Chris Howorth’s Off The Record: The Unseen Agony of the Music Business
In This Moment’s Chris Howorth is back with his column Off The Record. As usual, he’s here to give us his sugar-free take on what it’s like being in a big band and questions the notion of “making it.”
I have always been the kind of person who worries a lot. I worry about everything, but most of all I worry about my band and our career. Even before In This Moment came to be I was worried about every little detail of every other band I was ever in. I worry about keeping all the members happy. I worry about the songs themselves, the writing, recording, touring, promotion, sales…every tiny little aspect. But more than anything else I worried if I would ever have any success at this.
This is the only thing I love to do. Everything else I have ever done has been uninspiring and just plain mind numbing. Every job I had felt like I was being held against my will in a torture chamber.
Music is it for me but I am still trying to find the way to “make it big.” I remember when a new band would come along and seemingly all of a sudden they had the opening slot on the Slipknot tour, or they were on Ozzfest. I always thought those bands were the luckiest people in the world and I was so envious of the fact that they had “made it” — when in all reality, I really didn’t know what “making it” was. At the time, in my mind, if you were on Ozzfest you had made it for sure. I didn’t realize that getting a great tour was only one small piece of the huge puzzle.
Don’t get me wrong — getting a tour like Ozzfest or Mayhem fest is a HUGE deal for any band. It’s something only a few people in the world get to experience…but just think about all those bands that came out swinging with a bunch of great tours — including an Ozzfest slot — and tons of press and hype behind them and then, just disappeared into the void.
Knowing how much blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice goes into putting together a band and then getting it to that point makes this a sad scenario to me. I understand that not every band can “make it big” because some bands just aren’t very good and there are also a million other factors that can destroy a band before it has a chance to gain momentum — but it’s a sad reality of the business: bands come and go and one in a million have a shot at “making it big.”
Now, lets discuss “making it big.” It all boils down to what you think making it big is. Is getting signed and making an album making it big? Is playing Ozzfest or opening for your favorite band making it big? The definition of “making it big” is really up for debate.
When In This Moment first got signed we thought we had “made it” just because we got a record deal. Then, when we got a big festival tour followed by an arena tour with one of the biggest artists in the business, we were flying high on the good vibes that we were living our dreams. I actually even said once that if I died tomorrow, I will die happy and satisfied that we made it…everything is gravy after this. Well guess what? That wasn’t even close to enough. Every achievement we make in our band is just one more step in our never-ending quest to “make it big.”
Nothing is how I perceived it to be from the outside. The only thing that you can really rely on is your own personal satisfaction from writing a song or playing live — everything else is fragile and could disappear at the drop of a hat.
To me personally, the definition of “making it big” is selling enough albums and making enough of an impact in the world that you could stop at any point and take a few years off, not having to worry about money at all…then come back and people still care about you. This is a pretty rare scenario considering the millions of bands that are here for awhile and then gone forever. Every musician in every small band out there knows exactly what I am talking about, and thousands of bands are living it right now…struggling to gain fans, sell albums, make some money, get a good tour and make an impact in some way.
There are tons of young bands that don’t give a crap about money or the future and are out there grinding on the road just for the fun of it and that is truly a labor of love — a modern day adventure. Packing up all your stuff with your friends and driving around playing gigs, staying in cheap hotels when you can afford it, seeing the country, using what little money you make just to get to the next stop with no guarantee of anything else — it’s almost like the wild west without the Indians and Outlaws.
I guess the whole point of this blog is to shed some light on the unseen agony that small and medium level bands go through on the constant struggle to “make it big” and the huge difference between peoples’ perceptions of being in a signed national touring band and the reality of it all. I play music because I love it and I always have. The music business side of things is pretty much a crap shoot and you just have to try your hardest to rise above the pack and find your own path to personal glory.
I guess I will end the blog with this valuable little nugget of info, given to me by my friend and manager Blasko at the very start of our career, before we were signed or anything. He said, “If you are in this business to have fun and play shows then you are in the right business. If you are in this business to make money you are in the wrong business.” It’s a harsh slap of reality — but the truth hurts. For In This Moment, we will try to live in the moment and grind that axe as long as it takes!