to make it needs to have a diverse roster of bands in order to guarantee a variety of income streams. To maintain those income streams the industry people need to maintain a good reputation, but they know that any one of those can disappear the moment the artist feels he gets a better deal elsewhere – and so we all end up suffering.
It seems rather crass that our entire industry, an industry that’s supposed to be about art and beauty, should be subverted by the need to make a living, and at higher levels our own almost subhuman desires to make more money than we know what to do with. This goes both ways and on both sides you can understand why a level of mistrust is there. This is why as a band you need to be very careful about who you bring onto your team – it is going to make or break your livelihood as a potential viable act. It’s not just about politics but also trust – and figuring out who you can trust in order to help drive your career to the next sustainable level.