I feel really sorry for those of you who that clicked on this link thinking I would be divulging all the secrets on how to make your band famous. The truth on that matter is this:
YOU DON’T HAVE MUCH OF A CHANCE OF THAT HAPPENING.
I’m serious. Do yourself a favor and throw your hopes of being in a successful band in the garbage. The chances are slim. Even if your band gets some fans, like my band As Cities Burn did, there isn’t much long term security in that success. You know that band Emery? They were a HUGE band within our scene. And bravo to them for continuing on as they have. They stuck around long enough to weather the storm of decline. That may sound harsh, but it’s true. Their shows used to be a lot bigger. They once sold like 200K records. Now they have had to figure out other ways to make a living to coincide with their impressive and unlikely success of their very awesome band. But you know who will make more money in music than any one member of Emery? Their fucking guitar tech from back in the day, Trevor.
That’s right kids. If you want a career in music, WORK FOR BANDS. I have outlined the step by step process below.
1. ACCEPT THAT YOU HAVE NO CHANCE OF MAKING IT AS AN ARTIST
You probably aren’t good enough. The market is flooded. The internet has destroyed all hope of the most talented pushing through to the top. It used to be that if you hit the road and worked your ass off, you could get a record deal from your favorite label. Now you have to be YouTube famous. Even if you are “good”…who cares? There are lots of “good” musicians. I live in Nashville. My barista is better than you at guitar, I promise. And karaoke at the shit hole dive down the street from my house is like a fucking episode of The Voice. It’s amazing.
2. GO ON TOUR WITH YOUR DELUSIONAL FRIENDS THAT THINK THEY CAN MAKE IT
No, not to play with them. Sell their merch. And do it for tips. Most bands can’t afford a merch seller at the beginning, so work for free. Make yourself valuable to them. Eventually this band will either start to climb the ladder, OR you will meet someone along the way that can offer you a better job. This is the natural order of things. Merch guys move up quicker than the bands they started with if they work hard.
3. DON’T WORRY ABOUT LOYALTY
You’ve got to get yours son. As soon as a band can’t afford to pay you anymore they will drop you like a bad habit. I’m not saying that you won’t find a longterm gig that can work out, but ALWAYS be on the lookout for the next gig. And if you really care, be looking for the next promotion to another crew position. Diversify. Learn how to run sound. Learn how to guitar tech. Shadow other Tour Managers. Then BECOME the Tour Manager. Don’t think you are qualified???
4. FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT
I got my TM job with Emery by being good at getting them free beer. It’s the bullshit details that push you forward and even if you don’t know exactly what you are doing, usually the band doesn’t know either. These are coddled, college drop out, dumb ass band dudes. Have confidence. Throw in some cool tricks like knowing what kind of burrito they all like from Chipotle. They will love this shit.
5. IF YOU STARTED IN HARDCORE/PUNK/INDIE - GET THE FUCK OUT
You’ve got to go mainstream dude. That’s where the money is. Sure you can make $1500 a week TM’ing a band playing 1K - 2K cap rooms, but thats only when you are on tour. And tours in this scene are really long. You’ve been working your ass off for 3 years now, going all over the world babysitting some Christian Metal-Core band, when there are dudes only touring on the weekends, making just as much if not more than you. So what do you do?
6. MOVE TO NASHVILLE
Country music is the promised land. I have a buddy here who tour manages a country star and they do about 70 shows a year. He gets paid a salary of around $75K per year. Between Novemeber and March, this dude is just straight chilling at the pub down the street everyday. Getting paid every day. You are a sucker if you stay in hardcore/punk/indie. And don’t tell me you can’t transition. This dude started out as a merch guy for Haste the Day. Then he went to TM. Then TM for Devil Wears Prada. Then TM for Celtic fucking Woman. Then Gavin DeGraw. And so on and so on.
7. BE THANKFUL
It’s easy to complain about having to tour all the time. Even if it is just 70 days a year. But know this, you have an opportunity for a career that very few musicians have. It’s a cool job working as crew in the music industry. Whether you are teching, or slinging merch, or running the show as the Tour Manager, crew get paid VERY well at the top levels of the industry. And there is no reason that if you work hard and apply yourself, you won’t find these opportunities. People I have toured with or been buddies with over the years have gone on to work for Rihanna, Death Cab for Cutie, Paramore, Fall Out Boy, Iggy Azalea, Sia, Vampire Weekend, LIVE, The Civil Wars, Thrice, Anberlin and countless others that I can’t think of off the top of my head. My friend that played keyboards for All American Rejects years and years ago, told me of a temporary guitar tech they had that worked for Pearl Jam. His salary with Pearl Jam? $5K a week…year round. (Man, imagine what Eddie Vedder must be making. Maybe crew is a bad career choice...) It’s legit y’all.
As a “roadie” you lack control of your schedule and sometimes you may be at the mercy of a crazy artist, but you can make a really good living. Most of my friends that pursued this path are quite happy (except for the ones that aren’t) It’s blue collar for sure. But it ain’t working in a factory. If you can handle missing birthdays and weddings, riding in a luxury tour bus and eventually being well versed on the local ramen shops in Tokyo, this is the career you never thought you wanted but need to pursue.
Quit your band. Work for a band. If you don’t? Well maybe you will actually make it as an artist because only the stubborn and delusional to go that route. I fall in the stubborn and delusional category. Good luck.