Editorial : Needing a thick skin in the music industry – The hardest industry in the world.
If people can’t take on a bit of feedback, should they even consider a career in the music industry?
In this modern world in which we live, it is no secret that we have had to adopt a more careful approach in the things that we say and who we potentially offend. 2018 is a melting pot of people getting offended left, right and centre by anything and everything that’s said. But should that be the case within the music industry?
The music industry is notorious for being incredibly difficult to get into. It’s an industry that parents tend to tell their children to avoid – something that’s not a real job. It’s an industry filled with rejection.
To prove this point, I spoke to Sebastian Naylor – a Studio and Live Music Production student at the School of Sound Recording in Manchester. After studying and working with musicians for years, Seb has seen first-hand that a thick-skin is needed in this game.
“When you’re working in the industry nobody cares about how good the music really is, all they want to see is “how much revenue it will bring” and “how it will promote the label”.
“Everyone in the industry will criticise you at some point in your career because the record label wants the ‘perfect mix’ –an album with zero faults and with all the creases “ironed out”.
“The perfect mix doesn’t exist. It never has. You need self-motivation as a producer to inspire the musicians in your studio to bang out quality tunes.”
Seb told me about what the history of music had taught him about staying motivated in the studio.
“The motivation pushed onto the musicians from producers is what creates big hits. Look at George Martin with the Beatles. Without him their songs wouldn’t even exist.He tailed everything to their eccentric needs.
“It’s the same with Butch Vig and Nirvana. He pissed off everybody in the band to the point where they hated him with passion to attain the sound in the ‘Nevermind’ album.
“All of them say “yeah he was just being a picky prick” but really all he was doing was motivating them to get them to where they needed to be.
“As a band you’ve just got to be resilient, not give a shit and play through It.One of the biggest things a crowd likes to see is a bandmess up and laugh about it in the moment – it shows the band are real people with actual personalities.”
To reinforce Seb’s points, I thought I’d speak to some bands. People who have been on the other side of the producers.
I spoke to Aerial Salad frontman Jamie Munro. Jamie has been in this band for seven years and they are only just starting to see the rewards for their hard work over the years. After years working on getting in the UK’s DIY punk scene, Aerial Salad finally managed to book themselves on a festival slot in Florida. Fast-forward a year and the band is about to embark on a European Tour and they’ve managed to get a tour in the works back in the States.
Jamie said: “Aerial salad is lucky to mainly have had good reviews.We had one of some German magazine saying we’re absolute shite, but it didn’t bother me;I found it funny. I think if you really believe in what you do, negativity doesn’t bother you. People that write reviews are entitled to an opinion on your music, as is everyone, and you should never expect people to like it. Confidence is believing you’re amazing, arrogance is believing everyone else should think that way.”
Whilst I was writing this article, Aerial Salad announced four new tour dates for Germany – resilience at its finest. To go back to a country where you’ve had one of your only bad reviews to try and change your reputation – definition of thick skin in the music industry.
“You definitely need thick skin as it’s a really hard industry. Touring is financial suicide and it’s very time consuming, but more than anything you just need to love what you’re doing and believe in it. I know it sounds cringey and cliché, but they have a point.We managed to play my dream festival with some of my favourite bands all because I believed we could do it. I wouldn’t let anyone tell me I couldn’t.People will tell you that you can’t and shouldn’t, but at the end of the day, as long as you love it, it doesn’t really matter.”
I then spoke toJamie Corrigan – the lead singer and guitarist of indie rock band Graceland. He told me about the initial difficulties him and the band found when recording their debut EP ‘Mr Mordechai’s Garden’.
“It was our first time doing our own tune as a band in a proper studio. We had no idea of mixing and mastering,& the process of audio recording, so when we were getting told “we can’t do this because of this” or “this section would sound better here” or “try that in a different key” it felt a bit weird.
“It was good, for not only me, but the bandin the long run.We had to learn to share again – opening your tunes up to scrutiny, playing with them and shining light on new areas and techniques.”
“It’s never easy in any capacity, personal or professional, handling rejection or being told that your “product” is “wrong” when it’s something so subjective & personal. But I always try to understand why the rejection has happened, you know, is it a straight outright dislike or is it a bit more contextual? What is it they don’t like? Is it the tone? Deliverance? Melody? Key?
“I’d say don’t get so hung up on the actual rejection itself but find out what aspect they don’t like and learn from it. Sometimes there’s room for artistic development but others it can just be a case of wrong place wrong time.”
“Learn from other people because it’s no good writing a tune if it’s only you that is singing along.”
”It was a while before I noted the positives of opening the tune up for criticism & exploration but once I did it just felt right, like the tune was a big buffet & I’d only been eating the breadsticks.”
“I’m really proud of the way that’s shaping now, we’ve got some big sounds in there & it really is a spectrum of light & shade so hopefully we’ll get that out by the end of this year & you lot can listen.
“I’d say you need to be thick skinned but that’s a lie. Although it does help. Some of the gentlest souls & nastiest fuckers I’ve ever met are in the music industry- so it doesn’t matter if you’re hard or soft, as long as you have talent and a will to succeed.
“I think that’s how Graceland have handled rejection. As narcissistic as it seems we just share this belief that we will make it, an absolute all-encompassing truth that we will succeed and do so greatly.
“Now don’t get it confused with a sense of entitlement, nor an unbecoming attitude, because it’s more a sense of expectation that we put on ourselves. We expect ourselves to write good tunes & we expect people to either love them or hate them or be completely a-political towards them- we expect there to be an intercourse and opinions around the tunes.
“I think it’s important to not equate negative feedback with constructive feedback. If I tell you something’s wank in a song, then it’s done out of love. Don’t be the guy or girl to just slag something off and offer no alternative or sit there andrevel in the awfulness of it all- be positive, we’re all in the same boat so why not help your mate turn that tune into a banger? It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you listen to somebody’s thoughts for 10 minutes.”
There are always going to be haters in life.You’ll find your haters a lot easier and quicker than you’ll find your lovers.But you’ve got to take it on the chin and ignore it. Jamie finished a note that I could relate to. Something to take on board if you’re in this industry.
“There’s knobheads in every walk of life. If you can’t find one, you probably are one.”