Jun 6, 2014

The Plight Of The Underdog - One Insider's View by Dillon Steen

Before I start this let me make it clear that I am in no way an artist, a musician, a singer, a songwriter... or anything that could even be remotely considered artistic. However I work with the folks every day and I work for them... so I see their struggles first hand.

In this business, the music business, the number one thing I see, that all of us are guilty of from time to time, is forgetting that it truly is a business.  Sure there are many out there that only play for fun... are not looking to be the next major headliner packing stadiums... but for most this is their way of life.  This is where we get into the business... the making money while also doing something you love.

While everyone starts out on bottom (well most everyone) being the underdog in this business is hard.  Buying merchandise is not cheap, putting out an album (sorry I am old enough to still call them albums) is not cheap, traveling to shows is not cheap, if you want on radio... putting out a single and hiring a promoter is not cheap, and those costs go on and on and on.... and that does not even begin to touch on the costs of equipment (the tools of the trade) and so many other things that come into play when you make music your way of life.

So does everyone start out on the same level playing field?  The answer is no. The old saying in any business is "it takes money to make money".  That holds very true in the music business.  Let me paint a picture so you can "see" what I am getting at here:  Artist A is a super talented artist, has a great band a great sound, writes awesome songs and scraped enough and saved enough to put a song out to radio and maybe hire a promoter... but that is all of the money... done. Artist B is average or ok when it comes to the talent, etc... but has investors and parents and money at their disposal any time to do all kinds of advertising, etc.  So who do you think you are going to hear on the radio first?  Now I am NOT saying this is true in all cases, nor am I saying it is the norm, but it happens... more than we would like to think or admit.

Here's another picture:  Artist A (the super one) got an offer to open a major show... problem is the show is 800 miles away, provides no rooms for the night, provides no equipment so he has to haul his own (the trailer) and it only pays $200 because it is an opening slot.  Artist B (the average one but the one with money at his disposal) gets the same offer.  Who do you think is going to be playing in that opening slot?  Again, NOT saying it is true in all cases because we know it isn't... but it happens.


Oh you want another scenario... ok...male vs. female....I don't do much booking these days since my company has expanded... but I have done it enough in the past and still do some to know this story all too well.  Female artist is superb, male artist is average... going for the same show... guess who is gonna get it most of the time?  Yep the male will.  This puzzled me for a long time until I finally had the cajones to ask a venue owner the reasoning... male singers draw the ladies to the bar...the men then follow the ladies of course... so male singer draws both men and women to the bar.  Female singer draws men to the bar... end of story. Yep, it's business folks and the venues are in business to make money... so there ya have it.  Again, not always...


Last example.... again back to radio for a second... dj has two brand new singles on his desk... one from Headline Artist A and one from Unknown Artist B.  Now don't get me wrong... I have nothing against the headliners and they have damn sure earned their place... but guess which song will get played almost without question and guess which song will have to wait although it may be just as good or better.  Again, not always...

So do you see who the Underdog here is?  Do you see how hard it is to be that underdog?  Everyone has to take time to rise to the top... everyone needs to pay their dues... I believe everyone needs to struggle just a little to appreciate what they have.  I am not saying I want anyone to be handed something they do not deserve.  I am not saying that I think those that are fortunate to have funds available to them should be looked down upon, pushed aside or anything like that.  I am not saying that those that do not have funds should be given an easier ride.  What I am saying is every one should feel like the playing field is just damn near level... we know it won't ever be all the way level... that's not reality... but close would be nice.


So ask yourself... what can I do?  Well... buy the music, go to the shows, buy a t-shirt... support the little guy/gal... don't complain about cover charges. Remember even if they don't happen to be your hometown star... they are somebody's star... even if you have never heard of them go to that show... you might be pleasantly surprised what is out there that you do not know about.  Next time you spend $150 on one concert ticket remember you could have gone to 15 concerts of one of the "underdogs" or one of the "little guys" and YOU could be part of making a whole big new star.  Ladies... go support your fellow women... go to the shows that are put on by the females in this business.... and guys follow them...and go support the males in this business too.  

Believe it or not most of the artists I know in this business treat each other as family... not separated by what sex they are... just family.  They don't separate themselves as "headliner" vs. "up and comer"... they treat each other as family. We the public, the listeners, the fans, etc... we do the separating... not them.

So let's all help them grow that family... and remember that all family members need to earn money in their business... and not have the plight of the underdog be so apparent everywhere. Some of the best music out there you may never hear or enjoy if we don't open our eyes and ears folks... the underdogs make damn pretty music too... let's give them that chance to bring it to us.



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