Okay look – your unsigned band isn’t going to make any money. I am aware that this sucks and that it isn’t fair. I’m aware that ‘You can totally make 6 figures writing for TV’. I get that. That’s great. I wish we could all have access to those things. Thing is, pretty much everyone else is googling “How to make money as a musician” too – which is why I don’t write those types of articles, they are overproduced, nigh on worthless bullshit. The ideas are valid but they aren’t really suited for an oversaturated market. I also know that yes, if you want to be a professional in this industry it can often pay to emulate the professionals and try to use advanced marketing techniques to your advantage. The thing is – if you’re not making the money to justify certain expenditures or time investments then guess what? FUCKING DON’T. I see so many bands wasting their time on little things that don’t matter and hurting their ability to work with what does matter and it drives me nuts.
A classic example that fucks with countless bands is thinking that they need all of their legal shit on lock before they can start playing out. Honestly dude, odds are you aren’t going to get fucked over for not having the trademark on your name – and that certainly shouldn’t impact you from starting to play live. If you change your name after a few shows it doesn’t matter, after all it was probably only your friends really watching anyway. To start going out and doing stuff doesn’t require you to have all of your ducks in a row. Sure it would be nice, but you need to appreciate that there is a lot you can do without diving into that world. Another legal roadblock a lot of bands trip over is copyrights – again – if your EP is selling 100 copies you don’t need to worry about fucking ASCAP. Sure the song “might get big” but the odds of a song on your first record when you have a few hundred Facebook fans blowing up and fucking people for money are so astronomically small that you’re more likely to be hit by lightning than to have one of those songs blow up. And beyond that by wasting time on that stuff you are lowering your odds of making your songs successful.
The bands who spend all of their time trying to work out legal bullshit rather than actually going out and try to make a name for themselves so that the legal bullshit can be merited are often the ones who subconsciously know that they don’t have enough good content to properly make it. They are the ones who think that just by having a manager and advertising they are going to get huge. While those things can all help they aren’t a substitute for good music, regular content and solid business sense. Yet so many bands seem to get off on the dick waving magic of paying a bunch of money for help moving units that they are never going to move unless they had saved that money and used it on more cost effective things. Sure it pays to cover your bases – but not at the larger expense of your band and career.
Now I’m not saying it’s not important to have ducks in a row or a lawyer or an accountant it’s also important to realize that this is more a question of realizing where you are in the industry and what is realistic for you given your situation. Odds are you can handle most stuff on your own early on and you don’t need a lawyer or a marketing analyst or whatever, you just need to be smart and with it. Don’t get tied up in too much to early, that’s stuff you would want a manager for, but odds are you aren’t at the point you need a manager. Instead you need to sit back, chill out and try to embrace what you have coming to you with the hope that it can develop into something greater. It’s great that you want to have your shit in order, but I know actual lawyers in bands who don’t care about that kind of stuff because they realize ultimately they are just an unsigned metal band and nothing they do will really impact their collective futures all that much.
You can’t get caught up in our ego. You need to realize that a band isn’t like a lot of other small business – it is based entirely on a weird underground of people doing shit for free. It’s based around passion and yeah there are assholes but so often the odds of having to deal with that are astronomically low. Only start to worry about those things when you start to get real PR, tours booked and the future of your band seems promising. Otherwise you will find yourself getting tied up in bullshit that only slows down your progress and prevents you from creating the rt you were destined to make. I know that sounds a tad reckless, and it is, but that’s punk rock. We need to embrace the nihilistic beauty of it all and realize that we are working together to create a better tomorrow. Just ask a hardcore band who have toured the country countless times if they worry about copyrights, odds are you’ll just get a simple “Fuck you.”
Long story short, I think it’s best to play these things by ear and if you find someone on a low level freaking out about their copyright protection odds are they are an asshole. Sometimes people are dicks and shit comes up such that you need to protect yourself, but in most cases you’re going to be fine doing it after you get a letter or whatever. Most people aren’t out trying to screw unsigned bands -there’s so little money that it just doesn’t make sense. Instead grin and bear it. It’s the music industry and it doesn’t really matter in the long run whether or not one individual band makes it. So instead take life as it comes and embrace the simple beauty of this weird existence.
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