Recently I celebrated what I estimate to be 16,000 and 60 days of time spent on this planet, which sounds insane because I feel like it’s only been 8000! It’s normally around the time of birthdays that I look back on the past year and try to analyse what’s worked and what’s not in both my business and life.
Putting my personal affairs to one side, I’m pretty certain that I’ve learnt more in the last 12 months than I have in the past 10 years, since I started to really work out the fundamentals of the music industry and business dealings.
What I’m absolutely certain of is that you can’t be everything to everyone. It’s impossible, especially in this ever evolving fast paced music industry. Taking care of yourself whilst doing right by others is a sure way to get on track. Honesty and truth is integral, and while this may sound unbelievable to some, I believe it is absolutely vital this exists and grows in the music business. It should always be the starting point especially at grassroots if we are to find new music innovators in order for the business to be sustained at all levels.
For anyone in a position where they could be seen as a “way up the ladder for bands”, I believe we all have a duty of care to uphold, and that honesty and truth should rule all, even if it means having to turn down a pay day.
As a music community, thanks to technology and the cost of hardware being cheaper, it’s never been a better time to be a musician and to take up the wonderful journey of learning music and more. I love this. BUT… and it’s a big but (for me)… there’s more bands than ever and the market is fiercely competitive to the point that it’s all to easy for mental health issues to take over from happiness. The reality is the love affair with heritage sounding music won’t last forever, that there is only so many times a band can sound like another from 20/30/40 years ago (this should never be an issue if a band is jamming for fun). But from my own experience, soundalike bands (which isn't unusual and always happens... it's just amplified a LOT more now) and artists who have grasped the nettle and truly believe in their cause; we need to be taking these people to one side, nurturing , and helping where possible. The talent is out there, the skills is there... it's the songs. I want to hear life changing songs.
Bands have pressure put on them from the off these days, with spiralling costs and social media pressure. Where as back in the 1990’s when I was a teenager, spending money normally meant buying equipment and chipping in for things like fuel, rehearsal rooms, and if we were really lucky, some studio time. Yes, we always had aspirations… but they were realistic.
Fast forward to 2018, and bands don’t have the time to breathe, and from the start have unnecessary strains put on their shoulders, not pinning down the essentials, let alone have the fun being in a band should be about. They don’t seem to get the chance to focus on spending quality time together, building relationships, trust, working out the strengths, crafting their songs and live performances, and most importantly… having fun with music, which is absolutely crucial. Instead it's about likes, plays, videos, and thrusting music into the hands on music fans that don't really want it. Harsh, but fair I think, especially when dealing with rock and metal fanbases, which compared to popular genres, is in the minority.
Money... from a business point of view, the key product (i.e. music) is not selling... streaming is king and entertainment content is fast and furious. As a society we should try to have better understanding of other people's positions, and never assume everything is fine on the other side of the fence. Nor should we presume to think that anyone is made of money and has time and cash to burn. For the majority, this is never true. So the way we handle communication online should be in the best way possible. Respect, nice, and appreciation is etched into my working practices everyday and I do my best when contacted by anyone... it's when the "unknown" occurs that things can unravel.
If I’m approached by bands or management, the key thing they think the artist needs is PR. Not advice, not marketing, not social media health checks etc And so, this is where “duty of care” comes in. If I don’t think a band needs PR, I’ll be honest with them and give them my opinion on where I believe they need to be focusing more. Nine times out of 10, this isn't what they want to hear. But for that every one who really "get it", there's value to be had and lessons to be learnt for next to nothing, and in some cases, free.
In my mind, being able to read people as quickly as possible and gain a solid understanding through intuition and common sense is a must. Assumption is the mother of all messes and quickly leads to doors being closed, fast.
Ok, so I might be jumping around topics a bit on this blog. But my core value through remains. Above everything else I am a firm believer in music pushing boundaries and those deemed as "outsiders" be given the chance to "get heard".. even if it is a few words of polite advice on how to navigate treacherous waters and help fragile minds understand not to take things personally.
So how long can our music community last if we continue looking back and not do the right thing and find a way to help the bands with cause, potency, commitment (I don’t believe most bands really want to be in a band full time, even if they think they do… being a full time musician is one of the hardest things you can ever do, sacrifices a-plenty), vision, and the potential to write songs that move us and sound like nothing that’s come before (Think ‘Epic’ Faith No More, think ‘Killing In The Name Of’ Rage Against The Machine)… how do we help the bands, especially the grassroot ones, keep grounded, informed, be more happy and steady them for the journey that lays ahead? (take a breath, Rob...).
Does every band need to have a manager, booking agent, publicist etc? My opinion... No. Definitely not. If you’re in a band and at the early stages of your career, look for advice from those that work in this business every day. There's free opinions/advice to be had (see here). Sometimes you'll need to pay (we've all got bills to pay). Mentoring, especially from musicians who’ve experienced the highs and lows of the music business and continue to work in the industry in other capacities keeping their fingers on the pulse, is key in my opinion.
The “greyhairs” that work in this industry who continue to evolve with the digital age are as essential as the fast thinking on the pulse digital tech savvy youth. Both are crucial and we need to come together in order keep our music community not just survive, but more importantly... thrive.
We need to keep dreaming, keep challenging ourselves, but during our journey things will change. It’s called life. And where we once felt sure what our end game was, that will evolve and metamorphosis into something else.
Things may seem "out of control" at the moment, but I think it’s a case of addressing balance. The internet has given us a warped view on reality and needs to be kept in check as much as possible. And whilst there is a place for all musicians, the staggered few opportunities available (especially in the rock world) need to be put into perspective and understood as best as possible. I’ve learnt that once you know your positioning in the business, it enables you to find your way better and be happier. Happy. That’s what matters.
I don’t have all the answers, but I do have ideas and mean well and from that, I find hope everyday. With changes happening quickly in my own life; if you’re in a band and contact me, and I politely decline… it’s just my opinion, because I need to stay true to my conscience and if I offer up some advice, it’s because I think it’s the right thing to do. That's all... it's an opinion, never an insult.
Music will always be here... we want it... we need it. It’s what we do next that counts.
Rob Town - 21st March 2018