The Life of A Musician In 2018:
Where Does The Money Really Lie?

When it comes to rock n' roll stars, and indeed the wider world of musicians as a whole, it seems like we now live in a world where brand image and financial concerns rule, with record labels now more determined than ever before to ensure that their stars can generate more and more money for them — and for themselves. This is especially true in an age when simply understanding how to make social media work effectively can earn stars a fortune, as shown by research published on Forbes, with figures of $300,000 per post not unheard of.

Clearly, in 2018 — while staying true to your roots is still vital for a musician or a band — brand collaboration with other brands is starting to become more and more socially acceptable, depending upon the type of company selected for that collaboration. Just take Green Day as an example. Their historically punk outlook didn’t stop them from working with Pepsi and Apple (specifically iTunes) with their cover of the classic "I Fought The Law," which brought the song firmly into the 21st century.

In fact, one of the most interesting takes on rock stars earning the big bucks while remaining true to their ideology comes from a very non-rock and roll publication, the Financial Times, which argues that the essence of becoming a rock star (rather than simply being a rocker) is all about finding mainstream success, by dominating arena tours and licensing music to be used for diverse purposes. Until this has been achieved, you won’t actually count as a rock star in the first place!

Gambling on Enhancing Your Image

While he certainly isn't representative of vintage rock, Ed Sheeran has provided a classic example of how not to collaborate, after he managed to turn his appearance on Game of Thrones into something approaching a joke, according to Marie Claire. This shows that even if a company or a brand is shown to be trendy, it counts for little if the collaboration is cringe-worthy, insensitively executed, or, as some have said with the case of Ed Sheeran and GoT, pointless.

Having a purpose for the collaboration is clearly all important. Take Guns N’ Roses as an example. They have entered the world of gambling by choosing to license their music for slot games; they have sold their music to companies such as Activision for Guitar Hero; and they have made sure they’re earning every buck they can by charging an average of $130 per ticket on their reunion tour to their die-hard fans. They are by no means alone — the gambling landscape brands like Betway Casino also includes slots with Phantom of the Opera themes and Jimi Hendrix and KISS titles. It’s worth noting that Game of Thrones also makes an appearance in this world, so clearly they are getting some collaborations spot onat HBO, whilst Guitar Hero also worked with the likes of Muse to create some of their widely loved games.

Even Ozzy Osbourne has managed to do things the right way, making himself a huge household name to a new audience when he teamed up with MTV to drive around on a quad bike and show off his plush home in the US, bringing in a regular viewing audience of over 500,000 viewers in the UK alone back in the early 2000s. In more recent times, Black Sabbath have continued along the same vein by truly trying to capitalize on their final ever gig, with DVDs, CDs, and of course all the usual merch you’d expect put on sale just to celebrate the last gig from a rock band that started off being so far away from the mainstream.

The Eddie Vedder Approach?

Sometimes, it is not just about the brand you team up with, but who you are in the first place and what you represent that dictates how commercial you choose to be. For some, even the coolest brands like Budweiser, TMZ, and even Virgin America aren’t enough of a draw. Take Eddie Vedder as one example of this. Vedder seems to have remained true to the original grunge attitude Pearl Jam boasted. In fact, the band have gone on to produce 10 studio albums despite the fact that they were seen originally as only being in the rock game for the money. This view was made clear in a Nancy Wilson interview, where Vedder and Pearl Jam were praised for being good distributors of cash and creativity and can also be seen in the fact that Vedder himself received praise for his role in the music of the film Into The Wild, which was very much part of mainstream culture.

In the end, the vast majority of rock stars, including Elvis and his famous link to Cadillac, or Ozzy Osbourne and MTV, eventually seem to find the winning formula when it comes to getting their much-loved music out there to the masses. The true essence of being a great rock star seems to be all about getting your name out there, being as outrageous as you see fit, before seeking more diverse commercial ventures, doing huge farewell tours with some classic concerts, or picking a brand association, all in order to ensure they can leave the rock scene having made a serious mark. You can’t really say fairer than that, can you?

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