You have no place to practice.
Most of us urban dwellers either live with our parents, in small neighborhoods or in apartments. None of these places seem conducive to rock’n’roll inspiration. Most of you have day jobs, or school and college during the day, so the only time you get to practice is late in the evenings when everyone else is trying to relax and are more prone to beating you senseless for all the noise you’re making. The fact is bands are never going to get better unless they have a place to practice loudly and consistently, without fear of waking up the neighbours.
You don’t get paid.
It’s incredible how many people will expect you to perform music for free. In the beginning you end up taking all offers and performing everywhere just so you can get the exposure. You swallow your rock’n’roll pride and play at melas, children’s birthday parties and ‘aqeeqas’. You catch a lucky break and open for a big name act. A thousand people see you perform but you don’t get paid.
But you somehow scrimp and save enough to record one song and make one music video and you pin your hopes on it. It flops. You wind up having to sell yourself on the street/donate a kidney chasing that dream of a second song.
You listen to criticism.
People are harsh. Everyone considers themselves an expert on music they and are not afraid to tell you. As a breed, musicians are already the most sensitive, insecure people you’ll meet. It gets even worse on the internet where everyone runs amok with their vicious and hurtful comments. You start to question if it’s worth the constant abuse, and usually it isn’t.
You sound like everyone else.
In your quest for mainstream success, you start off first by playing covers. You get pretty good at covers and people start to talk about your band. You decide to play an original tune one night and your audience gets bored/complains/hurls produce at you. Terrified of losing their love, you vow never to play an original again. You end up staying a cover band forever.
Conversely you keep writing originals. You look around and see the only artists getting famous are the ones who look and sound like Atif Aslam. So you do the same. While initially you get a bit of attention, eventually you get written off as a wannabe. People would rather go see the real thing.
You aren’t online.
In this day and age, if you haven’t figured out that the internet is the best way to get to your audience, you’re going to need a lot more than this article to help you see the light.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 25th, 2010.