Things You Didn't Know About Being a Rock Star

We're willing to bet that these are things you didn't know about being a rock star - and that you wouldn't believe them, either.

If you listen to any major interview with a band, they'll be very upfront to say that there are things you didn't know about being a rock star. They may allude to groupies, or to the fact that there's a lot of stress in the job - and yes, those are things most people are aware of when they think about the lifestyle that comes with being a band member.

But, there's even more things you didn't know about being a rock star that might surprise you. In fact, they may even be hard to believe after you've heard all the legends about rockers who have partied hard, drank heavily, and just dealt with all sorts of things in the rock and roll lifestyle. 

Here are some of the more shocking revelations that I've personally heard from my friends in bands. 

Many rock stars, even those on major tours, still have part-time jobs doing other things.

You know how your parents badgered you to go into college because being a rock star won't likely pay? They may have been onto something, kids. One of the most disappointing things they don't tell you about being a rock star is how little money you will make unless you are a headliner artist. 

I personally know people who have record deals with world famous record labels, who have been second in lineups with bands like Rise Against. Guess what - they still have part-time jobs elsewhere because rocking out doesn't usually pay all their bills. 

This is doubly true in areas with astronomical rent costs like New York or San Francisco. Hey, you gotta eat somehow, and a $25K advance can only get you so much food. 

Speaking of which, many record deals are way more bare-bones than you'd think.

When you think of standard record label deals, you probably think of guys in cheesy suits wearing sunglasses waving a contract that says you'll get thousands of dollars, health insurance, and your own tour bus. 

One thing they don't tell you about being a rock star is that these kinds of things really only happen with major recording artists, and people who are in SAG-AFTRA. If you are a brand new artist, they may not even give you an advance. Healthcare, if you aren't in a guild, is also pretty hard to get. 

Oh, and you may also still have to help pay for your own band merch. That's how threadbare some contracts are. But, at the very least, you do get slightly more advertising, better turnout, and better promotions. Is it worth it? Hard to tell at time, but it often is the best decision. 

All those stories about bands trashing the green room, hotel rooms, and backstage are often total bunk.

If you've ever dealt with bands who were on tour, then you probably noticed that most of them are very mellow. That mellowness isn't really an act. Rather, it's a sign that they're exhausted from working times that would be considered borderline insane in most other industries. 

Touring isn't easy, and it involves both days and nights of work and travel. They're overworked, are probably sick of traveling for hours on end, and just want to take a nap. 

Though it's glamorous, one of the things they don't tell you about being a rock star is that it literally involves insane levels of work - and that, in the higher ranks of things, it's very isolating. You might not see your family or your own kids for months. Unless your girlfriend is in the industry or is willing to travel with you, you won't see her, either. It's lonely. 

Additionally, being on stage means you give up all your extra energy in your performance. It's for the fans, and you need to keep up the rep of being a great act. 

In a word, most rock stars are totally drained after a performance. So, the last thing they want to do is trash a hotel room. Besides, it'll come out of their paycheck if they do. 

The most partying you'll see is drugs and groupies - both of which tend to help rockers feel a little bit better about life on the road. Is it healthy? No, but it's a band-aid many rely on. 

Oh, and record labels might force you to change your image to suit their needs.

Record labels have become mavericks at being able to market rockers to screaming fans. What they're looking for are rock bands that they can mold into a certain image - an image they feel is marketable. Contractually, it's not unheard of for rock bands to be told to change their look, drop certain songs, or avoid saying certain things. 

To those who aren't in the industry, the quickest reaction would probably be to call those artists ingenuine and sell-outs. 

Does this mean that the artists who do this are sell-outs? To a point, yes, but to another point, no. They are still them at the core. They have a certain style that is uniquely them, and you can't really fake that completely. Don't believe it? Take a look at Michael Jackson, and get back to me. 

Music is still a business, though, and they have to make money somehow. If you were able to triple the number of people who listened to you by making a small tweak, wouldn't you? Of course you would. So, that's exactly what happens with many of them. 

Another one of those things they don't tell you about being a rock star is how much of your career will be promo.

Much like with DJs, rock stars are basically forced to promote themselves whether they want to or not. If no one comes to their shows, no one will book them - ever. Similarly, if no one is hitting their SoundCloud or YouTube, no record label will ever sign them. 

You will be working a full social media campaign in many occasions. If you want to get loyal fans, you better hang out with them and thank them for supporting you, too. 

Most of the time, this will involve networking, too. So, you will need things like business cards and headshots just to get ahead. After all, there are no "WANTED" ads for rock bands on Craigslist. 

This will actually take more time from you than touring will. 

One of the worst things they don't tell you about being a rock star is how often people will try to use you, play you for a fool, and hurt you.

I've seen this with just about every single music artist that I've ever met - be it a rapper, a DJ, or a rock star. They are a suspicious lot, primarily because they legitimately should be. 

Once people hear you're starring in a show, everyone wants a piece of you. People who never held an interest in you when you weren't big all of a sudden want to be your best friend. People who want to be in a band will try to wedge themselves around you. Other bands may try to use you to get better record labels looking at them. 

On a personal level, perhaps the absolute worst aspect of the things they don't tell you about being a rock star is that most people will only see that. You aren't human to them anymore; you're this person who is larger than life, or this person who is just nothing more than their record deal. 

As a result of all the fakeness they deal with on a personal level, they learn to either get snooty, get mean, or get fake. Most of the people at the top are a mix of categories two and three, simply because they are unable to see who would still be there if they were no one again.

Financially, one of the things they don't tell you about being a rock star is how many people will try to fleece you. 

Some may try to charge you "marketing" services that literally involve them making a $5 logo for $50. Others want to sell you their "managerial service," which is basically them doing nothing for a cut of the money - and will try to push you to it even if they have no other clients or work history in the field. Even more will try to work "security" for you just to get paid to be in your entourage.

Everywhere you look, there's someone who is an "expert" in the music industry or who wants to find an "in" with you. It's exhausting - and it makes most rock stars act out from time to time. 

Skunk Uzeki
Skunk Uzeki

Skunk Uzeki is an androgynous pothead and a hard partier.  When they aren't drinking and causing trouble, they're writing articles about the fun times they have. 

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Things You Didn't Know About Being a Rock Star