Outsiders often say that success in the music business is all about who you know. It’s probably more about what you know, actually. I know this insider information:
The most important ingredient of success is the right record. To be able to make one a band needs to have put in the hours as writers and musicians. For inspirational viewing, please watch the Beatles documentary Eight Days A Week on Netflix. When you see the hysteria of the fans in the early days of Beatlemania it’s hard not to get very excited about the power of music. It’s awesome.
The Beatles started out as a covers band. They played for hours every night, throwing everything in to keep the crowd drinking beer. They learned to entertain and play. It didn’t happen in a summer. It went on for quite a while. So long that they felt like quitting many times.
As history will tell us, they didn’t quit. By the time they got to make a record they were unbelievably good, with songs that other people really really liked.
They worked with a producer who also had put years into developing his craft. He challenged them, demanded of them, helped them ascend. They also had an astute manager, a “grown up”, as the band put it, who made them think about presentation: the suits, the hair, the boots.
The bottom line is that everyone did everything they could to make the band’s already good offering even better.
A young band that hasn’t put in the hours in front of uninterested beer guzzlers is unlikely to be that good a live act. They will find it easy to believe that they are good when their mates whoop and holler at a cool venue, where the illusion they purchase from promoters with their friends’ money makes them feel like they’re smashing it.
Playing Summer of 69 in a pub, however, is not an illusion. It’s hard work and not very cool, but it’s how the greats got their start and there is no reason why it wouldn’t apply today.
Facebook, Logic and YouTube offer other illusions to aspiring artists. The main illusion is that new technology is a substitute for putting the hours in, for getting professionals involved. Consider this: with stupid amounts of material being released all the time, standing out is getting more and more demanding. Consequently, one really needs to dig deep into the well of artistic talent to come up with the goods.
Those skills aren’t available as plug-ins. They develop over time. The right people with the right skills make the right records. When those kind of people get together, they can make it work on a four track, if they have to. The Beatles and George Martin did.
Incidentally, back in the 60s a four track recorder was new technology. Pioneers have always used the latest cool gizmos. Those who want to make records onto tape and press vinyl, be my guest. Lots of luck with that…
Meanwhile in the real world, we just bought this: