1) The music industry is a lot like Game Of Thrones.
While the unwashed masses fuss over who’s the current king or queen, there’s an inner circle of advisers, hands, pages and hell serfs who all make it happen… or unhappen. There’s always a manager lurking in the shadows or a booking agent plotting in a whorehouse. Everyone is always looking out for their best interests, as no one else will.
2) There is no money here.
Unless you’re a 13-year-old savant currently signed to a development deal and prepared to ensure several years of backbreaking, basically unpaid work, you’re not going to make it. The pool has gotten smaller and gone are the days of $80 million deals and your cheeky 20% cut.
R.E.M already did it. If someone doesn’t have access to their own equipment, they’re not going to spend $500 a day to book a studio. That cool $40,000 advance the label promised you is going to go back into the album either through marketing, publicity, or at the very least a producer.
3) Backstage is literally the most awkward and boring experience ever.
Anyone who means anything isn’t backstage. They’re on their way to the venue or sitting in an office behind a computer with proper Internet and power. After two young girls at a festival in a particular regional centre offered themselves to me in an attempt to gain access, it truly hit me how glamorous backstage really seems. There’s nothing there but an excessive amount of deck chairs, roadies who all look like the same person and abandoned half-drunk bottles of water.
4) No one will ever understand what you do.
You might work in licensing or sales at a major label, or publicity or A&R at an indie. Be prepared for everyone you ever went to school with to ask you “So, how’s it going with your music thing?”
Knowing full well that the music industry’s heyday is over your parents won’t take you seriously either, that is until the first time you get them into a gig for free. But no matter how many free shows, or how many times you explain it, your partner will forever ask “What do you do again?” which means…
5) You can only really date music industry people.
But you must NEVER date a music industry person. It seems like a great idea at first; bonding over your various contacts, scheming potential collaborations, having sex on soundboards… but unless you enjoy awkward energy, like some sort of sick fuck, don’t go there.
This shit is a small, close-knit community. Everyone knows anything about anyone. You might think it’s a good idea to hook up with the Print publicist from a boutique firm, but after receiving 400 press releases about an obscure folktronica hail-Mary project from an Australian Idol top tenner you’ll think otherwise.
6) Punk’s not dead but it should be.
So you and your friends are feeling a bit oppressed by society? Feel like making angry music about it? Well don’t. Truth is, you and your friends are living in a society, which, for many reasons, is the most liveable in recorded history. There’s an emerging middle class, a gradual balancing of social inequalities and a community where, if you aren’t tattooed you’re the odd one out. Punk was inspired by a world gripped by the fear of an impending nuclear holocaust, a global market in a downward spiral and a disillusioned youth who were yet to have their voice. Ever wondered where Henry Rollins went? It’s hard to be angry in your mega mansion.
7) You will not be thanked for your hard work.
There are certain types of people out there who thrive on, nay, require instant gratification. You’re not going to find it in music. There are many reasons for this. The main one being that if you’ve done something correctly, something that your job entails, people won’t even know you’ve done it. Things will continue sailing smooth and everyone will just attribute the achievement to the artist’s talent, even if you had to pull a favour with a former flatmate who now happens to run a blog and owe you bond money. You’ll never see that money now but at least you got the interview locked in.
Now, if you screw something up you WILL hear about it. You’ll never stop hearing about it. You know how that album you were working didn’t go platinum? Yeah, it’s directly because you fucked that one thing up. You know how the tour flopped? Totally your bad.
8) Industry parties are as fun as masturbating with a cheese grater…
And by that, I mean slightly intriguing initially but mostly just fucking painful. Much like backstage, no one of any significant is at this party. They don’t need the networking time. I’ll tell you who does though – Everyone who you will never need to network with. However don’t let this stop you from attending. You have to attend. After all, these significant people used to go to the parties in the beginning. To be seen arriving at an industry event is, sadly, a status symbol. To be honest, I’ve got more business done in the gutter with some contacts outside New York Slice at 3am one BIGSOUND than I did the rest of that year.
9) The music industry is a freeform wonderland where anything is possible.
Credit where credit is due. The music industry is one of the last places left where anything can happen. You can come up with the craziest idea of all time, but if it’s unique and interesting people are going to want to hear it and eventually, people with the power will too. “No” is rarely said in this biz. Ideas are a precious resource, even scarcer than time. The more passion the better. This is an industry in crisis/catalyst, we’re all looking for the next big thing – and that stupid idea you might have could be it.
10) The people you work with are greater than any amount of free things.
Fuck hanging with the artists. Fuck going to certain parties, which are almost exactly the same as a 50 Cent video clip, and fuck the free stuff. These things fade with time and become white noise. After your 10th free show, you just want to spend a Friday night at home. The music industry attracts a certain type of human. They want to geek out about artists just like you do – they too had the lightening bolt moment. Perhaps it was standing in the pit for Brand New at Big Day Out, or perhaps it was a chance run in with an idol in the line for at the super market. Whatever it is, your colleagues are music fans, who like you have taken the brave step to dedicating their lives to something as painful, fragile, entertaining and rewarding as the music industry.