I was reading a thread that Yglesias has over at his site about music downloading and IP law. It is an interesting read, and you should go check it out. This post is about a sentiment expressed in the comments section, that I have seen else where, best put by Scott Free, that with file sharing we will have “No more mega-wealthy, self-indulgent, spoiled rock stars. Just people drawn to a calling.”
I started to think about my own experiences with creating music, and toiling in a small unknown band. My band played together for about four years. We recorded two albums in that time and played up and down the East Coast. At no point did we have anything even remotely approximating a manager, so we did all of the booking ourselves. We funded all of our equipment, posters, and albums with money earned from other jobs. During my tenure with this band I played a Goth metal bar in Erie, PN where our sound guy had contacts the blotted out his pupils in an attempt to appear like a vampire, while also running a Heroin den in the back of the club. I played numerous exclusive concerts for bartenders and waitresses. We had our guitars stolen from our van in New York City. We spent thousands of dollars on an album that no one bought or listens to.
I relate these experiences not to get pity, but because I believe that every band has these types of hardships when they are starting out. Some bands manage to get over the hump and start making money and having a reliable fan base, most don't. This is where the “mega-wealthy, self-indulgent spoiled rock stars” come in. I will confess that while I was moving drums out of a small bar in Indianapolis I was thinking about what it would be like once I had a roadie. While falling asleep on a friend's sofa I imagined being interviewed by Rolling Stone. At my other job, I fantasized about being rich. We need the spoiled rock star or else we might never get out of Erie.
I am sure that some musicians will reply that they do it for the love of music, or to serve some internal muse. I can understand that, music pretty much dominates my life. I think about it, write about it, and practice it constantly. But here is the thing, you can serve the muse in your basement. When you step on a stage, you are not serving your muse, you are looking for acclaim, I was. And when you are in Columbus, OH playing for 20 people, most of whom are just waiting for their turn on “Golden Tee,” you need the dream, or why would you be there?