Behind the stardust

Many of us dream of Pop Stardom, with all the glitz and glamour that it entails, and living the high life as an international superstar. If this is you, then I am afraid I am going to have to burst your bubble, and bring you back down to earth again, as recent studies show, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, and that job in a local burger bar, seems more and more attractive.

As an International Music Journalist and Session Drummer, I have rubbed shoulders with many talents in the industry, some of which have shot to fame and some who are still struggling, but they all have the same opinion when it comes to the journey.

Recently I have spoken to a select few Solo Artists and Bands from across the UK and the States, including Music Producers, Managers and Promoters and Vocal Coaches, to get a general feel of the fast paced life that is Pop Stardom, and to see if I could get a wider focus on what the general feeling is in the industry, and to what really goes on “Behind The Stardust”.

For those of you who feel disheartened for not qualifying for the next round in a national competition, or for not being called back for auditions, it can be a very difficult process to overcome feelings of rejection. The truth is, rejection doesn’t necessarily mean lack of talent. It could be a number of factors-

1. Wrong song choice – always try to pick a track that showcases your vocal range and technical ability. Don’t go for the obvious but also don’t go for something unknown either

2. Lack of stage presence – you don’t have to be all high kicks and jazz hands, but if a TV studio are looking for people to stand in front of cameras, it is important to let your personality shine through. A dull, lifeless performance is not going to be great TV or stage viewing

3. Image – always look your best. Your appearance shows the judges and audition staff that you are serious about what you do and you want to be remembered. Also, looking your best helps you to feel more confident and help with any nerves.

4. Be memorable – stand out from the hundreds of other singers. Create a unique image. Choose a track that isn’t heard very often. Don’t just sing it like the original… Put your own twist on it. Be surprising! Leave a big impression they will never forget. 

5. Be prepared – settle on a track a couple of months before the audition. Work on it until you know it inside out. Polish it up. REHEARSE REHEARSE REHEARSE!!!

Sometimes, you can do all the above and still fail due to other factors beyond your control. In stage auditions they may already have an age and ‘look’ they are after for a particular role. Keep persevering. 

Your audition is your own responsibility. There is no room for blaming others for not getting through. It isn’t helpful to you and you can’t be introspective and improve yourself by being resentful of others’ successes. Take time to examine your performance and be honest with yourself. Acknowledge the weaker elements and work on improving these. Take advice from more experienced artists and above all, get more performance experience to conquer nerves and boost confidence. The only thing left is luck!!

One main question many of us ask, or even think about when considering a career in music, is one regarding all the pros and cons, and how they would affect us.
From a producers point of view, many agreed that being able to get up in the morning and spending the day doing a job they love, in a studio they have literally built up themselves, is very rewarding and something they enjoy tremendously. Being able to work with a variety of vibrant and talented people is a reward in itself to all their hard work, as every day is different with new exciting challenges. But on the down side, budgets are tight, even for the Major Labels. This means, a studio owner and producer would need to be able to do everything from paper work, accounts and even the cleaning at 3 am before the next clients arrive. So you can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty in the modern Music industry!
Every promoter I have spoken to loves the industry, and the general feeling is that you can’t beat creating an atmosphere where people can enjoy themselves. The pros are the people you meet, the memories you make and the music you hear and the friendships you build.

The cons are the attitudes of some people when you try and introduce new music, the lack of people that attend gigs sometimes and the cost of running events.
For Solo Artists, the pros of being a working musician are getting to travel, meet people, play music every night, and watching a creative idea start in your head, to the piano or a guitar, then to the studio and on the stage. 
The cons are lack of finances, like anything in the arts, you’re either skint or rich, there’s not much middle ground!

As far as it goes with most of the bands I have interviewed, they tell me –

Being in a band is like nothing else, most of us have grown up playing sports, this is just similar only with screaming fans and a large stage in different countries of the world. 

The way they all have to work together from writing their music to performing live is a team effort, and very rewarding. The cons are your dream is something that may never become a reality. You bust a gut for the love of music and hope for the best.

It’s a tough industry without a doubt. Several artists who are perceived to be very successful are not making any money, you’d be amazed! However, what appears to be glitz and glamour is usually sleeping in a bus, if you are lucky enough to get any sleep, and endless amounts of interviews and work. It’s exhausting and can be very stressful being constantly on display. Imagine you are going to see someone and 400 screaming fans turn up outside the restaurant,  dinners over!

It happens many times to promoters and producers going to meet artists, the meeting has been cancelled as someone leaked their location. Imagine living like that, and how stressful it would be! However, the lucky few are rewarded well for it, but it’s certainly not easy. You can be flavour of the month in the music industry, and it’s great, but you can then be dropped like a stone as trends change. I know one very successful producer who has had a long career, he told me,

 The secret to my success, or any artist with longevity, is never having a No.1 record, that way you never to go out of fashion.”

To make it in the industry you have to be prepared to live out of a suitcase and work long hours and be in situations that you might not always want to be in. BUT, if you are lucky enough to play your music to lots of people and they buy into you and your product, then the money perks can be great. Celebrity/Press Parties, Award Shows, Festivals, Money and Travelling – they are the rewards, but that is only a select few in the industry that get there. For others, it is playing to half empty rooms for little of no money.

There are many D.I.Y. artists out there, mainly solo singers who manage themselves and play by their own rules and they don’t really consider themselves as part of the music industry. Whilst its great on an artistic level to have the freedom to create their work in their own way, the lack of support from the industry does mean not only no financial help, but no PR support too, meaning it can be difficult to reach audiences on a wider level. Thankfully, we have the internet, so it’s not impossible, but there’s a lot of artists out there trying to be heard. The D.I.Y. artist lifestyle is definitely NOT the glitz and glamour that the major label artists live by, but according to most;

Its a hell of a lot of fun 

Some just want their 15 minutes of fame, but with most bands say they would be happy playing a different city every night and paying those bills.

For a lot of bands, it’s not about being a rock star or even being famous, but about the reaction they get LIVE from fans who have the same love for music as they do.

It is a long hard struggle to the top for anyone in the music industry. And from a producers point of view you can’t just open a studio and wave your arms about expecting major artists to take you seriously. It’s a long, slow process building your reputation and gaining respect from the Labels.

Some have been very lucky to achieve this, but it takes a few years to get recognised and produce a top ten album. A few people try to take you for a ride too. It’s not as bad as it used to be, but the industry still attracts a few rogues who can give you a hard time. You have to keep your wits about you.

Going it alone as an artist or band means you finance your own tours which can be really expensive, especially if you’re taking yourself or your band on the road. A lot struggle to get their music heard without a budget for radio pluggers and PR campaigns. Many struggle and juggling a day job with the hours they need to put in rehearsing, recording, gigging and travelling.

Many play their shows hoping to get their fuel tank filled to go home. There are many problems, but big one is always to make enough money to do more. Allot struggle in the early days as they have to run a van and a trailer and are continuously going round in circles.

Survival is the New Success for most musicians, as people expect music for nothing. We’ve devalued music on the whole as bands just want to get their music out there. That’s understandable, but we have created a fog of music that lies beneath success. It’s very hard to break through that fog and get noticed. A good level of investment is needed, it’s expensive and a punt to make a good record and promote it. Musicians have to be prepared to work harder than they thought possible and be prepared to be broke potentially for a long time. It is a hard industry to crack, there are so many people in it and you really have to be involved with the right people, and that can take time.

If you are going it alone then artists have to have another source of income, be it teaching music, writing radio jingles or even nothing related to music at all. There’s not a whole lot of money to be made in record sales and a lot of venues don’t pay a great deal. I think anyone who wants to be a musician for the fame and riches will be disappointed. I’m not saying it can’t happen, it’s just a long hard slog. When you’re starting out you play in empty pubs which pay you next to nothing if anything at all, it can be trying but if you stick at it and start making a name for yourself as your payment is the chance to promote yourself.

Eventually, for some, the better gigs start coming. You just have to completely love what you do and believe in yourself and your art right from the start. I think we like all to punish ourselves, in this an over saturated profession.

On the flip side to this I guess any musician can’t help what they love to do, it’s what makes them who they are, struggles or not and it’s what keeps them going and the world turning.

Many argue as to whether music is a fundamental part of the economy being the big business it is today. Music used to be the UK’s second biggest export after arms – yes, guns, but that’s no longer the case. Tours and Merchandise make the money really, the record promotes the tour now as opposed to the other way around.

One great phrase that is always doing the rounds in this industry was recently passed to me only the other day and that was;

 Dont cross a Journalist  they have a keyboard.”

 Dont cross a photographer  they have Photoshop.”

 Dont cross a reporter  they have a mic.”

The entertainment industry as a whole is one of the most ‘appealing’ industries to be in. Everyone has a dream to play Wembley, or The O2 Arena and live the celebrity lifestyle, walk the red carpet, live in the big house, etc. If people can achieve that by turning their hobby into their main source of income, then that is the dream. BUT with that comes a lot of work. Be prepared to lose money before you make any, be prepared to play to no one and have to live out the back of a van, and have a diet of pot noodles and cheap beer and beg, borrow and steal to get people to your shows. Being a musician now is not just playing your music, it is finding your place in the music business. Being a musician is a full time investment, it is not only the time you dedicate to practice and recording songs, it is all the travelling and meeting with other musicians and people within the industry.

Making ‘ it’ as a musician means you need to have a full team around you, and people will always want to make money off a good ‘product’, so you need to have good people around you. It’s not just all about the music, it is about the music business.

Some are lucky enough to have the support of their families and even management from their parents.

Sadly, there can be a lot of bitchiness between artists or even parents not liking others doing well or better than than them. Some even go as far as disputing those in the industry that are trying to help them. This only leads to a lot of bad feeling, resulting in the parents being the cause of the demise within their Son or Daughters potential career. Sometimes, this creates tension at a venue with parents thinking they know it all.

Listening to those professionals in the field at this early stage in the game is paramount, for they have been in the industry for years. Unfortunately, I still see this happening even today at many venues.

There are so many more things to have to deal with these days, with labels changing the deals, scam artists within management companies where you have to pay upfront, along with dodgy home studios ripping off hard working artists and not coming up with the goods or quality, along with new promoters popping up out of the blue promising an artist the world, yet they have no weight in the industry, little or no real experience, validation or respect in the industry. This very damaging to the hard working artist.

Even for me as an International Music Journalist, it has taken me 30 long years to start writing for some of the magazines I have written for, and the last 15 years for anyone to start taking me seriously, as I wrote article after article for free to try and cut my teeth in the industry. I’ve endured the very same problems over the years with many fly by night Magazines, Platforms, Bloggers and Podcasters, setting themselves up on the back end of what I do, with a view of –

How hard can it be“, and “I can to do that.

They then expect to just simply step into the spotlight with little or no experience, only to very quickly fall flat on their faces due to lack of experience, knowledge, validation and respect in the industry.

This, at the same time is very damaging to many artists who trust them to promote their careers as an artist or band, yet they hold no weight in the industry.

Many of these said fly by night outfits very quickly start showing their true colours by not putting in the work, resulting in them doing less and less as they very quickly feel the pinch and soon start to see how hard it actually is.

Many have great delight in trying to bring the successful ones down as their demise starts to brew, and a sure sign that they shouldn’t even be in the industry in the first place.

The trick is perseverance, never give up and believe in yourself, and let the despicable get on with it, as you watch them crash and burn, after all, their actions will only come back to bite them.

Now I have achieved the above title, I love every minute of every day, doing what I love doing, in an industry that I am passionate about.

I get to meet bands from all over the world and get to visit some amazing studios and production companies.

I now collaborate with 20 different record companies, labels,  and artist media PR agencies around the world.

I get to travel all over, and meet some amazing people along the way.

Now, I own my own music magazine and write for the semi professional, high profile, and A list artists and bands from around the world who promote and support Stargazer Music Magazine, all because I stuck to my dream and worked hard to achieve it.

But back to YOU as an artist or band, the Music Industry is a tough nut to crack, but when you do – be careful of the splinters!

Still fancy it ?
Then follow your dream and go for it!

Lost its appeal ?
Then enjoy the music others create!

Still not sure ?
Then treat it like a hobby and enjoy the ride!


                                                                                                               © Stargazer Music Magazine 2020

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