Chewed and Spat Out – The tale of the also-ran band

Posted on April 16, 2012

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If you’re about to form a band, or if you’re in a band already, you might want to listen up. Yeah, you with the Top Shop/American Apparel skinny fit v-necked outfit you pathetic excuse for a musician. Look, I can even distract you as easily as this, watch: FREE BEER! See? Now listen, and listen well, cos its for your own good.  

So a group of your mates you’ve either known for years in, I dunno, somewhere regional like Woking, Wakefield, Rochdale, maybe even Hull, or perhaps advertised for new band members in your latest issue of NME describing your influences as diverse as ‘Blur, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana and Kasabian.’ So after a few auditions and deciding on a band name of say, The Existentials, just because you’ve been reading L’Etranger and that you think the philosophical scribings of individual freedom and absurdity will make you really appeal to getting in between girls legs and that you’re soooo unique and totally different from everyone out there in the music scene. Well here’s to piss on your four man band parade – it’s about as original a concept as corn flakes. It’s been done over and over for the last several decades now and the general public aren’t that feeble.

…OR ARE THEY. OR ARE THEY??

See, half the time, the man on the street couldn’t be trusted with a pair of rubber scissors. What confirms this is how they’re controlled by those up above. No not that high. Bit lower, lower still, that’s more like it. It’s the bigwigs and egotists aged 45 and above at the four major labels who decide and figure what will sell. But hey, you don’t care at this point right? As long as you’re famous and you’re one day on the cover of Screamwaves Musical Express and are knee deep in muff, it’ll all pass..and what’s more.. FREE BEER! Incidentally, the other half of the time the man spends to himself is at pains with his own existence on how he’s wasted his life away on a meaningless relationship, dead end job and how everyday is fucking GROUNDHOG DAY!!!!

After a few songs written that don’t sound too dissimilar to what sounds like everything else out there on daytime radio A lists, you decide to upload them onto MySpace with a flashy flashy background and listing your influences as Bukowski, Vonnegut, Satre and of course Albert Camus, you pretentious twat. Facebook pals also come into the equation with your own group, which will provide a direct link to oh, I dunno, Facebook. After many hours, days and weeks adding friends of whom you might think give two monkeys about your original sound, a busybody at a management level, or someone who’s a young budding chancer decides that you’re the best thing he’s heard in the last twenty minutes and comes along to a gig you’ve booked on the back of your own efforts.

You play your first show in London with an attendance of approximately 12 people in the room, with three times that amount of people inebriated in the bar area next door despite it being a Tuesday night, compromising of those you invited down to be on your guestlist, that you worked so tirelessly with the promoter of the night that they were let in for free, and not on concessions for them to catch a couple of tracks and to decide that ‘it didn’t blow them away’.

Alternatively, you might get lucky and an A&R actually gets around to doing what they’re paid to and likes you so much that he makes an offer of a record deal. That is of course, your manager and lawyer that you’ve assigned and tacitly agreed to work for you pro bono until you get signed. If you’re hot shit, they’ll attempt to tie you down on a two-album-with-option-of-a-third deal for a low royalty rate and a signing on fee advance of anything between 5k to 500k and so far beyond, the figure would make your head spin off your torso.

You agree on the high advance just because the thought of all that money at your disposal for a brief moment makes you think you’ve finally made it. But little do those naïve Existentials know that this is where the real hard work begins..

Deciding that you need to move to where its really at, the lot of you move down to a disused warehouse space that used to be an abattoir in the part of Hackney that’s so rough, it makes the prospect of being in Wormwood Scrubs a lot more cosier. It costs piss all, but hey, as long as the label have got you covered right? Not to mention all that FREE BEER!

So – time to make that ground breaking début album that’s going to be bigger than Oasis. Or at least that’s what the label have been lying to the press about before they’ve even heard a note.

Now, what is unbeknownst to the band are a couple of fundamentals – first that advance is an investment, which has to be paid back via record sales. There’s also the breakdown in costs, where everyone representing you gets a piece of the pie.

Let’s just see how much that money is broken down from a £250,000 investment…

Manager’s cut – 15-20%
Legal fees (because after all, lawyers are what they are and they negotiated the contract you signed in their blood soaked ink) 10%
Studio hire – 25%
Top notch producer (plus royalty points/percentage from the record sales) – 25%
Mastering – 5%
Album cover artwork – 5%

That leaves you with the princely sum of..well, you really don’t want to know. Oh you do? Well it’s about £3000. That’s not even minimum wage. That’s gangrape-in-a-back-alley-blindfolded-while-being-spitroasted-and-thrown-away-once-they’re-done-with-you money. But since this is their vision, that leaves the remnants of the money available. Pending that is. That’s not to mention New Equipment, Tour manager, roadies, tour expenses like hotels, a tour van, food, fuel, t-shirts, posters..Even album packaging, photoshoots..you get the idea.

Under all that overwhelming pressure, with the band owing thousands being deep in the red often before a song is heard on the radio, the music press are hailing you the next big thing. Lamacq, Lowe and the cavalry are playing you over and over. For a short while at least, you’re the untouchables. That is, until the record comes out and guess what? Because its taken so long to release the record, you’re not fashionable any more. Your time has been and gone, and so has their patience. Oh, there’ll be little bits and pieces written here and there, but you’d want more for your 250k investment.

And after months of the label trying everything they can to make them seem appealing, they write off the money and drop you. You owe the company thousands and the Existentials are never heard from again, unless one of them happens to be on an identity parade on Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

AND THAT’S HOW YOU GET CHEWED UP AND GET SPAT OUT! ALL THAT YOU EARN IS LESS THAN SOMEONE AT A VIDEO RENTAL STORE AND YOU’VE NO PROSPECTS TO COME OF WHAT HAS JUST HAPPENED. IF ANYTHING, YOU’VE BEEN CHEWED UP AND SPAT OUT. AND THAT’S HOW THE MUSIC BUSINESS WORKS!!

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