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The unwritten laws of the music world can be absurd and relentless. | Photo: Vasiko Gorkovoy (Unsplash)
The unwritten laws of the music world can be absurd and relentless. | Photo: Vasiko Gorkovoy (Unsplash)
mbx - Fri, August 11, 2023 - 08:00

TOP 5 Absurd Laws of the Music World

Absurdity is an integral part of our lives. I mean, don't you tell yourself at least once a week: "Oh my God, what's going on right now? This doesn't make any sense at all"? And the unwritten laws of the music world don't make sense either. They are Murphy's pranks that repeat with iron-clad regularity, and their absurdity goes hand in hand with their relentlessness. You can be sure that these top 5 absurd laws of the music world will always work.

1. Celebrities get everything for free

In his autobiography Acid For the Children, Flea, the bassist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, reflected on the strange logic of instrument and music equipment manufacturers. Back in the days when no one in show business knew him, and those who did, thought he was a bass-bashing lunatic, Flea wrote a request to an unnamed record label to provide him with a free instrument. He wanted to see if they would support him early in his career because he needed a better bass and was short of money.

Of course, no one took him seriously and you can guess what the response was. However, now companies are racing to offer Flea signature models of basses, giving him an unlimited choice of cabinets and amps, and he can get pretty much anything he points his finger at. The absurd fact is that Flea is in the position of a global superstar, and anything that is offered to him for free or even with an opportunity to earn money (if he associates his name with the brand) he can easily buy without sweating the chip on his credit card.

Wouldn't it make more sense to support young or emerging, talented artists of any age through endorsements? Record labels have a similarly absurd logic. They play it safe and support artists who don't need support anymore. Those who need it the most have to go through a "DIY" purgatory until they eventually become famous artists, overwhelmed with offers for free products and services – i.e. at the point when they can conveniently buy everything on their own. Perpetuum absurdum!

2. Recognition post mortem

The recent tragic death of singer Sinead O'Connor triggered an overwhelming avalanche of sympathetic comments, which included references to the "legend", "truth bearer", "fearless strength" and "courage to be yourself". But British singer Lily Allen had a slightly different take, pointing out the hypocrisy of the suddenly rediscovered love for the often controversial Sinead O'Connor:

"It's hard not to feel incensed when there are so many people posting about Sinead and how fearless she was, people who would never in a million years align themselves with anybody who stood for something or had anything remotely controversial to say. It's so spineless. If you can't stand up for people in life, don't do it in death. It's also troubling that people have seemingly felt so empathetic towards her but didn't feel that they could show it or express it for some reason. Until they died. What does that say about us?"

We should all try to answer her question for ourselves. We know very well that it is easy to jump on the sympathy bandwagon, but it is very difficult to go against the flow. The natural tendency of human nature is to choose the easier path. The phenomenon of the 27 Club (celebrities who tragically died at the age of twenty-seven) might not have even come about if fame didn't require the sacrificial altar of a lone star.

3. The more you want something, the less you get

I can use my own example. The moment I decided to sell my music equipment to pay for my plane tickets to Los Angeles, the drummer of the local band Krucipüsk contacted me saying that they were looking for a bass player. And I stayed... and ended up playing in my dream band. How did that happen? I had to completely let go of the reins of my clumsy efforts to "nail it", "conquer it", "show it" to everyone in the music business as the bassist of a famous band. At that time, I was pretty desperate after eight years of futile efforts to make it on the scene. I was playing in four bands at once, taking all kinds of backup gigs, thinking: "What if something happens?" But I still wasn't where I wanted to be. It wasn't until the moment I let go and decided to fly to L.A. that a miracle happened and my dream literally came true in an instant.

This may sound like a manual from an esoteric mumbo jumbo book, but I suddenly felt a huge release and space inside. Because I genuinely, wholeheartedly owned it and started taking decisive steps on the new path. The absurd thing, though, is that you can't take this as some kind of blueprint, because if you fake it, miracles won't happen. For example, if you were to go into the studio pretending you didn't want to make a hit record, but to "have fun" – yet inside you'd be shaking with the desire for fame and recognition. That doesn't work. Rick Rubin knows this, and so does every musician who has gone through the "process". Wanting repels the very thing you want to achieve. Absurd, isn't it?

4. Global originality

Everyone wants to be original. To come up with a new riff, production, harmonic sequence, catchy melody, deep idea and an irresistible image on top of it. Do you really think there is anything truly original? Something that no one has thought of before? I guess there are a lot of crazy possibilities out there. You can play 50-string guitars, combine a harp with a djembe, or split quarter tones into eighth tones and a twelve-tone series into 48 intervals. But will anyone listen to it?

There are no limits to imagination and creativity, but I have a feeling that the good and especially successful musical paths have been trodden long ago. Catchy harmony, melody and perfectly conceived lyrics with excellent interpretation are the core elements of every famous song. The audience always wants to hear something new, but at the same time, they want the certainty of what they already know. That's hard to achieve, isn't it? But it's what our modern musical history is built on. From Elvis to Ed Sheeran, every role model has their own role model to follow. A path that someone else has trodden before them. There is no revolution anymore, just constant evolution and quotation.

5. Perfect Pretence

No one likes ambitious workaholics who see work and career as the essence of their existence. No one likes egoists with narcissistic tendencies. No one likes opportunists who go over dead bodies. And yet, these three qualities are often the obligatory equipment of the stars of musical Olympus. Becoming a global superstar requires decisions and sacrifices that "normal" mortals are unable or simply unwilling to make. But you don't have to aim that high; tough (and often cruel) decisions await you at many stages of a professional music career.

Are you sacrificing family and friends for a career? No one with common sense is going to say yes publicly, are they? Sure thing, family first. The absurdity of the media's portrayal of the celebrity world is that the public wants to hear their gossip, their screw-ups and see their weak moments, but at the same time, they want the perfection of ancient heroes and fairies. That's why you don't learn the truth about the real reasons for their fantastic looks (expensive procedures, pharmaceutical supplements and an army of assistants taking care of everything essential) or the production of their latest hit, which is backed by dozens of incredibly talented producers and musicians. You move through a world shrouded in clouds of haze, walking through a mirror maze of sensational headlines and fabricated stories.

Everything must seem somewhat spontaneous. You just get out of bed in the morning, with your makeup and hair magically done and a complexion like porcelain, you go to the studio, where on your first (maybe second, haha) attempt you shoot your brilliant part that you have just written in the lift. The tours are sold out, the videos have millions of views and the Spotify streams are flying off the charts just like that. It's because you can compose "songs from the heart" – not because sponsors and labels have pumped millions of dollars into you and you have the highest position in the pyramid structure of streaming services. Shhhh, I'm just like you. The girl or guy next door with a guitar, an honest heart and a love of music. You can do it too! This game never gets old.

Tagy TOP 5 celebrities Taylor Swift Ed Sheeran

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Marek Bero
Bass Gym 101 books, touring & session bass player, football tactics aficionado.