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So you wanna be in a rock band?: A look into the music biz

Rose Cora Perry | Interrobang | Lifestyles | October 2nd, 2006

I thought I had it all figured out. As idealistic, and talented, musician with over a decade of training, I am someone who thought that talent, passion, and the desire to write inspirational lyrics and social commentary actually mattered.

My name is Rose Perry, and let me tell you that there is no such thing as an educational program that can ever prepare you for the harsh reality of how the music industry actually functions. Furthermore, no longer does a prerequisite for talent exist in order for you to be a successful top-selling musician. Just as any other business functions, at the end of the day money talks.

You may be the greatest innovator and songwriter since John Lennon, but if you can't sell 10,000 CDs without label support, good luck and God-speed. However, if you do manage to reach this unreasonable (and impossible for most) expectation, don't fool yourself into thinking that your hard work is over.

One of the biggest misconceptions about the music industry is that once you are signed, your work ends. gets harder, because now you are competing in the big leagues with bands who are not only signed, but have full time publicists and booking agents working around the clock to get their name out.

Oh wait... I'm sure you thought that a label would provide you with a booking agent and publicist once you signed a contract with them right? Wrong again.

If you want to be successful on any level in the music biz, the first thing you need to realize is that no one, and I mean no one, will work harder than you on promoting your music and/or band. So, if you don't have much of a work ethic, I suggest you pursue other interests.

Secondly, if you think that being a musician will lead to immediate gratification and financial renumeration, you couldn't be more off, especially if you are an original act. Believe it or not, in general, cover and tribute acts (without representation) are compensated about 10 times that of an original act for a single show. While you are out there trying to sell yourself, and your music to a often less than interested crowd for a measily $50 a show (often your compensation fails to cover expenses of getting to the gig, there are times in which you receive nothing at all), tribute acts are successfully selling someone else's music and image.

I also suggest all the band members have jobs on the side, because I can guarantee there will be no way to substantiate everyone's lifestyles off the petty amount of compensation you receive from shows.

Again on the subject of making money, I know that everyone has seen at least one biography program on a rockstar that made to the top effortlessly and in a remarkably short period of time. However, what you are viewing on these programs is what the record labels want you to believe, not the actual truth. In order to attain a position of financial and career stability (of course, it can never be entirely stable), musicians often work for 10 - 15 years and then finally, just when they think they've had enough, they break.

But in saying that, there is always the risk of becoming a one- hit-wonder. As I said, labels, plain and simply, just want to make money, and musicians are a dime-a -dozen. Don't think for a second that they care about your integrity, dignity, or the longevity of your career. If a label can make the most profit off of one single, than that is the route they will take.

Music is one of, if not the most, cutthroat industries in existance, and you will have to fight tooth and nail the whole way to get to the top. It is not for the weak of heart, and many will fail along the way, because it truly tests your limits in every sense of the word.

The word "fair" does not exist in this industry, nor does "honesty." Promises are broken everyday, and as I said before, I cannot stress enough how important it is to realize that the music industry functions as any big business.

If you are not marketable (i.e. labels cannot make money off either your music or your image), you will not be successful, especially in the age where labels have less and less money to invest in new projects, due to their substantial losses from internet downloading. Music industry execs don't want to take risks with something that may or may not sell. Hence, the reason why you see trends constantly regergitated (they've worked in the past, they will work again mentality), and why next to every band on the radio sounds the same.

Put it this way, it's easier to sell the public a carbon copy of something they already like, than to change their minds, and introduce something new.

So, if you can handle all of this, and swallow your pride, I suggest that you do, because there is nothing more fulfilling than pursuing a dream that is close to your heart. I will also contest that anything that is really worth fighting for, will never be easy. But, please heed my advice, take it from someone who has been there, it's an ongoing uphill battle and everything you can imagine and more will occur.

My goal in writing this column is to share with other aspiring musicians what I have learned from my experiences, and hopefully help others avoid making the same mistakes that I have made.

In saying that, I would like to invite readers to contact me if you have a question or subject that you would like me to address in an upcoming issue.

Rose Perry is the frontwoman for "London's Best Rock Band of 2006" (as voted by SCENE Magazine) ANTI-HERO, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across the US, Ontario, and has played notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Wakefest, and MEANYFest. Their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide through Addictive/Fontana North/Universal Music. For more information on Rose Perry and her band's accomplishments, please visit or
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