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How To Make It In The Music Business (Not!)
Where do we start? How can I quit this bad job? Many ignorant people think that any kind of placement in the Top Ten is a guarantee of easy money, easy sex and drugs. Let me say this at the outset: Most groups are blind, smelly, malnourished and too broke to perform well in sexual encounters.
And they are the best.
Pop music is not a job, it’s an obsession, for not finding a proper, paying job. For me it started in high school. Since then I have committed several sins against the great goddess Fortuna which have resulted in my absence. Here are the things I had to do. Read and act wisely.
1. Start Young.
Pick up a new weapon in your youth, or don’t bother. By the time you’re old enough to order a pint in a bar or club, you’ll need to be smart enough to land a gig there without embarrassing yourself. Just assuming you have the talent, that is. If you leave it too late, you won’t be well-informed enough to get money from the museum.
2. Have Talent.
Most people can get through pop, with simple music. However, if your friends and the first people think your music is good, if you keep making excuses for all your games, KNOW THIS! Stop it, go back to college, you hypocritical idiot! Well, learn a job that people _want_, _and_ where you can make a lot of money.
Listen to that still small voice in the night. They know.
3. Pop Music Is Not Art.
In some ways it is contrary to Art. Artists strive to represent their true selves. Pop singers just want to get laid and get paid. It is vulgar and Pop-ulist. It’s what gets people on the dancefloor and how they roar on a drunken Friday night.
So don’t get behind you, Marylin-Manson-Morrisey-Wannabe. We do not send search groups.
4. Save Your Money.
One of the worst ways to spend money on this game is in third party studios. Most studios in Britain have unqualified chancers who say, for example, that they can synchronize your two workstations with their 24 tape machines so you can do overdubs and mix it all in a 10-hour session for £30 an hour plus VAT.
At the fifth hour you are sweating and trying to figure out why the voice is coming late. At the tenth hour you start feeling sick, a light bag, and a very mixed song that will be missing in a few months because your music has gotten ‘better’, or just changed. Hell, I feel nauseous even thinking about it. It happened to me. More than once. Be careful, wise man.
Invest in your own recording equipment. Buy only ‘name’ equipment, as it should retain its second-hand value. You can sell it if you want to upgrade, or buy something smart, like a roof over your head. London’s Loot magazine offers free ads to buyers and sellers of almost anything. eBay is great for small items that can be shipped by post.
The second one is more valuable if it is close to new. Electronics, like cars, depreciate as soon as they leave the store. This can be beneficial for you. However, DO NOT buy antique furniture from anyone who looks shabby or lives in a dirty, dirty room. “Why, you fascist?!” sez you. Because their interest in their appearance and surroundings will be reflected in the care of their equipment.
The ideal buyer is a nice, middle-aged Englishman, who lives in a nice, clean house in town and doesn’t take his equipment on the road. Trust me on this one.
Invest your money to build your own bedroom studio together if you are a dance musician. Find a squat, garage, or blag room at the dealership and fix it up if you’re in a group. Anything to avoid popping a precious lollipop.
5. Save Energy.
If all the energy was wasted on vanity and young musicians were used for political purposes (for example) the eco warriors wouldn’t have to be in the trees, and the Tories would be out after their first term. If you hold on to the delusion that one day you too will be Number One in America (or darn close), do this:
a) Play only in groups where members regularly come to practice. Crying, and calling after these twits (“mygirlfriendsaysI’migningherIwantpayinggigsIthinkweshoulddomorecoversetc…”) is a drag. Fire them or leave the group.
b) Always Practice. Practice makes perfect, patience leads to forgettable songs, bum records and terrible gigs. Be aware that even if you do well in practice you will lose 20% of your skill when playing live. And any cool gear will be destroyed in the night, in front of all your friends and the A&R leech you invited together ‘specially.
c) Write Music at Home. Practice there quietly with other members if possible. Send each member (including the drummer) a bare-bones recorder and sheet music. Have them do it themselves so you don’t waste time and attention when you’re both in your hourly studio (or see 3. above).
d) Remove Ineligible Members. You can keep them as long as you have no intention of performing in public, filming, broadcasting or filming. Avoid cheating. If the bass player has a van and is your best friend but can’t play on time, give him the boot. You’ll thank me later. You can rent a car, and make new friends.
6. Accept Any Gig Offered.
There is no such thing as bad publicity, even if you mess up someone’s wedding, hell, there is one family that will remember you for the rest of their lives. Do a really bad gig and you might be onto something (see: The Stooges).
7. Learn the Top Ten.
If you admire and emulate the events below the Top 30 you will never get there. Selling 10,000 singles a week through the stores that returned to the charts was enough to guarantee you a spot in the Top Thirty in the UK, when I was interested in it. If you copied the content below, how many people would buy your unpopular music? Avoid making music to impress your ajourno or ‘cool’ friends. They don’t buy records anyway.
Instead, you should…
8. Write Songs From Heart.
Live your dreams. Choose colors and styles that you are comfortable with. A great whirlwind sound will get you more fans than a second hit in the top ten. And you will enjoy it a lot.
9. Try Every Avenue Of Publicity.
Share the media. Return ‘phone-phones. Newspapers on the phone. Put up signs. Your strong-arm friends. Otherwise you’ll get a one-man-and-his-dog audience. You WILL die, badly, and you will still ride your weapons home. You don’t have to be ashamed. A packed performance in a small venue creates a buzz, while one in a larger venue, with more people, may not.
Someone once told me that there were 100,000 bands in London alone, which I think is a small number. And that doesn’t include bedroom boffins. How can you separate yourself from all these things? (Do you think if I had a Great Idea of Adultery I would have put it in this article?). Dress up, go crazy. Who cares? Just do it.
Social media of any kind is great for market research. Do your best strategy first. In thirty seconds you will know if you are on the right track or not. If it doesn’t work, DUMP IT!
Play only your best songs. Keep your gigs short. Dramatic ending, then exit the building. Leave your audience with a positive impression. Be amazing. AVOID the urge to play two hours of mediocre stuff and head down to grab a pint with the punters at the bar.
10. Talent Competition.
Try it, unless they ask for an entry fee. Think of them as a way to create a great gig with a diverse audience. Ya won’t win, or the prize will suck, or your studio time will bomb (see above) or your single will disappear without a follow-up, but what will happen is NOT PAYING YOU.
11. Release a few CDs (if you have to).
I didn’t. £2000 quid in the early 90s (which included recording) for 250 copies of an LP (rubbish!) which I was too busy to promote, and didn’t really believe. He got rid of it all. If you are good, other people will like you.
The same goes for promotional videos. You don’t have enough money to look smart. Use that money (through music lessons and good equipment) to make your music good enough for others to invest in. Dance artists should download their music if they are confident that they can sell it to specialty stores or fans without giving reasons. about that. Dance music is more ‘lovely’, and doesn’t rely too much on a good singer to carry the whole song. It can be easily sold.
However, don’t let the thirst to have your reputation in your hands make you waste your miserable money unnecessarily.
12. Leadership Is A Good Idea.
If he is not a date, condescending or manipulative, and has energy and connection, go ahead with him. It’s a lot of work to write, revise, work/go to college AND KNOW YOURSELF. Just remember, a manager is for life, kids. He_will_get his little. It is better to have a complete brute with dignity and respect. Scare them and entertain them at the same time. NEVER think you can do it all. People in the industry are business people, and they don’t want to do business with cheap, fake, uneducated ‘artists’.
13. Be Cruel with Your Stories.
If your music doesn’t sound like it’s all in the top five, or you’re not enjoying the audience/media reviews/fanbase, STOP what you’re doing immediately.
Either it sounds like the latest hit (in the last year of rawk, six months of dance music) or your audience wants to be like you and have your kids. Anything else is wasting your youth. This is POP, as in popular music, remember? If you have all of the above, Hey boy, I want you to sign this paper here, no, don’t bother reading…
14. And then I’ll leave it at that….
… for as I said earlier, I am a failure at this lark. Any advice I can give you on recording contracts and such will not be based on your personal experience. You will find that there are many who will not let this stop your ears.
To continue, read ‘The Prince’ by Macchiavelli or ‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu and that white book ‘How to have a number One’ or some such 90’s group KLF. Prepare well for any job, don’t worry about this. Good luck, you sad idiot.
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