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September 12, 2010

The boys are back in town

The esteem of peers has always been highly prized by musicians. Musicians will often support each other in ways that may not directly produce income but which provide access to a broader fanbase and influential industry colleagues (see next page).

When musicians are starting out, other musicians will usually be their major source of support. This is important but must not be mistaken for a fan relationship. Other musicians may attend concerts for a number of reasons that do nothing to improve the bottom line. They might be at the show scouting for their own venue, recruiting band members, or learning how to improve their own performances.

However, a genuine working relationship between musicians can lead to income from gig swaps, labour from cross-promotion, materials from collaboration, or power from access to decision-makers. The strongest of these relationships will, of course, be based on multiple factors.

Peers' esteem may not even be based on a liking for each others' music but on respect for the fact that large numbers of fans like their music. In this way, peer esteem attaches to a musician's professionalism, dedication, or resources. U2's bass player, Adam Clayton, was very famously chosen from auditions because he owned a PA system ...

Peer relationships tend to begin backstage but must be built and maintained away from the stage: in meetings or on the road. Like fan relationships, they require constant, though less intense, maintenance.

They will also change as a career ebbs and flows. An act that was a suitable touring partner one year may have been outgrown the following year. The musician who introduced a helpful venue manager at the start of the year may not know the agent needed to book next summer's tour.

Great care must be taken not to convert too much of this esteem into power, labour or materials, or musicians may be branded as exploitative and/or untrustworthy. As Ozzy Osbourne advised: "be nice to everyone you meet on your way to the top because you're going to meet them all on your way back down again."


The esteem of peers is vital to a musician's career. Peer esteem can be converted into income, influence, or materials but must be protected against a reputation for ruthlessness.

This post is the summary of Part 2 of Dr Huge's "How the record industry got it so wrong". The latest version of the complete ebook can be downloaded here and a hard copy can be ordered here.
Posted by DrHuge at September 12, 2010 4:57 PM

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