There are these weird foundational myths that seem to define rock and roll and are a huge part of the grand delusion of rock music. Boston’s classic, Rock & Roll Band is a prime example this. It seems to suggest the band went from nowhere to the top of the charts because they signed a contract with an industry bigwig who happened to be at the show. This is of course the exact vision that music industry head honchos want you to have for a variety of reasons. It’s sort of like the Republican party. To become wealthy like Donald Trump is so incredibly improbable as to border on insane fantasy, and yet they keep selling us the dream. Why? Well in the music industries case it’s because they want artists to seem relatable or because they want aspiring musicians to buy more gear or for any number of profitable reasons. For the Republicans I don’t know. They’re motivated by evil I guess? All that to say – why do these myths persist if they are so obviously false?
I think the Boston Rock & Roll Band myth is especially egregious because it doesn’t touch on all the key elements that made Boston huge. Obviously it’s a fantasy based rock and roll song, but so many people have bought into it and songs like it. This is a problem. There are bands out there who will look you in the eye and say that they are playing all these shows to basically no one because they think that they might ‘get noticed’. Guess what. You’re not going to get fucking noticed. Industry people aren’t going to shows that they know there is going to be a grand total of five people at. If a band isn’t willing to do the work to draw more than five people why would an industry person be at all interested? I mean I’m all about taking baby steps, but realize you are taking any steps and that the next big break isn’t just around the corner, but is rather only going to show up if you keep on grinding it out over the long term.
A similar myth that drives me just as crazy is that of independent bands going on massive nationwide tours when nobody gives a shit. This is one I have harped on before and which I REALLY don’t understand. What’s the appeal of playing to 4 people in California when you are already playing to 4 people at home? Again – I get that it’s important to grow yourself in far away markets. But maybe make sure there is some sort of legitimate demand for your band before you throw yourself and your band into a financially draining struggle. People seem to think that there is demand for bands all the time, but that’s simply not true. If there was demand for bands all the time then wouldn’t local shows constantly pop off? Except local shows basically never pop off. In fact, most of the time local shows suck. Why? Because people aren’t investing time in proper promotion and… oh man here comes the big one.
It’s insane to me how many groups throw songs together expecting people to appreciate the spontaneity of their jam. Guess what Tyler, I know about six other sludge metal bands who get super high and then play slow riffs together. That doesn’t make you the next fucking coming of Sleep, it makes you a bunch of assholes who get too high to write anything coherent and then piss everyone off for thirty minutes while they make loud noises. I’m all for bands slowly growing their sound from humble roots, but at least have some vision and ambition behind your songwriting. People aren’t going to listen through the haze of pot smoke and identify greatness. It doesn’t matter what you perceive your heroes as doing, your heroes are trying to preserve their brands in order to keep doing what they love and expanding their art. Odds are they are hard fucking workers, even if they do enjoy passing the peace pipe and drinking some beers.
This feeds into the last big myth I’m going to tackle on this rant – the idea that an A&R person is going to pierce through the fuzziness of your demo and hear how great you are. You might actually be that great. I’m not even doubting that anymore. But you know what I do when I hear a tape hiss on pretty much any genre of music where lo fi isn’t part of the schtick? I delete the email right away. I have countless NICE sounding demos and records sent to me every day. Why should I even be bothered with your horse shit offering? It doesn’t behoove you to present yourself with a shitty dungeon demo recording unless that is explicitly part of your brand. But if people see that you’re not willing to invest in yourself then they are going to ask why they should invest in you. Tied into this – no one on the independent level, FUCKING NO ONE funds recording anymore. If you ask a label for a few grand to record an album you WILL get laughed out of the room.
So there’s my rant. These are some of the key myths all bands across all genres seem to buy into and these selfsame myths can’t help but hurt you. These are stories we tell each other to grow, but when you tell people these stories you are only reinforcing ideas that will cause them pain in the long term. You know what I like to do? Fucking case studies. In depth ones too. Numbers don’t lie. Social media history rarely does. Look at things that are tangible, that clearly helped a band and emulate that. Don’t expect that because it worked for your Dad’s friends band in the 80s that it will work for you today. Jeez.
Man I have a lot of bottled up anger.