It’s on your mind everyday, the Rockstar dream. You know it’s just around the corner because you deserve it and it has happened for so many, overnight. Are you sure about that? The myth of the overnight Rockstar has been perpetuated by the seemingly instant fame of musicians exploding on the internet. If you look behind the veil of fame, you will find a war-weary artist who spent years starving, sacrificing and working their butts off for their day in the sun. Sure there are one hit wonders who hit on something bizarre that catches fire but even the majority of these artists spent some time in the trenches. Finding a couple hundred fans on twitter and playing a few gigs in a year doesn’t mean you have paid your dues. DIY artists, the few of them that do break through, frequently spend decades playing crappy bar gigs for no money and eating spam for dinner every night. Could you really live a poverty level lifestyle for years and work at your craft 15 hours a day in order to achieve the dream? How much is enough when you are dreaming about fame and fortune?
There are Grammy nominated and winning artists out there who are still struggling to get attention and pay their bills. Fame can be fleeting and there are countless stories of artists who were at the top of their game and then disappeared into obscurity and poverty. It’s no picnic out there. Musicians can be so delusional about the reality of the business. Everybody is always getting signed…any day now. Dream On.
Record companies don’t have any resources to promote or develop artists anymore nor do they have the interest. Once you have hundreds of thousands of fans and are making a ton of money you might hear from them. You also might not care. So, what does it take to “make it” in the music business?
People talk about the overnight success of Miranda Lambert. Over ten years of being on the road in beer soaked dives is hardly overnight. She did a great TV interview where she talked about her rise to fame. She was already singing and performing at the age of nine and went to Nashville from Texas at age 14 for the first time. During her teenage years, her father accompanied her to play in restaurants and clubs for no money and little recognition. She spoke about the exhaustion of constantly gigging, no sleep and singing nightly whether anyone showed up or not. Her father asked her several times if she wanted to pack it in, but she was a warrior determined to find her place in the sun. Most people first became aware of Lambert during her time on “Nashville Star,” but she had already paid some dues. That’s the part that escapes the majority of musicians;the years leading up to an artists “overnight success.” Even teenage phenoms generally have given up their childhoods to practice non stop, perform at every county fair, festival and school event, and missed out on just being a kid. Are you willing to give up all your other extra curricular activities and devote every spare moment you have to your music career? How driven are you to succeed? At what cost? If you are serious about making music your lifetime career, the sacrifices are endless. Cancel that party you were going to tonight, you have work to do! It’s also a matter of later rinse repeat. The work you are doing today, has to be repeated tomorrow and every day after that. There is no end, so if you aren’t up for the challenge, quit now while you are ahead. Go back to your friends, parties, vacations and time by the pool. This business is not for you. You really can’t have it both ways, if you are serious about success on an international level. It doesn’t take months to make a Rockstar, it takes years.
Even when a musician gets a possible game changing opportunity, it doesn’t guarantee fame. Many musicians have found themselves on national stages opening for major acts and then five minutes later they are back to the local coffee shop gig. Your music might not be good enough, fans may not connect with you or you have failed to capitalize on the opportunity. Every detail of your career needs to be mapped out and strategically planned in order to stay the course. Where is your plan? How realistic is it? Tell us how you plan on making that cross country tour a reality. There is such a thing as taking your shot too early. If you push for attention from an Industry pro before the music or the business are on a really high level and they pass you over, you may not get another shot. Get advice from a trusted objective Industry veteran to know when your time has arrived. Just because you are impatient and want it now, doesn’t mean you are ready. Be real with yourself and be aware of what’s happening as the music industry shifts and morphs every day. There are millions of really talented DIY artists who want their shot, so you have to work harder and smarter than they do every day.
If your music isn’t incredible, undeniable and innovative, it ain’t going to happen. You can kid yourself but in the end it’s still about the music. Your moms opinion doesn’t count. So you hate the music of a current artist who constantly has billboard top hits? Obviously you are in the minority. Art is subjective and you never know what will make fans get excited. You think you blow that artist away? Great!Where are your hits? If a song is undeniable, it will catch fire rapidly after your fans hear it. You won’t have to convince anyone. You do have to get in this millennium and be active on social media. No way around it, the machine still has to be built. So you hate twitter, facebook, soundcloud and ReverbNation? That’s fine, the musician coming up behind you is all over it and gaining fast. They’ll be happy to take your place. Take care of the music and the business every day, be realistic, work like a maniac and then work some more. Stop complaining, you chose this life. Embrace it, dig in and get it done. You can throw money away on internet schemes and empty promises from a myriad of scam artists lying in wait to entice impatient artists, but all that will get you is broke. There is no substitute for hard work and diligence…lather, rinse, repeat.
Without charting on billboard and having a “hit,” even musicians with amazing careers don’t become household names. Tom Waits is one example of a musician with an illustrious and successful career but you may not have even heard of him. IMO you are living under a rock, but we all have our icons. Even after being nominated for a Grammy and playing stages all over the world, Bonnie Raitt was only known to her cult following. Decades of touring, TV appearances, and recording didn’t pay off in a big way until she won four Grammys for her album, “Nick of Time.” So you see, becoming a Rockstar takes forever. It literally is a forever proposition. Once you reach the top, you have to work like mad to stay there. From all of that work comes more work. If you aren’t in it for the long haul, be honest with yourself and get out now. You are in the wrong business.
It’s funny, when bands or younger musicians ask me: ‘So, what does it take to make it?’ Well, first explain to me what you mean by ‘making it’: Do you want to be a rock star or do you want music to be your livelihood? -Eddie Van Halen