The music business is riddled with cliches, and most of them are true. Successful or not, musicians feel the need to wear sunglasses, roadies are frustrated pop stars and promoters call the shots. From the record company boss to the sound engineer, egos are massive, substance abuse is rife and working hours run right around the clock.
Whether you're set on becoming a pop star or just rubbing shoulders with them, it is the glamour element (not always a reality once in the business) that makes music-related work so competitive. Consequently, whatever sector you're starting out in, hard graft will be required for very little reward.
Galling though it is, it pays to be in London where most of the desirable venues, magazines, record companies and musos reside. Though there are some successful independent record labels outside the capital - Warp in Sheffield, Skint in Brighton - they are few and far between.
It is the fluctuating career prospects in this industry that are examined in Sian Pattenden's book. The prospective posts are numerous, complicated and often seem far removed from the seductive glitz that was initially anticipated. Pattenden endeavours to dispel the myths while spelling out, by turns satirically and seriously, what these motley musos actually do.
A&R-ing (known by its practitioners as 'um and ah-ing') or 'scouting' is revealed for all its sycophancy. Artists and Repertoire is an arcane term for the people who search out, sign, and develop acts for the record label. Their job is to go to gigs, trawl through demo tapes and run up ruinous expense accounts over leisurely lunches. "You've got to get on their (the unsigned band) side, smile, buy them a round and express deep love for all their tunes," snarls Pattenden.
Managers, customarily branded by discontented bands as Satan's representatives, are given an even-handed hearing. On the whole, they start out as a friend of the band, unwittingly condemned with a talent for blagging. The band, giddy after their first successful gig, offer their mate a cut of the profits to pull off an even better billing, and so begins another career in the music industry's most thankless task.
While some of the industry's jobs receive superficial treatment, others considered at length seem hardly worthy of a mention. Being a band caterer or rock hotelier hardly constitutes Making It, though it does signify the desperate lengths people will go to to get near the pop industry. Advice on being successful ex-pop star is rather a wasted exercise as we've all seen what happens. Some turn vegetarian, teetotal and become proselytisers for obscure cults while others, remarks the Pattenden, "remain wild ultra-heroes of rock who still don't know when to go to bed".
Individuals are frequently pigeonholed according to their idiosyncrasies and dress sense - the roadie is "the bloke with his bottom hanging out of his trousers." Each job is accompanied by a rather haphazard glossary of the appropriate jargon.
There is helpful advice here if you can find it and some interesting trade secrets are revealed. Particularly handy are the names and numbers of relevant companies as well as the essential skills are that are advised for different jobs. In the singer section Pattenden suggests that "being able to play an instrument or sing" helps. One wonders if she herself is a wannabe pop star.Reuse content