We are connected. It’s not just the name of a Voivod song. It’s the very essence of the industry we are all a part of. I know I touched on this earlier this week when I talked about how this is an industry of passion – but it goes beyond that. What I’ve come to find out over the last few years is not that the music industry is sectional and broken up, like so many genre proud musicians would tell you. In fact there is almost no difference between the lifestyle of your low level pop punk band and your low level black metal band. Anyone trying to tell you otherwise is part of the problem and is creating so many of the crushing realities that define this industry. There is so much here that can be fixed by brotherhood and realizing that at the end of the day we have to deal with so many of the same economic realities and can help each other so much. We need to appreciate the inner bleakness that defines our entire generation of musicians.
I used to be almost exclusively a metalhead. Maybe a little classic rock would sneak in here and there. Maybe I would listen to a little bit of punk. That was about it though. There wasn’t much variety. Later though I realized that ultimately everyone is dealing with the same struggle and the same problems that plague all artists – not even just musicians. This isn’t even from an artistic front. I mean, obviously depression is a big theme in music across genres. That’s not the thing that brings us together as artists though. Neither are any of the other big artistic themes. The fact of the matter is we all feel love, hate, depression and hope. That’s why art is such a unifying force across cultures. It doesn’t matter how it happens to manifest itself in your life or musical taste. That’s not what I’m trying to get at at all. What I’m trying to talk about how calling anyone going out there and doing it a poser is probably just you talking out of your ass.
It’s a question of simple economics. I mean yeah, it’s harder to be a technical death metal band than a pop punk band – but not a lot harder. Sure the pop punk scene is pretty huge and has a demographic that spends a lot of money on shows, but I still know pop punk bands who tour around the country in awful vans and have a hard time finding their way forward across the nefarious landscape of the music industry. One of the problems bands in more popular genres face is that there are more of them. So even if a similar percentage get big as in more obscure ones, more people suffer for the grinder to work. Just because you make a type of music that happens to be more popular doesn’t mean that you are choosing an easier path – it’s just the path that feels right. If you want to make your music more accessible that’s your own choice. That doesn’t change the fact that you’re probably going to spend a bunch of your prime years in a van paying your dues with the desperate hope of one day breaking out and maybe getting some small measure of popularity and finding your own way forward in the music industry.
I don’t want to make it sound like I don’t understand that there are fundamental economic differences between different aspects of the industry by the way. There definitely are. For example – I fully appreciate that the way a big band musician makes his money will be different from a dude in a rock band. Still, it’s part of the same industry and there needs to be respect there. It’s how you get new opportunities or cool crossovers that change your career forever. By cutting off any one group of fans or musicians you are arbitrarily limiting the sorts of people you have access too and doing that in an industry as awfully limited as that of music is never a good idea and will leave you in a deeper hole than when you started. It’s all the same stuff – we just sometimes approach it from different angles.
Don’t get me wrong. Posers exist. These are the people who whine and complain and take everything for granted. The people who for whatever reason got a good manager early on and haven’t had to worry about anything. These are often the same people who have shitty rock star attitudes who think that the world revolves around them. Fuck those people. Yes some genres have more of those people than others – but I’ll tell you that I’ve seen similar ratios of ‘rock stars’ at underground punk shows as I have at major pop gigs, it’s just one of the perils of the arts. The people who last the longest are the ones who are the nicest and who are the best at contributing and growing a team rather than just trying to benefit their own personal brand. If your brand isn’t part of a community, or worse, you are trying to stay separate from the community then you are screwing up.
So we all beat on together. Boats against a current of a society that claims to love us but really would rather have us not be there. I’m not necessarily saying that the government is anti-music, but they certainly don’t make it any easier. That’s not the point of this article though. The point of this article is that we are connected. We are all one. Sooner or later you start to realize that this goes far beyond the world of music too. Artists and musicians are really the same sorts of people, as are actors and any other type of creative. It boils down to that same passion – and it’s that passion that keeps this world going round.