As far back as I can remember in my youth all, I wanted to be in life was a professional soccer player. Yeah thats right, a footballer! There I was with my little short shorts and all that good stuff. I trained day in and day out playing in every team and league I could get into. I studied the sport like it was a religion.
But one day, my life changed completely. I listened to Ride the Lightning by Metallica and I was never the same person again.
Something sparked inside of me, something that cannot be explained. Something that brings joy to the masses rather than my own persona. It was a passion for something greater than myself. I knew from that moment on that I wanted to do music! I dreamed… Hell, I fantasized, like any young 17-year-old teenager does. But not about killing zombies or banging some chicks (although those dreams were high on my list); I dreamt about becoming a professional musician just like the guys who wrote this amazing album. At the time I had absolutely no idea what metal was or what the guys who played it looked like, all I knew was that I liked it and nothing else in the world could ever compare to it.
I am now 22 years old, and have probably accomplished more in this business than anyone would have bet I could. In a short amount of time, I went from practicing day in and day out on my bass to playing small backyard shows with a few local bands and selling hundreds of pre-sale tickets to play at venues to, out of nowhere, being summoned to play bass for one of, if not the best new wave of thrash metal band in the world — Bonded By Blood!
I quickly went from waiting for the next week’s backyard show in hopes it wasn’t shut down by the cops to having the opportunity to write and be part of an album for my favorite signed band, tour all over the world with exceptionally great bands, and meet some of the most amazing people in the world! I was absolutely thrilled about the opportunity that fell on my shoulders. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for anyone in the position I was in to see past the smoke and mirrors and smell the right down arsehole that is “the music industry.”
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against anyone at the label, management, or booking agencies let alone any promoter that I ever worked with while I was in Bonded By Blood. I fully understand that, at the end of the day, they are running a business — and money talks (if not screams!) when the budgets are tight. Nevertheless, the thrill of being in that band went from an all-time high to an all-time “What the fuck?!?”
There we were on tour, literally generating hundreds of thousands of dollars over extended periods of time on many levels all split to the promoters, booking agents, managers, and labels while we slept in a van. The only money we made came directly from the merch we sold at shows, and whatever was left after we split the money went straight to our gas tank. We even had to pay for our own food from the money we had to save up for weeks before the tours started. I didn’t understand how this was possible. How was it possible for us and many of the same bands we were on tour with to generate such large amounts of cash and not see a single penny of it go towards our pockets or even our stomachs at the very least? But like I said before, it didn’t take much time to see through the crap.
Believe me when I say that bands get RAPED in every single sector for their work. Every single signed band is doomed from the very start, and they do not even know it until it is too late. Statistics prove that no matter who you are or what genre you play, your sales will never ever compare to those possible back in the days before the internet and file-sharing really took hold. Many artists claim to be doing okay, but they are not. They have an image to uphold and won’t say they’re broke and downright homeless in fear that it will harm their reputation. The internet has brought about the discovery of some of the most amazing bands and musicians the world has ever seen, but at the same time it has opened up the door to massive monetary exploitation by those running the industry. The very moment that file-sharing and illegal downloading caught momentum marked the beginning of the end for the music industry as we used to know it. The game has changed, my friends, and it’s time to wake up and see it for what it is. The way it works is like this (all hilarity intended).
Artist makes music and gets noticed by a major label.Most bands getting signed now are very young and very talented for the simple fact that they make great music that will sell and they are also very naive about the industry. They are sold a dream that they will probably never reach by the current “make music, get signed, go big” mentality that is so prominent in our current pop culture.
Major label offers them a deal based on their music, dedication to taking on the “touring life,” and marketabilityYes, they promise that the sky is the limit. After all, they are marketing your music as well as your image, this includes how you look — yes, people, looks do count even in metal. Just look at some of the guys, from what’s their name, Bring Me the Horizon.
Deal includes, but is not limited to, full if not most merchandising rights as well as full copyrights to music and anything and everything related to your band.“Wait WTF?!?! So they basically are going to own our souls?” “Nah man, we will be fine once our album comes out and sells like hot sexy waffle cakes on a strip pole, with a stripper on it!”
Label then loans you a set amount of cash for your first album as well as all the merchandiseExcept that you must then pay back all of the cash via album and or merchandise sells that you acquire on the road. And this is where bands are fucked from the get go!
You now have your first album, and are in debt a couple thousand dollars. This, in turn, sets you up for a massive downward spiral of debt and servitude towards to music business. You might as well play on stage with a big fat dick half way up your ass and the aftermath all over your band shirt with the words “spunk muffin” written across the front, because that is literally what you will be to the music business, a big fat spunk muffin with a warm greasy hole down the middle ready for penetration!
Bands need to tour to pay off their debt and in order to get shit done they need a proper manager who has the know how to pull off such tasks as well as a very good promoter that will ensure they are on tour with the right audience long enough to pay off the debt. The manager and promoter don’t work for free of course so they charge you a certain percent for daily gig guarantees and/or merch sales — another stone on top of the already heavily dirted grave you have dug for yourself and your band.
After a few tours you realize that, in order to be on tour and do what you love, you will always be in debt and make little to absolutely no money thanks to the deal you agreed to in the first place in hopes of “making it big.” It is the ugly truth that goes on behind the curtains of most of the music industry — especially in metal. Everyone will make a cent off your hard work before you, the artist, see any money from it.
I didn’t go into this business with the hopes of getting rich. Hell, people that know me know that the monetary system is something that I openly despise and root for it’s demise. However, I hate to see my artwork be claimed by someone else who had absolutely no creative input towards. I believe there is another way to do it yourself and still be somewhat self-sufficient to keep releasing your music and, at the same time, put some food on the table.
Also, I have absolute confidence that if you make good music and it reaches a decent audience, there is no excuse for you not to be crafty and use the internet to your marketing advantage. I have nothing against the downloading of music — as a matter of fact, I believe it is inevitable. I see it as a tool to reach a broader audience that would have never been reached before.
Just look at Facebook for a quick example: They offer a service to billions of people for free but the money they generate comes from the targeted advertisement deals they sign. It is absolutely clever to use methods such as this to your advantage and if they can do it we can do it as well.
Another clever manipulation of the internet is the Re-Captchathings we have to figure out when signing into our favorite social networks or e-mail accounts. Yeah, that’s right prepare to get mind fucked twice, in the ass! What Re-Captcha does is it prevents computers from making accounts for the sole purpose of spamming and hacking other accounts with nasty viruses and all that porn everyone despises so much (cuz porn sucks!). Computers cannot understand symbols or squiggly letters like we humans can do.
Now, where the money lies in Re-Captcha is in the fact that every single time we figure out what those annoying little squiggly bastard lines mean, we are unknowingly transcribing text from old books and scriptures that is unreadable by modern computers. In other words we are unknowingly the single largest unpaid workforce this planet has ever seen, and I bet 90% of you did not even know it.
If businesses can use the internet to their advantage in such ways, I am sure musicians can do the same. I do not root for the demise of music labels, as I believe they are still a very valuable and viable stream towards musical success. What I do root for is a change in the mindset of musicians, fans, and labels alike to work towards a successful alternative to the outdated ways the music business is currently run in.
And the only way to do this is by musicians to gather and say “Enough is enough!”
Stop signing label contracts that do not benefit you or your future. Fans, go out to see your favorite bands and buy their merchandise and drop a buck or two into their tip jars — they aren’t there for nothing! We have to move together towards a solution if we want to ensure the future of this beautiful artform we call music. I want future generation musicians to be able to see the fruits of their labor and be encouraged rather than discouraged to succeed, and learn from the mistakes many artists have done for years now. Trust me when I say that there is more than one way to milk a cow because when the cow runs out of milk, you use the bull!
The only constant in life is change… The music business seems to not have gotten the memo yet.