Rocked Out Essay, Research Paper
Thesis: The lifestyle of a professional musician is more difficult than glamorous.
II. The Hardships of being a professional pop musician.
A. The physical and mental rigors of being on tour.
1. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys was stressed to the max.
2. When the GooGoo Dolls performed on tour with Everclear, the amount of performing they did was ludicrous and very taxing.
a. One night, John Reznick was forced to perform even though he had totally lost his voice the night before.
B. The difficulties of dealing with record companies.
1. It is hard for groups to deal with the pressure of constantly having to produce new and fresh material.
a. Van Halen had to go through several lead singers mainly because of the desires of the record company.
b. The Mamas and Papa?s were a group back in the late 70?s who were continually forced to write new albums and eventually it compromised the sound of the band.
2. The dangers of record deals.
a. The Goo Goo Doll?s almost lost every cent they made as musicians to their label Metal Blade Records.
C. The exposure to the dark side of the professional musicians world.
1. The murder of Tupac Shakur?s was due to his exposure to marijuana.
2. Jimmi Hendrix?s had a clean beginning, but ultimately was killed in a drug overdose; his exposure to drugs was due to the amount of them to be found in the music industry.
Watching a rock band perform, hearing rumors about the ludicrously large salaries some performers make and buying into all the propaganda associated with pop musicians leads many to long for this same kind of fame and fortune. However it is unknown to most that the lifestyles led by professional pop musicians are deceptively pleasant and glorified. Being involved in such a career comes with more than its own share of stresses and burdens. Such burdens include the physical and mental pressures of being on tour, the ridiculous politics involved in dealing with the recording industry and the exposure to the dark and sometimes fatal world of sex, drugs and alcohol. As Johnny Reznick of the band The Goo Goo Dolls put it: ?Being a professional rocker is a job just like any other? (Reznick Interview). While it certainly can be rewarding, the work of a pop star is never easy and always fraught with difficulty and risk.
Perhaps one of the most strenuous aspects of being a professional musician is the unwelcome baggage that comes with being on tour. The website for the BLS Career
Report Service (a federally funded service that attempts to provide information on literally every known career) describes the tedious aspects of a rock musician?s career as
such: ?All musicians spend a lot time practicing, rehearsing and performing. This requires a lot of travel. Musicians often perform at night and on weekends. All this can be
tiring? (BLS Report). This is a straightforward statement that clearly says being a traveling musician can be tiring. The only problem with this statement is that it fails to specify just how tiring a lot of travel can be. The stress and pressure caused by being on the road causes many musicians to have nervous breakdowns and or turn to drug use and substance abuse (Friedlander 72). Take the example of Brian Wilson, the producer as well as musician for the Beach Boys. During the prime of the Beach Boys touring days Brian was forced to stop touring with the group due to several nervous breakdowns caused through overwork (Burt 16). Later Brian described the craziness of this period of life as such: ?I was running around jumping on jets from one city to another on one-night stands, as well as producing, writing, arranging, singing, planning and teaching to the point where I had no peace of mind. I had no time to sit down and think or even rest? (Burt 16). Another story of life on the road comes from Johnny Reznick. During the summer of 1998 The Goo Goo Dolls went on a national tour with the bands Everclear and Fastball. In a personal interview Reznick discussed the difficulty of this time: ?We played an average of five shows a week for about seven months. Our routine for this period was literally eat, sleep play.? Within about four months of this tour performances had become such a burden for [us] that they were no longer enjoyable and contractual agreement to play was the only thing that kept the group going.? In his interview, Reznick told a story relating to the burdens of being forced to perform: ?I remember one night we played at a private club and my voice was totally gone, I could barely speak because I had been singing six nights in a row. Robbie (our bass player) had to do all of the vocals for that show and by the end of it he had lost his voice too. On top of it all, we were scheduled to play again the next night at another small gig, but we just had to tell our manager ?no-way man.?
It would seem that the bulk of frustration involved with being a musician is curbed when the tours come to an end and the performers can finally return to their homes; however the truth is that the troubles of being on the road are t exchanged with the troubles of dealing with the recording studio. Groups like Van Halen underwent incredible struggles under the pressures to continually release albums. This resulted in much tension between the band members, including the coming and going of several lead singers (Friedlander 121). Other groups suffered from the burden of the recording studio as well. A group in the late 70?s called the Mamas and Papa?s are one such example of this. Their music was very popular when first released, as it sounded fresh and unique and while they were creative people they were no geniuses; they couldn?t cope with the endless demands on them to make record after record. Yet they were expected to do so as long as the public bought their albums. Eventually, they got to sounding stale and repetitive (Burt 37).
While being pressured to record is draining and difficult for bands to deal with, the greatest struggle many groups encounter are seemingly crooked record deals. One of the best examples I found of a bogus record deal involves The Goo Goo Dolls and the first record company they signed a contract with: Metal Blade Records. As the eloquent
Johnny Reznick told me, ?Record companies, recording contracts and record deals are Satan!? This statement is justified by all the abuse that The Goo Goo Dolls were put through by Metal Blade (a division of Time Warner). The company literally took advantage of the young trio by offering them a contract that seemed sound but was actually incredibly ambiguous so as to direct the bulk of the bands profits to the label. After several tours, three albums and very little profit the Goo Goo Dolls hired a lawyer to examine their contract and see what could be done about generating more revenue. Close scrutiny of their contract revealed that Metal Blade Records was taking in 94% of the Goo Goo Doll?s profit (Reznick Interview). This was an outrage to the band and resulted in severe animosity between the group and their label. The band of course wanted nothing more to do with Metal Blade but they were under contract to produce three more records before they could leave. This resulted in a heated lawsuit and eventually the band was able to record with a different division of Time Warner. Unfortunately the group is still in debt to Metal Blade and portions of their profits are still forfeited to the corporation.
While touring and recording are stressful and sometimes seemingly impossible for bands to deal with there is an even greater risks faced by professional musicians: exposure to the dark side of the music industry or ?sex, drugs and alcohol? (Howard 237). Due to the pressures of the lifestyle as well as the accessibility, many musicians turn to and become addicted to substance. The LivingLight News website talks about the harsh exposure to drugs and booze that many young pop stars undergo and how it leads to addiction and often death. Tragic examples of this are Tupac Shakur and Jimmi Hendrix
Tupac was a young rapper who found himself in almost overnight success. He partied so much and was so exposed to marijuana that he became a hardcore dealer and in the end he was brutally murdered over drug issues (Alexander 169). There is also the infamous case of Jimmi Hendrix, perhaps one of the most talented guitarists of all time who met his end at a tragic young age due to drug overdose. As Jimmi?s father put it, ?The world of rock and roll introduced my son to the fast-paced and dangerous world of drugs and alcohol. The madness that exists in this realm was the catalyst that started my sons downward spiral and eventually brought him to his death? (Hendrix 76).
It is unfortunate that the life of professional pop musicians is such a harsh one. When the lifestyle is looked at on a surface level, it can seem very glamorous and alluring and while there certainly is a thrilling side to the profession it definitely comes with a price. Tours and record deals can quickly go from being enjoyable to incredibly taxing situations to have to deal with and the perils of drug and alcohol abuse are constantly lurking in the shadows. The life of a professional musician indeed has its brighter moments; it can sometimes prove to be an extremely rewarding endeavor. Ascending to the ranks of those bands that become adored by the millions is usually the greatest achievement of ones life. It is unfortunate for those that do attempt the climb to the coveted ?top? that slopes are often much more slippery than they appear.
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