Sky's the Limit, but Underground is Nice Too.


There has not been a platinum-selling album released by an artist in 2014. The highest-selling album so far this year is the soundtrack to a Disney movie. Not even the most radio-friendly pop singer sold a million copies, so what chance do the rest of us have? Realistically, somewhere around zero. That's right, go ahead and mourn your wasted time making music if you feel so inclined, but it's not gonna change a thing.

Metallica was right about illegal downloads, it made music worthless in the eyes of the majority, and there's no turning back now. When it comes to making a living off selling music, we're pretty much screwed. I hope you don't think that online marketing seminar you paid for is gonna give you the edge on your endless amount of competition. Don't get me wrong, I think learning is great, even if it's the hard way, but you may have gotten screwed there too.

Here's a big, steaming pile of pungent, disgusting truth for you: unless you have loads of time and money to put into your band, you're probably not gonna be the next Beatles or even the next Dinosaur Jr. for that matter. I know what some of you are thinking, “I have passion, drive, and determination! I refuse to lose!” and I think that's great. I truly hope you achieve your goals, but you've got to understand that you're fighting from beyond behind. I'm not telling you what you can and can't do, just think of this as a friendly reminder to not count your chickens before they hatch.

The music business has always been designed to cheat musicians, and now they have even more scams available. From online music schools promising to “give you the tools you need” all the way to the social media gurus convincing you that only they know how to get you millions of followers, for the most part, it's all bullshit. Don't even get me started on the “promotional pages” on social media. Whether you play an instrument or not, people are trying their best to scam you, but especially if you're a musician.

A wise hustler once said, “the game is to be sold, not to be told” and that's true in any profession, but true knowledge is only for the privileged few, regardless of their money. You really think some “big time producer” is going to teach you how to take his job just because you paid a tuition fee? No business works like that, but in the music industry, there's always a young, na├»ve soul willing to give anything to unlock the secret of making it to the top.

Plenty of people claim to know this secret and many more, they'll be glad to tell you for a fee, but not a word until the check clears. The truth is, there is no real secret. If you meet the right people, invest enough money, and work at it constantly, you might have a chance. Even then, you probably still aren't going platinum, because no one is going platinum anymore; not even Beyonce. The game is ruined right now, and we have no one to blame, but ourselves. Free music is great, but we got greedy.

I'm not telling you all this to bum you out. I'm not interested in breaking your spirit, and I certainly don't want you to hang it up. I'm telling you all this to liberate you. You can be free from the pressure of trying to be a superstar, celebrity musician; free from the notion of touring the world on someone else's dollar, and having to pay back every cent; free from ever having to worry about people shoving a camera in your face any time you walk out of a building. Most importantly, you'll be free to create whatever you want without having to adhere to rules like making sure the chorus starts at the 53 second mark.

Everyone can make music now, and countless people do, just have a look around the Internet. A lot of people don't even believe in such a thing as “talent” anymore because truthfully, it's all subjective. Technology has leveled the playing field for artist and label alike; there's no rule saying an indie label can't release the album of the year, but again, it's probably not gonna sell a million copies. You'll see an article about Radiohead or whomever coming out with a pay-what-you-want album and making a good amount of sales, then the “Internet think tanks” scurry about trying to figure out how they did it. It's simple, they had obsessed fans before music became free; they're already “established” artists.

Taking all of this into consideration, you have no excuse to follow trends. You have no reason to strive to be “the next big thing”. All you really have to do is make the music that you want to hear. If you just honestly want to be a pop star, they have TV shows for that; feel free to stand in line for hours to sing someone else's song for a bunch of D-list celebrities. Make sure you have the label facing out when you drink something on camera, and I hope you really weren't thinking about wearing THAT, were you?!

If you want to make great art, nothing is standing in your way, especially not the increasingly useless music industry. I could be wrong, but you'll probably never be the big rock star you may have dreamed of, but I do know that nothing's stopping you from being the star that you never imagined. Don't be bitter at small crowds, give those twelve people the greatest show they've ever seen. Be great, but be genuine, the world has more than enough shallow, spoiled brat celebrities. Don't envy the big names and their high status, most of them would like nothing more than to have the freedom you enjoy.

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