The Definition of “Making It”
BY JOHNETTE FIGUEROA
Sold out arenas, fans that know every word to your songs and hearing your newest single on the radio–these are a few signs that you’ve “made it.” While fame, fortune and fans are the three “big F’s” for large scale bands such as Bon Jovi, independent bands are looking for something different.
There isn’t an exact science as to how a band can “make it big.” Many independent bands have drinks named after them, which can be found on sites such as Drinkify.com. But what about the artists that want a more straight-edge route?
“(You’ve made it) if someone recognizes you at ShopRite,” said Daniel Monda, a drummer from Rochelle Park, NJ. “That happened to me. I was on top of the world.”
No two bands are alike. From humble beginnings, to the expectations set by each individual member, it is almost impossible to guess what each band wants to accomplish for themselves before they feel as though they’ve “made it.”
Indie band "Ben Franklin" performing
“For some people, just making a record is it. For others it’s getting signed to a big label and selling out 200 shows a year,” said Michael Venutolo-Mantovani, frontman for the New Jersey indie band, The Everymen. “For me, “making it” is like a ladder– meaning that it’ll never be one giant turnaround. Like one day I’m a nobody and tomorrow I’ve “made it.” Each rung on the ladder is a little step toward “making it,” whatever that may be. Thus I have many goals, both great and small, all of which I consider rungs on the ladder. ”
Passion is arguably the biggest factor in creating music and is what keeps small town bands fighting to make it to the big stages.
“The urge felt to create, play, and spread music is too great to ignore,” said Darryl Norrell, singer and lead guitarist for the indie-rock band, Morning… “If those three things are happening, it sounds perfect to me.”
For most independent artists, though, “making it” comes down to one surprisingly simple factor.
“I guess I’d suggest that to “make it” means simply to have built a self-sustaining business. I associate any efforts to increase the scale of your business with a give-and-take dance that may cost lots of freedom,” said Norrell. “Perhaps that’s a bad assumption, and I’d love to be wrong. But if it’s true, you can still strike a happy balance and never bite off more than you can chew. If it takes signing with the ‘big indie’ for the real work to start, then all I ask is that the work be honest.”
Indie bands are encouraged not to give up if they hit a slump. Fellow indie-rockers, The Front Bottoms have seemingly skyrocketed to fame after being signed to Bar None Records, based in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Crowd at a recent Hoboken music festival
“The Front Bottoms are the perfect example of what it means to make it as an indie band,” said Keith Hardy, a 22-year-old indie-rock fan. “They started off as just two guys making music and then went on tour with Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional and Kevin Devine. Even though they’re still indie, they’re doing big, amazing things yet they never forget where they came from. It doesn’t matter if their first music video was someone’s class project or if they sleep in a van—their music means as much to them as it does to their fans, and in turn their fans appreciate them for it. Fans can make or break a band and if fans can smell your passion, you better believe they’ll stick by you from your earliest basement shows to Madison Square Garden.”