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Steve Cook
Columnist

Have you ever wondered why there are so many used instruments in pawnshops? Or why a so-called 'child-proof' container takes an acetylene torch and an act of Congress to open? Or why Anna Kournikova hasn't called me back? Well, the last one is surely my problem (damn restraining order), but the first two you probably have never thought of, and that means I should leave my house more often. There are a lot of different reasons for the gear hanging in the pawnshop. It may mean that musicians don't handle their money well, and need to get out of a financial bind. It may mean they don't have decent locks on their rehearsal space and the local crackhead found out about it. Or maybe, just maybe, they listened to the critics and gave up on themselves. Shame. Shame. shame.

Who are the critics? They are the non-believers, the jealous wannabe's, the playa haters (for all you kids rockin the suburbs). These are the people who always know what's best for your life because they weren't ballsy enough to follow their hearts. The ones who took the safe roads in life, not leaving much to chance, but letting money or outside pressure act as their pilot. Well, you've heard all of the 'road less traveled' talk before, but there really is a way to go about following your dreams while dealing with obstacles.

As soon as you start playing, there will be forces against you. You'll hear the sorry tales of woe about how this band didn't make it, or this guy got burned out on smack, or that MC Hammer is broke. Cry me a friggin river. You are smarter than those guys right? Of course you are-you were fortunate enough to hear about them and (hopefully) learn from their mistakes. Which is why I am here- so you may learn from mine, as well.

Starting a band while you are still living at home is tricky. You need to convince your folks (and be truthful) that you are serious about this, even if it's just serious enough to get together with friends and jam. I started in my band in my mid-twenties, and still had to explain to my Mom and Dad why I wasn't working a steady 8-5'er. I was fortunate enough to have parents that introduced me to music, and encouraged my endeavors. I did need to make a few promises along the way, however.

Promise 1) Finish College. My folks never put the hammer down on this one, but my Uncle did. He chased his musical dreams without going to college, and is now a bus driver in Pittsburgh. It was my vow to him that I would have something to 'fallback' on. Promise 2) Just tell them the truth. Where we were, what we were doing, etc. You'll find it a lot easier to get out of trouble this way. I assure you.

I may seem off the beaten path, but it all ties in. A huge problem facing some musicians is a non-supportive household. All the parents hear is 'that damn guitar' upstairs, and all the child hears is "Turn that shit down." If parents nurture a child's musical growth-any kind of musical growth, then musical goals can be reached much faster.

The odds are against you starting off in this business. You'll never be as good as the other bands. The vast majority of bands don't make a profit, sell more than a few hundred CD's or even get considered for a record deal. Chances are you won't play outside of your hometown. Hell, most signed bands don't recoup their advance money and stay in debt the whole time they are signed to a label. So looking at that- why even start?

Soul. Passion. Love. Sex. Catering. Shall I continue? Why the hell shouldn't you start? That last paragraph is what 'they' say to scare you, to deter you from following your heart. What the childproof container people live by. 'Don't go in there. It's dark and scary and we don't know what's in there' Well, you know what? 'They' have no idea what's in there. I went in, and it's nice. It's comfy in here. There's a nice couch and cable TV. I have three other guys who jumped in with me, and look, we're all OK. Nobody got hurt, and what's this? We have made some friends along the way? We've been able to tour all over this country and play outside the US? We are having fun? It can't be. There's no way you can succeed in this business. (Smell the sarcasm)?

You and you alone determine your level of success. You can set your goals to finally play that one club or festival. Maybe you want that record deal and score the big tour bus. Maybe you just want to have a weekend gig on the beach somewhere playing 'Margaritaville'. You know what? Any goal you reach is considered successful, therefore silencing the voices of the skeptics.

Your friends already think you are the coolest. Your girlfriend/boyfriend thinks you are pretty awesome. Your folks will come around. The public will come to your shows, and then buy your music and your T-shirts and your coffee mugs. The papers will always hate you, and the CD reviewers are hit and miss. Your job is to be successful (by your own standards) and give the critics more to cry about. The more successful you become, the more they'll bitch. Except your folks. They'll be just be happy you moved out.

Are we right? What do you think? USE YOUR VOICE!




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