21 Things Movies Don't Tell You About Being A Musician
Whether you're in a big band, an indie band, or an imaginary never-playing-a-gig-band, one thing's for certain: TV shows and movies have portrayed being in a band as way more glamorous than it actually is. Josie And The Pussycats made it look full of glitter, cute music videos, and BFFS, The Runaways made it seem badass, super cool, and sexy while Jem And The Holograms made it kind of seem like being a musician was one step away from being a pastel-goddess superhero of sorts (sign me up!). The truth is, though, that there are a bunch of harsh realities that movies don't tell you about being a musician, and some of those truths are definitely as far away from glamorous as they could be.
As someone who plays bass and screeches (horribly) in a band, I regularly find myself out on the road, creating origami shapes out of my limbs in order to fit inside our tour vehicle and wondering "What the hell is that smell? Is that me?" And don't get me wrong. There are a lot of things that I love about being making music and playing gigs, but so much of it is definitely not what popular culture promised me throughout my life. I expected hotel rooms to trash, endless parties with no hangovers to follow, decadent stage costumes, and gourmet banquets on a daily basis. Dammit Hollywood! None of it true. At least, not for me.
Here are 21 things that movies failed to tell me about what being in a band is really like:
1. Your Band Will Probably Not Have A Tour Bus (At First)
While we all fantasize about being carted about on a tour bus with on board toilet facilities, TV sets, and even a games console (I've witnessed these mystical vehicles and they definitely exist), the reality is far from the dream. The truth is that you're probably going to have to endure long, sweaty journeys in a small car, squished up between your band mates, arguing about the radio and worrying that the trunk is about to explode and scatter your equipment all over the road.
2. You Might Spend A Lot Of Money
There are bands who successfully make money from their music, there are others who break even, and then there are sad little bands like mine who somehow end up paying out more money than they get back. All those travel costs, takeout food, drinks, and irresistible splurges at the merchandise stands of other bands all add up.
3. There Are Few Things As Terrifying As Playing Live With A Hangover
You had a great time pretending that you were some kind of rock star till 6 a.m. Except it's now 8 p.m, you've barely slept, you're on stage, and an entire audience is watching you sweat, shake, and try not to be sick whenever you open your mouth to sing. Drink responsibly, ladies.
4. Women Will Support You
Something positive: The sisterhood is real. Whatever you need, whenever you need it, there will be a woman at the gig somewhere who will help you out with it. Be it a drink, a snack, a hug, a high five, a rant in the bathroom, or an emergency set of tampons, women are awesome at being there for each other.
5. You Will Inevitably End Up Losing Stuff On The Road
Including, but not limited to, band equipment, underwear, t-shirts, make-up, medicine, jewelry, books, phones, dignity, and, eventually, your mind.
6. Couch Surfing Will Feel Luxurious
You may never know how truly lavish it feels to share a couch with two other people when the previous sleeping options have been "floor of an apartment you're squatting in" or "bench in train station."
7. Your Band Mates Will Become Like Family (On A Road Trip From Hell)
It really doesn't matter how much you love your band mates, or how long you've been friends, because once you're on day four of being cramped up in a car together, sharing floor space to sleep on and fighting over who ate the last bag of Kettle Chips, you will very quickly become the musical equivalent of The Griswolds.
8. A Lack Of Leg Room Becomes A Massive Issue
Even when you have small legs like mine, you will still be blamed for the fact that people with longer legs are limping out of the car because of their inability to "stretch out." Meanwhile, you haven't had any feeling below your knees for three hours.
9. Carrying Your Own Equipment Is A Killer
Not everyone is as weak and pathetic as I am (seriously, upper body strength is a mythical beast that my muscles know nothing of), but lugging your guitars, amps, drum breakables, and whatever else through towns, train stations, and the back breaking ardor of large venues will eventually make every cell of your body whimper in defeat.
10. Inevitably, You'll Have To Pee In Public At Some Point
Nobody wants to admit having to squat on the side of a highway, or even in a dingy back alley, in order to relieve themselves when their bladder gets the best of them, but sometimes that three hour drive gets the best of you, the venue you're playing at isn't open when you arrive, and there are no other viable options.
11. You Will Also Witness Your Band Mates Pee In Public (And Probably Right Beside You)
May you never get stuck sitting between two men in a car who insist on peeing into plastic bottles.
12. Forget About Your Diet
If it isn't convenient, fried, cheap, and greasy, then it's probably far too classy, expensive, or healthy to be found on the road.
13. Your Band Will Start Carrying Its Very Own Smell
It's gross, but eventually your sweat, equipment, lifestyle, and poor dietary choices will start fusing together in a united, unbearable stench.
14. People Are Far More Trustworthy Than You Realise
You will meet a lot of strangers while you play, and the encouraging thing is that a great deal of them will make an effort to really look after you. They'll help to feed you, direct you, kill time with you, give money to you, support, and help home you for the night, too.
15. When You Start Fantasizing About Pajamas And Netflix, It's Time To Chill Out
Seriously, there's no shame in simply wanting to crash out early, throw on your favorite sleep clothes, and catch up on your shows while everyone else parties.
16. There's Also No Shame In Napping At Your Own Gig
Exhausted? Grumpy? Hungover? There's nothing wrong with finding a safe space, dressing room, or quiet bathroom stall (don't judge me...) in which to catch some emergency snooze time.
17. People Will Start To Look Familiar (Even Though They're Not)
Hey, you were at that gig last week, right? Guy in the Sabbath t-shirt with the giant beard? Tony? Brian? Luke? How's your sister? No?!My mistake. We've never actually met.
18. Your Amp Can Double Up As A Convenient, Portable Throne
For all your waiting around needs (of which there will be many), the amp that may have also broken your back in the long term actually delivers a pretty solid portable seating experience in the short term; instant back support, y'all.
19. Your Music Tastes Will Surprise You
If you're playing music of a specific genre, then odds are that you're hearing the same type of music night after night, and, though there's nothing wrong with that, you may well discover that you need any kind of vacation from it as often as possible. As a result, don't be surprised if you end a tour asking yourself, "Am I seriously Taylor Swift's biggest fan ever now?"
20. You Will Make Friends For Life
Those who put up with your stink, your grumpiness, your accommodation needs, and your tipsy existential enquiries about life, love, the universe, and distortion pedals are people who will be there forever.
21. Musicians Are Not Cool
If you ever made the mistake of thinking that musicians are in any way cool, then there's a super simple remedy to overcome that opinion: Become a musician. We're just about as nerdy and uncool as you can get.
Okay, so movies lied about a lot of stuff concerning being in a band, playing gigs and touring, but the reality of it still pretty fun. Even with the whole stinky, napping in bathrooms, bladder emergency issues...
Images: Universal Pictures; Giphy (21)