Here's something that you may have already heard, maybe not, but I definitely found interesting. Last night I attended a small reading for a memoir written by Jacob Schlicter, the drummer of the band Semisonic, called "So you want to be a Rock and Roll Star". In case you forgot (because I did) they had the song "Closing Time" a few years back that was a pretty big hit.
Eh, mostly that song just annoys the shit out of me, but like anything else as time passes and we're reminded of our days of yore, those glory days, and because we associate a song with that feeling it seems to get better to us. That's probably the only reason people don't think Bon Jovi completely sucks anymore.
But that's neither here nor there, and none of this is what I found interesting. Not at all.
After the reading Jake went on to explain how the music business works once a record label signs a band. They act like a bank, with the label paying for everything, production cost of the album, music video fees, tours, promotional products, advertising... all of it. The band itself makes money off of royalties from the album, but only AFTER the record company gets back all of the cash it shelled out in the initial investment to set the whole thing up.
Problem is, he informed us, that it costs upwards of $800 thousand dollars just to get a song on the radio. Thats not counting any of the other fees associated with getting a band to hit it big.
Semisonic sold well over a million albums, had a hit song that pretty much everyone alive at the time heard played constantly over the radio, which by anyones terms would have to be considered a huge success, right? And for all of their troubles, they made NO MONEY doing it. None. By the time the record label took back their expenses there was nothing left for the band.
And this is the same story with pretty much every aspect of the entertainment industry, whether you're a musician, writer, artist, model, whatever it is... unless you reach mega-stardom there really isn't the big fortune waiting at the end of the rainbow. The best that you can hope for is that you get to do something you love for a few years and become well known enough to open up opportunities for yourself later on down the road.
As he explained though, if you don't think that you have it in you to be that mega-star, you might as well not even bother. This is why they tell you, especially when it comes to being a writer, that if you can do anything else at all, you should do it. There's a lot of heartache, hard work for broken dreams without return on investment, and low paying gigs waiting down that road, with no promise at all for better days ahead. I'll probably be broke for the rest of my life because of it, because I'm a writer, its all I know how to do. Damn, I'd love to be a mechanic or an electrician, at least those guys make money.
So how was it that Schlicter became a writer? Well, while they were on tour he had been doing a blog, and someone he knew with connections told him how good they were and that he should put them into a book. The idea was then given to a literary agent whom Jake seemed to trust, and shopped around to various houses until it was finally picked up. The publishing company set up some promotional appearances in a few cities, and then he had to use his own cash to pay to promote the book in other places.
Here is a guy who played drums in a band that sold over a million albums, wrote a book that was picked up by a major publishing house, and he's giving free readings for small groups of about fifteen people in coffee shops in Long Island. I only went because it was down the block from me in the place I normally go to get my writing done anyway.
If that right there doesn't show you the man behind the curtain and open your eyes to how things go when people DON'T know who you are, then I really don't know what else to say to you. This is why you go to things like Comic Con and see every big comic artist in the industry set up little booths and selling prints for $10 a pop, and why flegling actors and former Playboy Playmates have to charge you for pictures you take with your own camera.... because its all a lie, a myth, and only the MOST famous, the big boys, really make the money to call the shots and stop playing the game.
For the rest, all what you really get out of it is an invitation to the party until you're too old to do it anymore. For the Playmates and models, that's about 30 years old. For the guys, its when you can't pay the bills or get those playmates and models to sleep with you anymore. Then its time to get a real job.
I didn't pick up the book, he ran out of copies (like I said, it was a REALLY small reading), but I'm thinking about it because it seemed to be very well done going by the excerpt that he read. And there it is, even for the semi-famous, those who had someone open the door for them, its still about gaining a fan or two one coffee shop at a time.
In a sense though, this makes me feel a whole lot better. The approach that we're taking in regards to what we offer young writers at The Mad Doser Presents and Gemini publishing is exactly the same as every other big company out there. Its how the industry works, so we're doing it right.
If there's an issue its with the delusions that aspiring entertainers have of "making it" and what success in this field is. Schlicter talked about how, when he was in the band, he focused on the business side of things, how many fans he had and the money they made, their fame, as the measure for success, and it sucked all of the energy (and the cool) right out of the experience. Now as a writer, he focuses more on the joy of doing it. And that HAS to be what you're in it for.... or you're DEAD!
The other day I was listening to TMCtheshow again, and they're every bit as good as anything you're going to hear on the radio. They have their format down, good characters, and they really love what they're doing. What sets shows like Opie and Anthony apart from them is the money behind it, the exposure they get with celebrity guests and spots that easily fall into their laps, and the ever important fan interaction that juices things up. But none of that has anything to do with the performers. With the right backing they'd be just as "known", I have no doubt of that. Unfortunately this is how it works.
Its our responsibility to one another to help each other out as much as humanly possible with cross promotion and whatever else it takes to push us all to that point of recognition. And then, once you've made it, to continue to help up others trying to make a name behind you as well. Have you ever noticed how often famous writers all seemed to know each other, were friends, before they became famous, and all hit that stardom at the same time? Try watching some of the BIO network shows on your favorite actors and its the same thing with them, constantly you see acting troops of young nobodies doing plays and whatnot for free... ten years later half of them are mega-stars, and guess what... they all end up doing movies together continuosly....
With that... I'm trying for ways to get big time exposure, not just for myself but for my people as well. I put it out there yesterday, but I'm now officially looking for aspiring models and actresses to be part of the Ladies of D. Its a whole involved thing that makes all the sense in the world to anyone who knows how all this works. There's a thing or two I could tell you about modelling agencies also.... but thats for another time.
Of course, people get so hooked on those big dreams they get short sighted in the here and now.... so it probably won't go anywhere..... but lets just see.
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