‘So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star?’ The Byrds famously sung in the 1960s and although at the pinnacle of success themselves when it was recorded, the lyrics belie the fact that already the price of fame might be higher than they had imagined.
Because for every success story in this half-century odyssey that is rock n roll, there are a legion of others recounting the bad deals, the excess living and the broken dreams; while the list of casualties it has claimed include some of the most talented musicians and singers ever to grace a stage or recording studio. But hey, no matter how many unsettling tales one hears of when the rock n roll dream turns nightmare, there will always be an endless line of star-struck hopefuls willing to take that chance and be given their own shot at stardom.
And so with this in mind, Moles is proud to present this indispensable guide to the music industry. Here you will find what you need to know about the business, from starting a band and taking your first tentative steps into the musical arena, right the way through to how to hold onto your wealth, health and sanity if and when you ever fill that particular arena with screaming, adoring fans. The guide doesn’t guarantee success, but it certainly will make the ride a whole lot easier and wherever you are on the rock n roll ladder, from would be guitar hero to seasoned pro, there is sure to be something of value within...
FORM A BAND
So you have gone as far as your bedroom will allow. You’ve learnt the basics of your instrument of choice, can play a few songs, perhaps even written a couple yourself, and have posed long enough in front of the mirror to almost taste the imagined screams of reflected adulation: now its time to get out in the real world and find those soul-mates who will accompany you on this greatest of all daydream fantasies...... (END OF ‘TEASER’)
So the initial stage is over, auditions have taken place and band members have been chosen, poached, begged, stole or borrowed, and where it was just you alone in your bedroom, you now find yourself surrounded by a dissonant collection of musicians. It is now time, however, for this loose affiliation to become a tightly-knit unit. And there has only ever been one way of doing that .
WRITE SOME SONGS
At the beginning of Beatlemania, when even the Fab Four themselves could not see the level of success they had so quickly achieved being sustained, they were asked what they would do if and when the bubble burst. All four gave philosophical answers (alright, so Ringo said he wanted to open a string of hairdressing salons), but the most insightful answer was that of Paul [McCartney], who said: ‘the thing John [Lennon] and I will do will be to write songs as we have been doing now as a sideline [but] develop that a bit more’. Because even at that time, Macca knew what most musicians come to realise at some time in their career, which is that the real money is in…
PLAY A GIG
"Turning up sober and on time is useful." Pete Whitfield - Performing Arts lecturer. There are probably not many bigger steps in a band’s career than making the leap from rehearsal room to playing live and a first gig has been likened by one music insider to ‘everything about music wrapped up in one evening: terrifying, exhilarating, frequently drunken, uplifting and depressing all at the same time.’ But if a band truly wants to succeed, this is where it has to begin
RECORD A DEMO
‘What you have to remember is any person in the music business that listens to your demo actually wants to sign you. If they didn’t they wouldn’t be listening to your demo. You therefore owe to them and to yourself to make the best f*****g demo that there is possible to make.’ P K, Music journalist At some stage as a band, if you want to become successful that is, you will need to record your music. While you are still unsigned this will usually take the form of a demo – demonstration – tape. This is basically a selection of tracks, either your own material or cover versions, which you feel best showcases your talent and acts as a calling card. It is unlikely you will be taken seriously by the people you want to impress if you do not have one …
Whether you are recording a whole album or just tracks for a single / extended play, the process is more or less the same. It is, however, more complex than recording a demo and so should be approached with a higher level of professionalism. That is not to say that you should have made the demo anything less than the best you can (and in fact some songs recorded as demos have even made the final listing on million-selling albums) but the reality is they are for different purposes.
KNOW ABOUT A&R
Like most of the jobs in the music business, myths have grown around the role of the A&R man. The picture usually conjured up when the word A&R – short for Artist and Repertoire – is used, is one of some guy – in rock history it has usually been predominantly male-orientated, although this has changed in recent years – huddled at the bar in a crowded, smoky venue in the middle of nowhere, hopefully there to discover the next Oasis. This, however, is far from the truth .
GET A LAWYER
Lawyers are much maligned and misunderstood, but to overlook the legal aspect of your career can prove very costly later on. Therefore it is essential at certain times that you seek the advice of the legal profession.
GET A MANAGER
‘For one thing that goes wrong, a hundred things go right. I sleep two or three hours a night…I find lost luggage, I locate mandolin strings in the middle of Austin….that’s what I do. There’s no sex and drugs for Ian [Faith]’ Ian Faith, Rock Manager. ‘When I first met Elvis, he had a million dollars’ worth of talent. Now he has a million dollars’. Colonel Tom Parker - Elvis Presley’s manager. It is a manger’s job to make those hundred things go right and keep those things that go wrong (which they inevitable will) to a minimum. And outside the actual members of the band, the relationship with the manager will probably be the most important professional relationship you have. Therefore, any manager you choose will have to be implicitly trustworthy. The question that needs to be asked, however, is do you need a manager and if so, when ……
‘I went down to the crossroads and sold my soul to the devil’ Robert Johnson Of all aspects of the music business this is probably the one that has been mythologised the greatest – becoming the Holy Grail for any band starting out. This promotes itself in the belief that once a company (however big or small) signs you, you have made it; that the record deal in itself means everything from now on will be easy. There are too many examples to list that would dispel this myth, but suffice to say as often as it is a plateau from which to move to the next stage in a band’s career, it can also act as a peak on which the other side is a quick slide back down to obscurity…..
A publishing deal is different from a recording contract, yet no less important; indeed, in the early stages of a band’s career can be even more so, as money from the record contract, once the label has taken back all the costs, can take years to start coming through. There are also other reasons why the publishing deal should be one of your top priorities if you are an unsigned band, especially as if you will most probably be writing your own material…