I’ve spent about ten hours over the past two days researching appropriate festivals and venues to book at for my clients over the next few weeks. Working with bands is a nightmare, you work an obscene amount and then you end up overtired, overcaffeinating to cope and trying not to cry. This isn’t just me being bad at the music industry, it’s just the brutal reality of it all. This isn’t an easy industry to be in, it’s one that is, in a word, futile, incredibly so. Yet we go into this and we deal with it every day because we love it and it gives our lives meaning.
What most bands don’t understand about the industry is that the people who are making it are the people who literally cannot do anything else. The margins have been squeezed to the point that the only people who can really eke it out are the people who have to face the desperate reality of simply being unable to find other work. I know that I’m a pretty useless human being outside of the music industry so I do everything I can to stay involved. This isn’t always an easy or fun task but it definitely is one that I have no choice but to do. It’s the kind of thing that I find strangely rewarding, even if so much of it is just nihilistic frustration and sitting there in tears as you realize that you have no clue how you’re going to pay rent this month.
The simple reality is that the music industry is very much grind in this day and age. It is a world where we have to push as hard as we can, and a lot of that involves just sending out bulk emails, spending hours on Google and striving to figure out what the next cool gig is going to be. You need to only be ready to send out massive amounts of emails, you have to positively embrace it. As I was explaining to my best friend earlier today – no matter what you want to think and no matter what innovative marketing strategies you might use – nobody cares. I don’t know why this is, because I care about a lot of bands and invest a lot of time into music. But most people – they just don’t have the time. They care about the two or three bands that they like and that’s just about it. That’s fine too – lots of bands have targeted audiences, it’s just easy to forget that no matter how great your product is, people probably aren’t going to care, until you make them care.
Beyond that – it’s thankless. It only adds to the futility. You might send out hundreds of emails to book a show but your bandmates might never realize this, or worse, they might realize this and just not care. A lot of people don’t understand the effort put in, even if they grasp the work involved. You find yourself running against a wall, beating your head into it again and again and slowly suffocating. Why? Because people just don’t care. This is what young people don’t realize about the music industry – they start up their bands and think they have crossover appeal because all of their friends like them, and guess what, their band probably is okay, but that doesn’t matter. People aren’t going to care. That’s no ones fault, but like I’ve said countless times on this blog – there is so stuff much out there that people just don’t have a reason to give a crap.
I may sound like a bitter old man, and I swear I really am not – there’s a lot I genuinely love about this industry. I had a phone call earlier today that had me running around the apartment cheering and drinking celebratory beers with my best friend. Things DO come together with time. It’s just that you need to start off with the assumption that no one is going to care. Pretty much no one is going to come out of the woodwork and be all “Wow, you sure are doing a great job! I don’t listen to a lot of independent music but here’s fifty bucks for merch!” I mean – there are those people out there, and if you can get them into your band then you’re good – but expecting people to care is only going to hurt you.
It gets worse though. Like with everything else in life – if you are actively trying hard to work on something then your friends are going to make fun of you about it. That’s part of the struggle of being someone who does stuff. Other people get scared by this and do their best to hold you back. Even if you think you have a supportive group of friends just wait until the time comes and you will be shocked by how many people call you silly or a poser. That’s simply how the music industry works. As I said earlier on in this article – it’s only the truly insane people who rise to the top and are able to do anything in this industry.
So what can you do? Lower expectations – face every day with a grim look and the knowledge that you are a part of a movement that this world needs. We need art to keep functioning and to give our lives meaning and we need to keep creating it. If people don’t care, that sucks, but we need to keep constructing our own legacies until people are forced to take notice. No one is willingly going to put out their neck for you unless you show them how it will help them. Like I always say – the music industry is capitalism at its finest and unless you take advantage of that then you are just going to drown out like all the rest of them.