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It takes serious money to be a struggling musician


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Given their love of working-class street cred, it's striking just what privileged backgrounds many famous musicians have.

There's maybe lots of reasons for the large number of public school pop stars. The gulf in provision of music lessons between state and private schools; the affordability of gear when starting out (although maybe less so these days?) and particularly the costs of touring and giving up a full time job.

But does it matter, as long as they're making great music?

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The old boy network might get you access to opportunities that are harder to come by for musicians that aren't part of it.

But ultimately it's the music buying public who decides who gets to make a living out of music.

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2 minutes ago, Cato said:

But ultimately it's the music buying public who decides who gets to make a living out of music.

It used to be the major labels and whoever could afford the top "pluggers" (people who had the connections to get your songs played on mainstream radio or TV) that ultimately decided who made a living out of music. The Intertubes have changed that a lot, but it still helps to come from a very well off background and have connections (see Mumford and Sons or Florence and the Machine for example).

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I think that, for the very great majority, there's a choice to be made: either famous or a musician. Some very rare (in population terms...) exceptions, naturally, but wanting to become a musician need not (and, in my view, should not...) imply wanting to become famous. The two sit rarely comfortably together. :|

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5 hours ago, Dad3353 said:

I think that, for the very great majority, there's a choice to be made: either famous or a musician. Some very rare (in population terms...) exceptions, naturally, but wanting to become a musician need not (and, in my view, should not...) imply wanting to become famous. The two sit rarely comfortably together. :|

Totally agree with this. I'd love to be a professional musician (I'm nowhere near talented enough) But I'd absolutely hate to be famous. A session musician gig where you get to play on stage to a large audience, but still go about your every day life unhindered would be perfect. 

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8 hours ago, Al Krow said:

Given their love of working-class street cred, it's striking just what privileged backgrounds many famous musicians have.

There's maybe lots of reasons for the large number of public school pop stars. The gulf in provision of music lessons between state and private schools; the affordability of gear when starting out (although maybe less so these days?) and particularly the costs of touring and giving up a full time job.

But does it matter, as long as they're making great music?

To my knowledge of recent case:

To record, produce and master a track with a reputable producer is £8-20k.

To get a support slot for a few shows on a label artist tour is £25-150k depending on the artist.

The have a social media campaign is £10-30k per year. Probably a lot more for large scale advertising.

Radio and streaming plug is £15-25k per year depending on reach.

This is not viable to normal people and only those who; have a sponsor, major label backing, connections who can pull favours or family money.

And especially difficult to find the time when working a full time job to pay rent or mortgage.

Also we are getting to the point now where the kids of 80’s and 90’s pop stars are getting a chance. Even if they don’t have talent they have the connections.

 

Edited by OliverBlackman
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8 hours ago, Al Krow said:

But does it matter, as long as they're making great music?

No. 

 

 

And I hate the attempt at creating a class divide wherever people want to find one. One of the old music magazines, Q or NME used to be awful for slating bands who had a "public school" background as if it mattered, I remember Keane being made an example of for this. Hate them because their music is insipid, boring shyte, not because at aged 4 or 11 or whatever their parents decided that they would pay for their kids education. Same the other way too.

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1 hour ago, uk_lefty said:

No. 

And I hate the attempt at creating a class divide wherever people want to find one. One of the old music magazines, Q or NME used to be awful for slating bands who had a "public school" background as if it mattered, I remember Keane being made an example of for this. Hate them because their music is insipid, boring shyte, not because at aged 4 or 11 or whatever their parents decided that they would pay for their kids education. Same the other way too.

True. But what about when those with a privileged background themselves go off on a class war e.g.  multi-millionaire Lily Allen or the Clash’s Joe Strummer – the privately educated son of a diplomat?

I guess you would include that in the "Same the other way too" category? 

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2 minutes ago, Al Krow said:

True. But what about when those with a privileged background themselves go off on a class war e.g.  multi-millionaire Lily Allen or the Clash’s Joe Strummer – the privately educated son of a diplomat?

I guess you would include that in the "Same the other way too" category? 

Mark Ronson was also from a privileged background. The beauty of music though is it has always allowed everyone to have a voice. Streaming platforms benefit this although make it difficult to make a living. As in all walks of life, money buys opportunity.

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Sadly even tor a band to tour in Europe now requires financial backing. Gone are the days of loading the guitarist’s mate’s van up, and heading off on a self-arranged tour.

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1 minute ago, ambient said:

Sadly even tor a band to tour in Europe now requires financial backing. Gone are the days of loading the guitarist’s mate’s van up, and heading off on a self-arranged tour.

Haha - didn't take us more than 10 posts to get onto Brexit 😁

(Btw - not wishing to de-rail this thread, PM me if you're still after a MB CMD 121H).

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The thing is ,when you have a privileged background and money in the family it enables you to be able to spend your time developing your creativity and talent (if you have any) because you don’t need to earn with a ‘normal job’ to survive.They’ve always got that ‘cushion’ of an advance from the family.Most of us are too busy trying to keep a roof over our heads,mortgages etc to be able to doss around like that.Being from money opens a lot of doors and I think it’ll always be that way.

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4 minutes ago, tubbybloke68 said:

The thing is ,when you have a privileged background and money in the family it enables you to be able to spend your time developing your creativity and talent (if you have any) because you don’t need to earn with a ‘normal job’ to survive.They’ve always got that ‘cushion’ of an advance from the family.Most of us are too busy trying to keep a roof over our heads, mortgages etc to be able to doss around like that. Being from money opens a lot of doors and I think it’ll always be that way.

Yup agreed. The counter is that the Blues originated from the opposite of privilege and that is rock'n'roll's true roots. You didn't need a fortune to pick up a battered acoustic 6 string and sing a tune. But I guess those days are long gone...

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1 hour ago, ambient said:

Sadly even tor a band to tour in Europe now requires financial backing. Gone are the days of loading the guitarist’s mate’s van up, and heading off on a self-arranged tour.

beaten to it by Al K

Edited by yorks5stringer
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In my experience there’s a bit of the opposite also being true.

My family were classic, white working class and they were very supportive of any musical aspirations I had, seeing it as a legitimate way to make a life and living. In the mid-seventies I was lucky enough to get a full grant and university place at York. When I started to try and find people to play with and bands to join I was struck by what appeared a class divide. The kids from the posher backgrounds (loads at York at the time) seemed to have been actively discouraged from getting into music. My perception was that it was seen a frivolous activity that just got in the way of a ‘proper’ career path. Me, I was quite happy to be the oik playing the pubs of Tang Hall for a share of the £30 for the band.

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5 minutes ago, Al Krow said:

Yup agreed. The counter is that the Blues originated from the opposite of privilege and that is rock'n'roll's true roots. You didn't need a fortune to pick up a battered acoustic 6 string and sing a tune. But I guess those days are long gone...

… but you did need juke joints and an active audience who were largely manual workers looking for escapism. Netflix and a ready meal look to be the modern equivalent.

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Just now, tegs07 said:

… but you did need juke joints and an active audience who were largely manual workers looking for escapism. Netflix and a ready meal look to be the modern equivalent.

You Tube and Tik Tok even more so? This much admired / reviled (depending on which BC'er you are) just made it onto the front cover of BP mag:

Bass Player UK issue August 2021

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1 minute ago, Al Krow said:

You Tube and Tik Tok even more so? This much admired / reviled (depending on which BC'er you are) just made it onto the front cover of BP mag:

Bass Player UK issue August 2021

The same is happening across sport. Pretty soon F1 will be compromised of the winners of Love Island and KSI.

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Looking back at the 70s & punk lack of money seemed to be a main factor for many of the bands, living in squats & rehearsal rooms etc. Move forwards to bands like Guns N Roses who did similar. I think today’s “glossy polished” music it would be unlikely to get people from those types of backgrounds & environments.

Def time for a guitar resurgence, played by scruffy unpolished young people who don’t get sent for media training & image awareness.

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2 hours ago, Al Krow said:

True. But what about when those with a privileged background themselves go off on a class war e.g.  multi-millionaire Lily Allen or the Clash’s Joe Strummer – the privately educated son of a diplomat?

I guess you would include that in the "Same the other way too" category? 

Well there's two different things there. You could argue that Lilly Allen etc from privileged backgrounds are either standing up for the worse off or pretending to be something they're not. People will have their own views on that. Then the way i meant it in context which is people from a privileged background shouldn't look down on those without the same accident of circumstances for no other reason than a class divide. Because class seems to be defined by something you haven't achieved yourself and its not the 1800s anymore, despite how some might want it to be. 

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4 hours ago, OliverBlackman said:

To record, produce and master a track with a reputable producer is £8-20k.

If you're doing that out your own pocket I'd say its a vanity project and won't get you very far. My mates have recorded very polished and well produced demos for less than a grand, if that gets them in front of record companies then, I would guess, the record company can advance the money for the credible producer. 

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15 minutes ago, Lozz196 said:

Def time for a guitar resurgence, played by scruffy unpolished young people who don’t get sent for media training & image awareness.

Economic outlook isn't good. Home recording, producing and marketing is at your fingertips, better quality and cheaper than ever.... It could well happen soon! 

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7 minutes ago, uk_lefty said:

If you're doing that out your own pocket I'd say its a vanity project and won't get you very far. My mates have recorded very polished and well produced demos for less than a grand, if that gets them in front of record companies then, I would guess, the record company can advance the money for the credible producer. 

I'm not sure that it matters greatly to a record label how much you have spent recording Demos, EP's etc, I would imagine what they are looking for is an engaged fan base, most likely judged by social media following.  To have a large following a lot of money has to be put into the marketing campaign, especially just now when there are less gigs around to build it organically.

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1 minute ago, Crawford13 said:

I'm not sure that it matters greatly to a record label how much you have spent recording Demos, EP's etc, I would imagine what they are looking for is an engaged fan base, most likely judged by social media following.  To have a large following a lot of money has to be put into the marketing campaign, especially just now when there are less gigs around to build it organically.

Agreed. And a demo, like education, just because you've paid for it and maybe paid a lot, doesn't mean the end result is guaranteed to be a success! 

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