Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” has a beautiful lyric: “Did you exchange a walk on part in the war, for a lead role in a cage?” There’s powerful lesson in these poetic words. How often do we strive for the spotlight, whilst failing to look at the conditions surrounding such success?
Consider what it means to be a “Rock Star.” Perhaps what I’m about to say may seem like a dated notion compared to the current music trends embedded in pop culture, and I accept that criticism. And to qualify what I mean by “Rock Star,” I mean our stereotypical perception of being famous. For those of us that attend concerts, we see glamour of an adoring crowd and see the glory of the limelight through the eyes of a spectator. From a distance, it seems like the greatest job in the world. Who doesn’t want a job where they get to do what they love, be idolized for it, get catered to everywhere you go, and get paid millions of dollars? Well, if that is one’s perception of what it means to be in a touring professional band, the perception may be skewed. There will always be exceptions to every rule, but here’s the reality for the majority (and I admittedly am overlooking a great deal more and I apologize in advance).
A band works tirelessly writing songs together • then they enter the studio to record their vision • then they rehearse tirelessly to put together a great performance that will hopefully please old fans and new fans alike • then they go on a press tour to promote the record • then they go on tour and are on buses (tour bus bunks on even the swankiest of tour buses are glorified coffins and the reality for most bands today is still a van with a trailer) and planes (typically flying coach and not on private jets or even in first class) for months on end • living out of hotel rooms (budget hotels mostly) • travelling the world, but rarely having the time to take in the sights • doing press junkets in each city answering the same questions over and over being professionally-minded enough to act as though they’ve never heard those questions before • being away from friends and family • eating a large majority of “meals” at truck stops • not sleeping well • getting sick often • wearing the same clothes often. All of this for the love of being on stage and performing for 45-minutes to an 1.5 hours a night, a few months out of every other year or so.
It’s suddenly not so glamorous, and for these musicians, it is the best job in the world. They will gladly exchange all the mundane and uncomfortable aspects of this nomadic lifestyle for their love of performing their music with no guarantee of being loved in return. It’s not all sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. It’s work! And if on the surface a band seems to be living the dream in luxury, the record labels are billing them for all of it. They are typically neither gifts nor acts of generosity and appreciation.
Long-winded perhaps, but the point is that perception affords the luxury of imagination. Reality lacks imagination! It’s an austere slap in the face. When we consider our daily lives, of course embellishments of our own realities or perceptions of the realities we wish for miss the mark. It’s better to choose to be a star in whatever life you have than wish upon any star. For when we wish, we only wish for the time on stage; we don’t wish for all the work that comes with getting us there.