How artists can equip themselves for the pressures of the music industry
As a career-musician of 12 years (which translates to 47 in bassist years), I’ll modestly agree that I’m a suitable candidate to share my perspective with experience in the rearview.
If it’s useful to anyone, I’m honoured. The great fortune of having an enterprise invest into what they anticipate will come from your mind, enabling you to make records and tour the world in support of them, is the greatest gift in the world. But life has an unfailing, irritating method of balancing…everything.
Consequently, the gift comes with an equally valued toll. Here’s an assortment of words that aim to optimise your pleasure, hoover your pain, and keep you happy, healthy and rocking...
Be in your favourite band
Sounds a bit un-advice-like, but any artist who doesn’t feel this way should probably take dad’s advice about law-school.
The saying goes: “nobody can love you until you love yourself”, and that applies here. You’ve got nothing to hide; nobody can justly accuse you of fraud, trap you in a “gotcha” moment, or dislike you for the wrong reasons, especially YOU!
If you are in it for any other reason, that reason has either ceased to exist (think Guns-n-Roses tour bus), or can’t be concealed. Any crack in your resolve will spring a leak. Pending the size of the crack, you may go down quietly, or fail spectacularly. Those are the only options. In this case, I would choose the latter. It makes great fodder for googling with the grandkids!
Family, friends, bandmates
Remember the hometown show you did to a sold-out club of fans who invariably adored you, compelling the A&R guy to toss his chips behind your band?
Contrary to popular belief, the touring life isn’t 150 cut, copy and pastes of that night per year.
Prepare for a strong and sustained culture shock. By nature, humans are settlers. You’re about to live a nomadic lifestyle without structure, regiment, nourishment, family, friends or loved ones. Sorry about that. Stay connected to your friends and family. Facetime them, join a fantasy league, do the online video game thing, whatever your jam is, stay connected, as often as you can. They are your anchor and all three Weakest Link life-lines.
Also, learn how to communicate with your bandmates. You’re going to live on each other - not with, on each other - for many years, under much adversity and duress. Learn how to be a team; they are your brothers and sisters in war. Yes, even drummers.
Grow a thick skin
Then wrap it up in a suit of armour, lock it inside of a safety box, in a vault, one mile below sea-level.
You’ve just agreed to share your life’s work, expose your heart and soul for the world to judge by as many unwitting eyes and ears as the label’s budget can cram you into. It will be fine, your fans will ultimately find you, but not without a lot of driving around and playing shows first.
People will hate your band. Hipsters, moshers and people who haven’t even been born yet will hate your band. Even people who love your band will hate your band! Don’t get sucked in, don’t read, don’t respond, and don’t attach a value to YOUR thoughts and fears manifesting. It’s only your ego talking, not you. And remember, you’re in your favourite band right? That’s all that matters. Well, some other people have to like it too, I mean c’mon, it’s not charity.
Meditate, do yoga and be present
Don’t miss it. It can be the greatest ride of your life, a sustained life-long career, or it can pass you by in a flash. When you wake up, figure out where you are. Make sure you didn’t miss a bus/van/call, make sure your crew is whole, then it’s your time. Drink water. Eat something healthy. Meditate for at least thirty minutes. Do yoga and focus on all the things you have to be grateful for. Then you can pick up your phone and read the comments from last night’s show where “the crowd was insane, they loved us!”…That was a test, no comment reading.
Pull your oxygen mask over your mouth before assisting others
Meeting fans who have connected with you through your music is immeasurably gratifying. Creating a community and culture around your art is indescribable. You’ll want to give all your energy to each one of them, but pace yourself. This is the most understated, undetected challenge that I’ve never heard discussed. The psychology of a band/fan relationship is unlike nearly any other dynamic out there. It’s a one-way relationship where the fan has created a reality out of a mythology, based on who they think you are, having never met you. This quickly morphs into expectation, which ultimately results into an insatiable ideal that goes up in a flame of disappointment, abandonment, anger, threats of self-harm, unsavory posts, relentless tweets, and dear god, where they find the time to do this, let alone eat, I’ll never know! Good luck out there, have a riot!
Matthew Leone is a founding member and bassist of Madina Lake, and recently joined Help Musicians UK as their International Music Liaison Executive.
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