It used to bother me when people referred to Walk of Shame as just a “cover band”, as though that somehow made the band’s success less valid. Now it is time for me to take the offensive about the state of music, “original” artists, and giving the “Business” to the music business.
Let me preface this column with a statement that I’ve repeatedly made over the last four years: I have nothing but the utmost respect for artists who are trying to put something new into the world. I applaud the girl grinding it out in a coffee shop trying to be the next Taylor Swift (More on her later) and the dude taking his acoustic guitar out every night to an open mic trying to be the next John Mayer. I know how hard it must be for most bands because I understand that most bands never go ANYWHERE. Most bands will last less than a year. Most bands will never play more than a handful of live gigs. Most bands will never make a dime playing music. Hell, thousands of people play football for YEARS and never make the NFL, too.
As a self-professed non conformist, I decided I was not going to be most bands.
This all started when some zilch tried to condescend to my band because we did not write our own material. He had worked at a club that focused on showcasing original music (again, which I respect) but the venue wasn’t doing well. It seemed all they ever attracted was hippies and heavy metal guys and frankly – neither group spent a lot of money at the bar. After all (and this is where most musicians fuck it up) the music business, LIKE ANY BUSINESS, is ultimately about MONEY.
Musicians have massive egos, which is one of the reasons that the industry is a giant clusterfuck. As a promoter, I am shocked at the number of entertainers who don’t have even a remedial concept of how to build their business. Shitty attitudes, unrealistic expectations, and an over-inflated sense of talent dominate the market. Everyone thinks they should be the next big thing, and everyone has a chip on their shoulder about their lack of success. I had a conversation with my guitar player about the prevailing “veteran” musician attitude: It’s next to impossible to optimistic about “making it” in the music business if you’ve been playing for 30 years. You’ve become a cynic. You’ve had 30 years of, “Yeah man, we have big things coming” and you’ve played in 20 different bands with only fleeting moments of success.
Walk of Shame is my first and only band. I don’t have that pessimism, largely out of my own ignorance. I don’t measure my success by other bands – I measure it by what I think is good progress. Quite frankly, I have nothing to compare what we are doing to and in the rare instances where I AM looking at another band, it’s almost ALWAYS to see why they are booking better gigs and making more money than we are. In other words: How can I do what they are doing?
Top cover bands make an easy 6-figures a year. Not bad for doing Jagerbombs and singing “Summer of 69”, eh?
So why the hate from original artists? Is it purely ego? Is it jealousy? I used to always hear, “Oh, well ANYONE could just whore themselves out and play cover tunes” – Well then why are you broke? Why aren’t you booking gigs? Why are you pissed off and jaded and not getting paid to play music? Listen, if you want to be an artist, and play music as a hobby because you feel fulfilled by it that’s awesome, and congrats. If you want to be a MUSICIAN and actually make a LIVING at playing music, maybe you shouldn’t talk shit on people who are actually doing what YOU want to do?
And here’s the bottom line [ego] – You CAN’T do what I do. Being a good performer is a LOT more than being able to play songs, trust me. As someone who is musically limited I have to focus on things that most bands don’t even think about: Crowd control, reading the audience, showmanship, banter, in short – I had to learn how to be entertaining. If you think Walk of Shame is booked 2-3 nights a week all over the country because we put on shows like your standard 40-somethings who play nothing but the same rock setlist every night while they stand there like statues, you should come see a show.[/ego] It’s certainly not because the lead singer is pretty.
You can keep your artistic integrity along with your shitty full-time job that you hate because you won’t lower yourself to playing other people’s music. Just know that somewhere Britney Spears is laughing her ass off at you while sleeping on a pile of money.
Taylor Swift’s shred of musical credibility is that she “writes her own songs”. Of course, that doesn’t mean that she writes, arranges, produces, and masters her own songs; What it means is that Taylor Swift can walk into a multi-million dollar studio with Grammy award winning producers and her little idea to write a song about Romeo and Juliet and the professional team will help put it together for her. We CELEBRATE that now because even THAT level of artistic input is foreign in modern pop music.
To show you how unimportant it is to write your own songs and still be a successful artist, Here’s the top 5 on Billboard right now.
#1 song in the world – “Whistle” by Flo Rida – Written by Flo Rida, David Glass, Marcus Killian, Justin Franks, Breyan Isaac and Antonio Mobley while production was handled by DJ Frank E and Glass. Quite the team for a 3 minute song, huh?
#2 – “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” by Taylor Swift. SHE WRITES ALL OF HER OWN SONGS!!! (With Writers: Taylor Swift, Max Martin, Shellback) On a sidenote, this song is like listening to 10 abortions at once while kittens are slaughtered. THIS is the song that broke the iTunes record for most downloads. Good luck, future generations.
#3 – “One More Night” by Maroon 5. I like Maroon 5 but even THEY have a team of producers writing their shit now. This song? It was written by Adam Levine, Shellback, Max Martin and Savan Kotecha, while production was handled by Shellback and Martin.
#4 – “Lights” by Ellie Goulding. The song has been around for a couple of years, but now has caught on. Did she write it herself? No… Written by Goulding, Richard Stannard and Ash Howes.
#5 – “Some Nights” by Fun. You know how sad it is that THIS is the first song that is actually written by the band (with help from their producer, of course) The song was written by producer Jeff Bhasker and with bandmembers Nate Ruess, Andrew Dost and Jack Antonoff.
You get my point. The fact is, we all ultimately end up singing somebody else’s songs, so why not get paid for it? Hey, if you think YOUR music is going to be better than the handful of producers who seem to be shaping all pop music right now God Bless you. I’d actually love to come to your 20-minute set at Club Cafe that you are splitting with 5 other bands but unfortunately, I’ve got a gig that night.