Some would say the internet has been a huge boost for musicians. It enables young artists to expose music to the masses and find their fan base. I contend that it gives thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of musicians a false sense of their talent. It allows people that otherwise would have found lucrative careers, a chance to prolong their separation from their dream…that of being a rockstar. Just because you CAN MAKE AN ALBUM, it doesn’t mean THAT YOU SHOULD. What we will end up with is a part of a generation unemployable and despondent.
For decades young people dreamed of getting famous by playing music. Eventually, due to the system that was in place, all but the most talented, the biggest dreamers, the laziest and fools, realized that this was not to be their fate. Fortunately, the people that were not going to be successful found out in time to devote their energies to careers that would allow them to have successful lives. Unfortunately the internet has allowed too many young people to extend their dream too far into their adulthood. Many will ruin their lives by holding onto their dream of stardom far too long.
There is a scene in the movie Moneyball, where one of the scouts explains that sooner or later, every player finds out they can no longer play. For some it happens when they are 40, after they have had their career. For others it happens when they are young. But, sooner or later it happens to everyone.
Music is very much the same way. Only a very small percentage of those who want to be professional musicians will actually get to earn a living by playing music. Only a very small percentage of professionals will actually become stars.Yet, every musician thinks it can happen for them. They have to, or else they would not be able to continue. Which may actually be the best thing.
I see it all the time. People send me music and ask me to help “make them famous”. Some wave lots of money at me. Most of these people have spent tens of thousands of dollars making an album. Many have poured tens of thousands or more into buying onto tours in hope that they will find a fan base. They have on thing in common, they think they have what it takes.
Let me address both these questions. There is no need for an unknown artist to make an album. The world is not waiting for their ten great songs. Mostly because there is a one in a million chance that they actually have ten great songs. Maybe, they have one!!! If you really believe you have great songs, pick two or three and make an EP. Spend $10,000 not $50,000. Secondly, there is only one reason to buy on a tour. That is to get experience playing live that you would not ordinarily have the opportunity to gain. This should only be undertaken if someone who actually knows what they are talking about, actually says that you have a chance to be successful. The chances are extremely remote that you will “find your audience” by playing to 50 people or even 250 people at 7pm. It certainly is not worth the money that you will have to pay for this privilege.
Recently a friend sent me music by the son of a friend of theirs. It turned out the kid was debating between going to law school and trying to make it with his music. The music was okay. Not great, not terrible. But, his chances of making a successful life for himself in the legal world were much greater than if he chose to try to make it as an artist. His chances of making it as an artist were miniscule. I gave my friend an honest appraisal. The kid went to law school and will be graduating soon…extremely grateful someone had the sense to point him in the right direction.
This guy was smart. I see the other side of the coin far too often. Kids that went to Ivy League schools and dropped out to pursue their dream of being a rockstar. Why not, they can release their music on the internet. They spend the next three or five years sleeping on people’s couches, hanging around cheap rock clubs, living on beer and $10 a day meal money. Eventually they will all realize they made a mistake, but it may be too late. Too late to get their lives on a path that will lead to success.
This is not to say that there are not people out there who really have the ability to succeed. But those who have a real chance to be successful are incredibly talented. It is not just someone who writes and plays music, but someone who can’t live without it. Someone with talent that is undeniable. Those of us who have made our living on the business side of the music business, see these people. But we see them far less often than most people believe. These artists are freaks!. We look hard to find them. We know pretty early on whether or not “they are for real”. These are the only people that should consider taking the plunge.
Ironically, one thing I find is that the young kids that have talent usually have no one to help them out financially. The kids who have the desire, but not the talent, have someone to feed their addiction. For these kids it almost always ends up ugly. I know why less talented kids seem to have money behind them. Otherwise they would never surface. But it is frustrating to see the real talented kids that have nothing. The state of the industry today reduces the odds for success for even the most talented young artist. Logic would dictate that many of the potential crop of new superstars will drop out before they realize their dream. Would Dylan, Springsteen, The Who, Led Zeppellin and The Eagles have made it if they were coming of age today? Sadly, I think the odds against them would be astronomical. What will become of the next generation of superstars? Will they give up in frustration or realize there are other ways for them to survive besides playing music? I think the probability of this occurring is staggering. As a result we will never hear of them.
Our government needs to pay attention. An industry that is a cultural necessity is dying. We need to find ways to support young singers, songwriters, rappers, poets and musicians. Contemporary music is a very important export of our culture. Unfortunately, no politician or government body shares this sentiment. Eventually it will die. If you watched this year’s Grammys, you may think it is already too late. But I contend if we can find hundreds of billions of dollars to save the auto industry, and trillions of dollars to wage war in the Mideast, we can find a fraction of that amount to help out our struggling young talent.
In summation, I am begging the youth in our nation to be realistic in the appraisal of their talents. Don’t hold onto your dream too long. Don’t look at Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, The Lumineers or other relatively young acts and think you can do it also. If you could, you would already know.