A Question Of Attitude
Coming into a local music scene by accident rather than design and seeing hundreds of acts, it never ceases to amaze me how big some of the egos are out there from musicians who at this point in their career have achieved very little, this doesn’t mean that I don’t think that they are talented, some clearly are and I’ve happily put this in writing elsewhere, it’s just that the minimum qualification to act like a star is that you must at least be a star in the first place and being a star in your own mind is nowhere near this.
Before this voyage of discovery into local scenes and characters I listened to massive amounts of music across most genres and I considered myself a music explorer but looking back, even the most obscure of my music tastes were of bands that had at least been signed by somebody, even if they went on to sell virtually nothing, unsigned artists need to recognise that they haven’t even got over the early hurdle of signing a record contract.
I recently witnessed an ageing band performing folky covers of contemporary pop in a jokey manner, it was funny for a couple of songs but the joke was wearing thin after the half an hour set was over, at this point I was fairly warm about them, it had been pleasant enough, the two older members of the band came through the audience giving praise and encouragement to some of the other younger acts who’d performed earlier and I warmed to them more, then the middle aged lead singer came through, clearly believing she was some kind of superstar in the waiting with an attitude of she was too good for this place (she wasn’t, she was a poor singer at best) and any good will I had for this band was gone.
I could repeat scenarios like this on many occasions across age groups and genres.
At the unsigned stage, music should be about creating stuff you truly believe in and discovering your own identity and gigs should be about honing your craft of performing your music live and getting feedback from neutrals in the audience and if you’re lucky, making contacts that can get your music to bigger audiences and further afield.
The phoney star thing starts with the younger bands when they always play for their mates, who are duty bound to clap and cheer and call for encores and then the band believe their own hype. Even worse, if they get more of their own mates in a venue than another act, then they believe they are BIG because they ‘blew ‘em away’, notice the question about whether the music is any good or not has not even come into the equation, record companies will not give two hoots about your mates reaction, they will look for musical and song writing ability and/or whether there is a market for your stuff.
This also brings in this strange phoney local competition where nobodies (in record company terms) compete with other nobodies and waste precious time and effort on this. Let’s take the ‘we are the biggest band in Nowhereville’, well do you know the biggest act in Carlisle, Merthyr Tydfil or the Isle Of Wight and in Carlisle do they know about your act in Nowhereville, no, so why are you so wound up about the other local bands and what they are doing, if you are going to be a success you have to aim to be the biggest band or most artistically acclaimed in Britain, America and the world, you have to make better or different music than them not better music than the act on at the Rose and Crown next Friday.
Nobodies come in many shapes and forms, strangely, there are loads of acts out there in cyber space with millions of you tube plays, check out some of the hip hop artists, one had 11 million plays, they are still unsigned, the music was poor and they are still nobodies, deservedly so, do they think that record companies don’t trust their own ears over bogus statistics?
So you’re a big star, well lets do a bit of imaginary market research here to test whether you are a big hitter even on your home turf, canvass a hundred houses on any non descript part of your own town and ask:
Have you heard of the Beatles? Probably 99% yes
Have you heard of Lady Gaga? Probably 75% yes
Have you heard of Radiohead? Probably 40% yes
Have you heard of The Vaccines? Probably 15% (if you’re lucky)
Have you heard of your band? Maybe 1% at best even with your ‘web presence’ and that one is probably involved in the local music scene themselves!
The chances are that your act will not be big, will never be discovered, what you are messing with is your future reputation and respect among your fellow local musicians, if you alienate your friends and comrades right at the beginning they will take great delight in watching you fail miserably. If, on the other hand you created great music, supported, encouraged and even gave practical help to those around you, even if you didn’t make it you will always have earned the love and respect of those around you.
Record contracts might be the dream but that dream so often becomes the nightmare if you actually achieve it, musical obscurity could be your nightmare right now but the everlasting respect of your friends could be a dream worth having and it’s so easily achievable.