For those unfamiliar (and that’s pretty much everyone except the handful of people who are fans of our stuff thus far), I’m Mike and I sing/play guitar in a band called Skyway Avenue (http://youtube.com/SkywayAvenueUK). We play pop/rock music about growing up, broken hearts and generally having a good time - we delve deeper a lot but ultimately we want to be 4 guys having fun making music and seeing the world.
I’m aware that by writing this blog, I may or may not receive a backlash in response to it - hopefully not. Anyway, for a long while, I found myself really upset that the “system” would manufacture a boy-band like One Direction and then they would become infinitely successful where a band like The Wonder Years would play basement shows to no more than 100 kids for months on end just to do what they loved. Moreover, why would these stupid 14 year old girls buy into the manufactured, sugar-coated pop music machine over a band that writes songs about things other than “Hey girl, come to the club with me, lets party on the dance floor” ad nauseam.
Boybands are manufactured by record companies in order to make money. To put it bluntly, record companies are out to make money - just like any business. They aren’t there to be a shoulder to cry on, a buddy or whatever. They CAN be (and a lot of independent record companies are AMAZING and we salute you for it), but major record companies aren’t. You might have a manager, a TM etc etc who gives a shit about you but that’s not so much the record company as just that person being an awesome and empathetic human being. Bonus points if you’re one of those kind of people reading this.
I, along with a lot people, get quite pissed off. How can that kid that’s 19 get picked up by a management company, tell people they worked hard for it and then when they’re on tour with whoever the hell is in the top 40 at the moment be like “wow, I can’t believe it happened”. Dafuq you surprised about dude, you SHARE THE SAME MANAGEMENT. It’s not an achievement so much as it is a lucky bloody position for you to be in, expanded upon by you being in the right place at the right time rather than as a result of tirelessly working on your craft for next to or exactly nothing for years with your best friends in a sweaty practice room. BUT - that doesn’t discredit that you need to be remotely talented to be in a boyband - that said, being pretty never hurt anyway.
Boybands have, and almost always will work, because they are sold to young people who are too naive and young to know any better. Ask anyone old enough to look in hindsight at their love of Take That, N-Sync, The Backstreet Boys, New Kids On The Block etc etc. They’ll almost all laugh at how “stupid” they were for thinking these dorks were cool and how they were “their favorite group” as a kid. There’s also nothing technically wrong with the music - it’s functional, catchy pop music.
Why does 14 year old girl fall for the marketing machine hype that is something like One Direction? Simple - she’s simply too young to be jaded by the hindsight that comes with age that allows her to realize one thing - it’s all been done before and it’s nothing more than a generic cash cow for the major record company.
I might get pissed off at the manufactured boyband for receiving success for being in a fortunate position, just like in a similar sense I want to smack anyone who goes on X-Factor and says “this is my dream and only shot”. Bullshit, go rent a van and go do a tour and work social media 4 hours a day making new fans and spending every penny you earn making things to help forward your dream. THEN I’d say okay, cool, you’ve worked hard. But bull-fucking-shit if you tell me you “want this more than anything” and the first thing you turn to is a shitty reality show made by the machine to manufacture another 6-12 month “pop sensation” that is inevitably dropped in favor of the following years’ final 3 contestants.
I can get pissed off at these acts from a personal, jaded and frankly envious position. Bands who’ve done more shows and been around longer than us have even MORE right to be pissed off. BUT, to everyone in a band like that - don’t get pissed off at the guys in those groups. A pop “sensation’s” lifespan is going to be 2-5 years, tops, and is usually at the mercy of their management and record label. If you go off and play to 250 to 1,000 kids every night you won’t make money (then again, how much money at these boybands making - my assumption is that aside from the few heavy hitters, many aren’t making much at all) but your career will be longer and more consistent - and your fans won’t grow up to look at you as a guilty pleasure so much as a band that genuinely meant something to them and spoke to them. When the fuck is someone at 30 going to say “oh yeah, I genuinely had an epiphany when I heard “let’s go to the club, smack dat ass and grind my dick”. Never - unless they’re down-right stupid. In that case, God help ‘em.
Bands - you can’t get annoyed at a manufactured act’s success - swings and roundabouts, different circumstances. Boybands are made via auditions and pumped with money to be successful so that it can benefit the major label corporation marketing machine from whence they were forged. NOTHING right or wrong about that, but if you’re in a band currently touring and playing to 250 kids a night at best, you’re in a different race. Of course the boyband was going to do well - how is it surprising to you in any way that, should you pump enough money into an act, chances are they’ll get some exposure? Look at political campaigns (especially the USA ones, oh my goodness…).
But I digress. And casual listeners and people who hate on the girls who listen to this for being “retarded” (goddammit, I hate that word) or “idiots”. You’d be right if they were 30. But they’re not. They’re 14 and too naive to know any better and they’re not stupid because of it. Let them pump their parents’ money into the machine, them to grow up and tell their friends when they’re 25 about “how embarrassing” it is to remember them dancing to like Bye Bye Bye whilst staring at their ‘N-Sync poster and how they “can’t believe” they liked them (although deep down their nostalgia still makes them like them a little bit) and let the boybands experience their inevitable decline. When the money goes, so do they - not at their own volition, but at the record company’s. Rock bands are usually luckier in that regard - it’s almost always down to you and how rock-solid of a fanbase you create.
You play in a rock band? Cool. You’re gonna go out there, work your ass off, ignore all these people that say “pfft, why you doing that?” (as if dreaming and working for something should be laughed at and you should be more “realistic”) or “you should go on the X-Factor” (no, PLEASE don’t ever tell me anything as downright fucking stupid as that again). Let those kids disenchanted with the marketing crap come to you and listen to you sing your heart out and mean every word you sing about how you overthink at night, how you don’t understand some things but it’s okay and, to quote The Wonder Years, why it’s not about forcing happiness, it’s about not letting sadness win. Your words will mean more to them in 15 years than any of the garbage the boybands of today are currently singing about.
Boybands. Rock Bands. You are two separate things. No one should hate on either, but accept and embrace them for what they are. Go listen to bands that are working their assess of to pay for the gas in the van’s tank or for the next pressing of their latest EP that they’ve self released and are playing live every night on tour.
And go listen to the boybands and accept that once in a while, there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking into the sugary, fake goodness of pop music.
As Robert Frost said of life, “it goes on”. Enjoy every second you have.
To see what pushed me to really get off my ass and work for my dreams (and hopefully it’ll do the same for you), look below. Kevin Smith, I salute you for being an extraordinary human being and being the hilarious bad-ass that you are.
Have a good week.