We all love music. No matter whether we're a fan of rock, pop, or rap. Whether we're listening to the golden oldies (me) or the top 40s, music is a big, big part of our lives; we hear it nearly constantly.
Here's the question though: How much do we know about what goes on behind closed doors?
We all think that it's glamorous; that it is fancy recording studios, red carpets, and award ceremonies. It's touring and seeing the world, it's making more money than you dreamed of. It's sex, alcohol, and headlines. We think that it's fame and people screaming as you sing or play something you've put blood, sweat, and tears into.
When it comes to the glitz and glamour we see and expect, unless you're Beyoncé or up there with the greats, the truth is, it's not at all like that.
Case study time for you: My dad who is 52 has been in different bands since he was 16. My 26-year-old brother has been in bands over half his life. Neither of them is rolling in it, touring the world, or have TV spots. Neither of them is on red carpets or making headlines, or even making it onto the charts. Neither of them makes a great deal of money on what they put out. My brother's made a name for himself of sorts, and has worked with some incredible musicians, but he's still unrecognized and underappreciated. That's, sadly, the behind the scenes; the people who don't make it.
As far as my story goes, I've been trying to get into the industry for years. When I was five it was just a dream. Later on, I had the lyrics and I had the concept, but I didn't really try... Maybe because I was ten at that point, but let's gloss over that.
I'll put it this way. I'm nearly 20, this has been a passion for 15 years now. Fifteen years of refining, of rejection, and of ridicule for that dream. Despite the fact I know how much hell it is in the industry, I still wanna get in.
I've sent lyrics off which have been rejected, I've played bass until my fingers bled. I sang with a throat infection and could never get the same notes. I've put myself through sleepless nights writing and then rewriting. I've basically given myself therapy writing everything I feel down, and it's rejected time after time.
The point of this is, the music industry is not glamorous and people never truly appear overnight. It's not being spotted on YouTube, being scouted, and skyrocketing to fame. It's not always on a TV show where someone will see that spark and take a chance on you. The music industry is not having everything you write being accepted and celebrated. We as consumers don't see the hell it is getting to the top or even getting noticed. Nevermind the top, even getting a foot in the door is frustrating and you do want to give in.
Yet, despite the fact we all know that so many just see it as a money making machine or a dead-end dream, so many people crave it, and so many people crave a false reality.
I've seen conditions of touring; a lot of time, you're in a cramped bus with a hangover or people complaining about a hangover while surrounded by the smell of shit and vomit. That's where you start. In the back of a minibus on tiny bunk beds and a toilet if you're lucky. If not, it's sleeping in a car, throwing up out a window and holding it until you're at a petrol station. Unless you're big, your tour bus is not spacious and roomy. You're lucky if you have plumbing.
With touring, you're away from family and friends for months. Relationships rarely last because of distance. It's not being adored and surrounded by loving fans. You find out who your ride or die friends are when you're hardly around and could even be in different time zones.
It takes hard work to even get noticed, and let me tell you something. Unless you're fucking major, only a small amount of money goes into your pocket. The majority goes to the label and the people who run it. That's why people make merchandise and tour; that's bread and butter. That's how you line your pockets and hope to God you get enough airplay that you get a decent amount of money from the shit you've worked your arse off on.
I've not been there properly myself. If I had, I could probably go into depth on so many more issues that go overlooked. One of the reasons that I haven't tried with major labels is because I don't want to degrade myself and because I think, in general, the way women are treated in the industry is sickening. As a woman, you basically have two options: you can hypersexualize or downplay your feminity because sex sells and if your sex cells don't attract people, as a female artist you're down the toilet. If people don't want to fuck you or fuck with you, you're not gonna last. No matter how great your voice is, no matter how incredible your music is, the media go for weight, looks, and drama. How often have you heard an in-depth review of a popular female artist? Then compare that to how often have you seen female artists get smaller, wear less, or suddenly change their attitude, and how much more publicity they get.
The music industry is not as beautiful or as glorious as we think. But here's the plot twist; if it's something you love, it's fucking worth it. No, it's not what we expect or want it to be, but it's worth the hell if you get there. Getting there is a battle, but I promise, it's worth everything.
I heard a song I played bass on being played on the radio the other day. I cried a little.
I got a compliment on my bass playing by one of my idols as she bought me a drink and gave me life advice. I cried then and I cried when I got home.
What I'm trying to get across is no, the music industry isn't the best place to be, it can be hell on earth and make you wonder why you ever dreamed of it. Then on the flip side, the joy you give people and the opportunities you can get, if even for a second, will make the shit pay and the smell of a tour bus, the rejection... It makes it worth it.