Every musician I know has asked themselves at some point whether or not making music these days is worth it. Are the years of training, the hours of rehearsal, the anxiety of crafting and arranging songs, the perpetual social media campaigning, the fortune spent on equipment, and the haggling with promoters for barely enough money to cover for gas, even close to being justified? It’s a hard question to answer but in the end, it’s a pretty simple one to answer. If it’s fun, then of course it’s worth it. Otherwise, fuck it.
There certainly are very few financial motivators for a up and coming musicians these days. People barely buy independent music. Show prices, although higher than ever for top tier, centenarians like The Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac, have been offset by $5 to $10 door charges for unknown bands, the same price people were willing to pay twenty five years ago. Streaming, although providing some revenue, only pays fractions of a penny per play. There are very few people I know, regardless of talent or dedication, who are able to support themselves through their creativity and craft alone.
So, since very few artists are actually making money pursuing their music, why are so many people doing it? I definitely can’t answer for everyone out there. But one thing I can say, is if you aren’t having the time of your life every time you play, then why bother? Every single jam session should be a cathartic experience. Every moment on stage should be an affirmation of life and expression of joy. If you don’t get a thrill of excitement when you nail a song and hear the crowd lose their minds, then just stay at home.
There are a lot of jobs out there that pay much better than performing original music and ask a lot less from those working them. I’m pretty sure that just about any job with a steady wage does. So why do people keep making music and putting on shows? It’s very simple. It feels great. It feels great to take one’s pain and pleasures and spill them out in song for a crowd. It feels amazing to hear the final master of a song you wrote three years before. Most of all, nothing tops having a crew of bad ass musicians at your side, all loving the music you create together, and giving everything they have on stage playing that music.
Growing up I had a very clear idea of what a band should be. I looked up to groups like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam. They all seemed so indestructible. No member of the group was greater than the whole and when combined they served to become part of a greater whole, much more powerful than any one of them alone. It all seemed so incredibly bad ass. I think watching Voltron reruns may have had a part to play in forming my idea of what the perfect band should look like.
With these acts, there was no question of how much joy they were feeling on stage. They all seemed to be enwrapped in ecstasy every moment they spent on stage together. Then, when I’d watch these bands in interviews, it was like a group of friends hanging out, just being silly, loving and living a life filled with music. So naturally, then first thing I set out to do when I was still only weeks into playing guitar, was to form a band with my closest friends, and try to emulate those musicians we looked up to with such admiration. Looking back, I can’t think of better role models to for a young musician to have.
Now, over twenty years later, I’m proud to be part of a group that is based on those principles of joy, fraternity, and mutual respect. It feels great to be part of a group where every individual, despite their different roles and strengths, comes together to build something greater than themselves. Every time we practice is a cathartic experience. Every time we play on stage feels transcendent. It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of. There were no smoke and mirrors behind the way these artists portrayed themselves. It wasn’t a gimmick. Being in a band is the coolest thing ever.
So when faced with the hours of rehearsal, the fortune spent on gear, the constant disappointments, the unfair and harsh criticism, and the myriad of other ways that being a musician these days sucks, I only have to do one thing to keep me motivated. I just think about playing for bigger audiences. I think about how awesome it would be to play for them every night. I think about the next jam session and the songs yet to be written. But most of all, I think of how lucky I am to have three guys by my side that I respect both as musicians and human beings. After thinking about those things just for a second, it becomes pretty obvious whether or not I’ve made the right choice with my life.
Return For Refund is a rock band who creates a gritty, precise, and high-energy sound filled with infectious riffs and hard hitting rhythms. By combining the sensibilities of the blues, the energy of metal, and the expressive influences of grunge-era alternative rock, the band has found something unique and unapologetically new. Their latest release ‘Lift You Up’ dropped March 24th, and is kicked off by a March/April tour running through parts of Ontario, Quebec City, and Manitoba.
Written by Drew Clementino Aguiar.
Post by Corey Kleinsasser
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