Where to start? How can I dissuade you from this horrible profession? Many ignorant people think that any kind of Top Ten placement is a guarantee of easy money, easy sex and hard drugs. Let me say up front: most gangs are skinny, smelly, malnourished, and too broken down to successfully engage in the sexual act.

And those are the successful ones.

Pop music is not a career, it is an obsession, an excuse for not getting a decent and paid job. For me it started in high school. Since then I committed a series of sins against the great Goddess Luck that condemned me to be a ‘never was’. These are the things you should have done. Read on and find out.

1. Start young.

Pick up an instrument no later than your teens, or don’t bother. By the time you’re old enough to order a pint at a bar or club, you should be competent enough to land a gig there and not be embarrassed. Assuming you have talent, that is. If you leave it too late, you won’t be skilled enough to make a living from your muse.

2.Have Talent.

A lot of people get by with pop, it’s simple music. However, if your friends and initial audience think your music is ‘okay’, if you keep having to make excuses for your performances at every damn concert, then TAKE A HINT! Give up, go back to college, you self-deluded fool! Better yet, learn a trade that people really _want_, _and_ where you can make a lot of money.

Listen to that still little voice in the night. knows

3. Pop music is not art.

In some ways it is the antithesis of art. Artists strive to authentically represent their own subjectivity. Pop musicians just want to lie down and pay. It is vulgar and populist. It’s what makes the crowd crowd the dance floor and roars on a drunken Friday night.

So don’t disappear down your own ass, Mr. Marylin-Manson-Morrisey-Wannabe. We will not send search parties.

4. Save your money.

One of the worst ways to spend money on this game is on other people’s studios. Most studios in Britain have low-skilled staff who say, for example, sure, they can sync up your two workstations with your 24-track tape machine so you can do some vocal overdubs and a mix, all in a 10-hour session at €30 per hour plus VAT.

By hour five you’re sweating and trying to figure out why the vocals are late. By hour ten you have a sick feeling, a lighter wallet, and an undermixed track that will be redundant in a couple of months because your music has “improved” or changed direction. Hell, I feel nauseated even thinking about it. It happened to me. More than once. Take the head, smart boy.

Invest your money in buying your own recording equipment. Buy only ‘name’ gear as it should retain its second hand value. You can sell it if you want to upgrade it or buy something sensible like a roof over your head. London’s Loot magazine publishes free ads for buyers and sellers of just about anything. eBay is good for smaller items that can be mailed.

Second hand is very good value for money if almost new. Electronic equipment, like cars, depreciates as soon as it leaves the shop. This can be to your advantage. However, DO NOT buy second-hand items from people who look scruffy or live in a dirty, messy apartment. “Why not, fascist?!” see you Because your attention to your appearance and environment will be reflected in the care of your equipment.

The best kind of person to buy from is a nice middle-aged, middle-class English man, who lives in a nice, clean suburban house and doesn’t take his gear out on the road. Trust me this time.

Put your money towards setting up your own bedroom studio if you are a dance musician. Find a squat, a garage, or a room in an industrial estate and clear it up if you’re in a gang. Anything to avoid shelling out precious poles.

5. Conserve energy.

If all the energy wasted on the useless self-promotion of young pop musicians went to political causes (for example), the eco warriors wouldn’t have to live in trees, and the Tories would have been out after their first term. If you must persist in the illusion that one day you, too, will be number one in America (or almost), then do the following:

a) Only play in bands where members regularly attend rehearsals. Complaining and calling these jerks on the phone (“my girlfriend says I ignore her, I want to pay for concerts, I think we should do more covers, etc…”) is a drag. Either you fire them or you leave the band.

b) Rehearse regularly. Practice makes perfect, slackness leads to forgotten lyrics, silly notes, and dismal performances. Make sure that no matter how good you are in rehearsals, you will lose at least 20% to your competition when you play live. And any temperamental team will break up overnight, in front of all your friends and the A&R leech you ‘specially’ invited.

c) Write songs at home. If possible, practice them there in silence with other members. Send each member (including the drummer) a basic CD recording and lyric sheet. Get them to practice on their own so you don’t waste time and enthusiasm when you’re all in your paid-by-the-hour studio together (or see #3 above).

d) Dismiss Incompetent Members. You can only keep them if you have no intention of performing in public, recording, getting radio play or a record deal. Resist blackmail. If the bass player has a van and is your best friend but he can’t play on time, kick him out. You’ll thank me later. You can rent a van and make new friends.

6. Accept all offered gigs.

There’s no such thing as bad publicity, even if you ruin someone’s wedding, heck, at least there’s a family that will remember you for the rest of their lives. Do enough really horrible shows and you might be onto something (see: The Stooges).

7. Study the top ten.

If you admire and emulate acts in the lower reaches of the Top 30, you’ll never get that far. Selling 10,000 singles in a week through return stores was enough to guarantee him a place in the Top Thirty in the UK, when I was interested in it. If you copy acts in the lower reaches, how many people will buy your version of their unpopular music? Avoid making music to please idealistic journalists or your ‘cool’ peers. They don’t buy records anyway.

Instead, you should…

8. Write music from the heart.

Live your dream. Choose genres and styles that you feel comfortable with. A big eccentric spinning noise will get you more fans than a second-rate copy of a top ten hit. And you will enjoy it more.

9. Try all avenues of advertising.

Distribute flyers. Return ‘phone calls. Telephone newspapers. put up posters Strong arm friends. Otherwise, you’ll get a one-man audience and his dog. You will die, horribly, and you will still have to get your equipment home. You must not be ashamed. A packed concert in a small venue creates a ‘buzz’, whereas one in a larger venue, with the same number of people, will not.

Someone once told me that there were 100,000 bands in London alone, which I think is an underestimate. And that excludes the brainiacs in the bedroom. How will you stand out from the whole lot? (Do you think if I had a Big Sexy Idea I would put it in this article?). Get dressed, go crazy. Who cares? Just do it.

Public performances of any kind are excellent market research. Do your best track first. Thirty seconds later, you will know if you have the correct formula or not. If it doesn’t work, DOWNLOAD IT!

Play only your best songs. Keep your concerts short. End dramatically, then leave the building. Leave your audience with a positive memory. Be mysterious. RESIST the urge to play two hours of mediocre material, then head off stage for a pint with the gamblers at the bar.

10. Talent shows.

Give them a try, except when they ask for an entrance fee. Think of them as a way to get a well organized concert with a different audience. You won’t win, or the prize will suck, or your study time will be a bomb (see above) or your single will disappear without a trace, but what the heck, AS LONG AS YOU DON’T PAY FOR IT.

11. Release small amounts of CDs (if necessary).

Je n’ai pas. £2000 in the early 90s (including recording) for 250 copies of an LP (the vanity!) that I was too knackered to promote, and didn’t really believe in anyway. He ruined everything. If you’re good enough, other people will pay.

The same goes for promotional videos. You don’t have enough money to make them look smart. Spend the money (through music lessons and better equipment) making your music good enough for others to invest in. Dance musicians should only promote their music if they are absolutely sure they can sell it to specialty shops or fans without making excuses. Dance music is strictly ‘product oriented’ and relies far less on a good singer to carry the whole track. It can be sold more easily.

Still, don’t let your thirst for your own record in your hands lead you to drain your pathetic finances unnecessarily.

12. Management is a good idea.

If he’s not a jerk or a coward or a thief, and you’ve got some energy and contacts, commission him. It’s too much work writing, rehearsing, holding down a job/going to college AND promoting yourself. Just remember, a manager is for life, kids. He _will_ get the part of it. Best to have a totally crazy brute with a semblance of manners and respectability. Scare them and spell them at the same time. DON’T think you can do it all. People in the industry are businessmen, and they don’t want to do business with precious, pseudo-rebellious, uneducated ‘artists’.

13. Be brutal with your material.

If your songs don’t sound like anything in the top five, or if you don’t get ecstatic audience reaction/media reviews/big fans, STOP what you’re doing immediately.

Either it sounds like a current hit (within the last year for rawk, six months for dance music) or your audience wants to be like you and have your kids. Anything else is a waste of your youth. This is POP, as in POPULAR music, remember? If you got the above two things, boy, I want you to sign this paper here, no, no, don’t bother reading it…

14. And there I leave it….

…because like I said at the beginning, I’m a complete failure at this joke. Any advice I can give you about record deals and the like is not going to be based on my personal experience. You’ll find that there are many who won’t let this stop them from bending their ear anyway.

To continue, read Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ or Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’ and that white paper ‘How to Have a Number One’ or something like that from the 90’s group, the KLF. It sets you up well for any race, never mind this crap. Best of luck, anyway, you pitiful fool.

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