1. They’re flaky.
Late to sound check. Late to the gig. Late to the media interview, if they even show up. Late to the meeting with the lawyer for the career-changing contract they need to understand.
2. Emotionally unstable.
This one’s the most stinging of all. And I hate to say — sometimes totally true.
Maybe creativity is self-absorbing by nature, maybe it’s self-defensive armor against a world that makes musicians feel like crap — until they’re successful.
3. Refuse to deal with anything business-related.
Sad — and oftentimes, true.
One of my best friends ended up ‘making it’ in the early 2000s with a band he personally put together in college. They sold out Madison Square Garden (twice), routinely packed 350+ person halls worldwide, and headlined major festivals.
He invited me backstage at one of the group’s early gigs — right when they were just starting to fill bigger venues. On the table were three three contracts; he was finishing a meeting with someone at the venue. He also just finished the details on the bus ride to the next city. He was on it.
The other three members eating pizza, hanging out with (very attractive) women, and doing coke and/or getting drunk. They wanted nothing to do with the practicalities of the tour.
“Welcome to my life — this is the entire tour,” he told me.
4. Think their mediocre music is so amazing.
Amazing, proficient musicians are oftentimes really humble, constantly practicing, and never satisfied.
Bad musicians are the exact opposite.
5. Completely ‘out there’.
One of the world’s best French horn players told me something great. “Musicians sound dumb,” he laughed. The reason? They’re always practicing alone, spending endless hours at the piano writing, or living in a deep creative space. So maybe this is one stereotype I can live with — creative people are by definition scribbling outside the lines.
So talk to a banker if you want a normal conversation.
6. Always breaking up.
Super Bowl winning football teams stay together — even if the players hate each other. So why are my favorite bands always breaking up at the peak of their careers?
And I don’t want to wait for the reunion tour when everyone’s hard up for cash!
Becoming a professional musician is like stepping onto a total rollercoaster of financial instability. And virtually every musician will experience dire poverty at one stage or another.
But even if an artist gets popular, there are a thousand intermediaries trying to skim the profits.
Which is why I’m always pleasantly surprised to see an artist beating this stereotype.
Image by Andreas (CC0).