Fig A: Coolness over time (musician vs non-musicians)
If you ask the average person on the street, they all know that musicians are broke, dysfunctional, smug, self-centered, arrogant, unhygenic, elisist, socially inept losers with no future. As much as I believe in the wisdom of crowds, I wondered: what does SCIENCE have to say about this topic? Clearly guys in bands are losers, but what can we learn by digging deeper? Exactly what is the sad life-trajectory of the archetypal band loser??
To answer this question, I did some rigorous statistical analysis of two randomly-selected groups of guys: one cohort who devoted their lives to music, the other who were normal, healthy, everyday people whose association with music began and ended with whatever was on the radio. Figure A illustrates the highlights, but after the break are the SHOCKING RESULTS of our study!
Points of interest:
A: “Weird little kid” phase (age 5)
Most people in bands were fucked up little kids who nobody liked — the weird, dirty kid who smelled bad and had to sit by himself on the school bus because everybody called him “Weinerface” and told the other kids that he ate his own boogers. This alienation is the root of the anger and insecurity that causes the sad, desperate hunger for the attention of strangers that is shared by all musicians.
B: High school talent show (age 16)
This is the first moment in which the coolness of a band guy exceeds that of the regular guy — the band guy plays a poorly-done cover of a popular song at his high school’s talent show and realizes that holding a guitar or microphone is all it takes to get the attention of females with daddy issues and low self-esteem. Normal guy scratches his head, because he remembers when band guy was the dirty weird kid who ate his own boogers, and doesn’t understand why girls are suddenly paying attention to him. Although he doesn’t get it, he just shrugs it off and goes back to studying for the AP Chemistry exam.
C: First big tour (age 23)
At no point is the contrast between band guys and regular guys more apparent than this moment. The regular guy is some poor schmuck working his first job out of college, earning peanuts and living an entirely embarrassing life. Meanwhile, the band guy is on top of the world on his first headlining tour, partying hard, banging groupies, and generally having the time of his life. Females are definitely checking for the band guy, because he is “doing something amazing with his life,” whereas normal guy is just another jerk with a moderately-crappy desk job who just wants to go home, have a Bud Light, and beat off/play some Xbox before he falls asleep in front of the TV.
D: Peers begin coupling (age 26)
Just a few short years later, the tables begin to turn: band guy is still slogging it out on the road, only the novelty is quickly wearing off. At 23 he was just happy to be playing in front of a decent crowd, and if he only made $50 a show after expenses, so be it — he was “in it for the music.” Normal guy, on the other hand, has been at his job for a couple years, has gotten a couple promotions, and is starting to have a pretty decent life. He’s feeling pretty financially comfortable, and decides that it’s time to get married. Band guy thinks “marriage is cheesy” and “a meaningless social construct,” but secretly feels like he might be falling behind the curve. He finds it hard to attract women his age, because they are looking for a stable guy who wants to have a family, not a mental midget that still thinks it’s cool to live like a college student and play music for socially-awkward teenagers.
E: Nesting phase (age 32)
By this point, the game is essentially over. Band guy is still doing the musician thing, only he’s getting older and the crowds aren’t. He’s literally twice as old as the people who listen to his music, he’ll go to prison if he touches any of their groupies, and his non-musician friends stopped going to his shows because they’d feel guilty leaving their kids home alone on a weeknight. They all think he’s a good guy, but when his name comes up they just shake their heads in sympathy and wonder when he’s growing to grow up. Band guy’s coolness has completely evaporated, and at this point he is pretty much on par with all the other broke, dirty guys who beg college students for their spare change. His normal friends are too bummed out to laugh at him; he’s more of an object of pity than ridicule.
F: “That guy who’s still in a band” (age 40)
By now I am sure you can see where this tragic tale is headed. Normal guy’s kids are in junior high school, he’s a senior manager at his job, and life is pretty cool — nothing too exciting, but he’s fine with that. Band guy, meanwhile, works a couple odd jobs (bartender/booking agent at the local C-level venue), and mostly hangs out with people who are 10-20 years younger than he is because nobody his age has any desire to set foot in the shitholes that he works/hangs out at.
G: Sad old alcoholic/my parents (age 50)
I probably don’t even need to continue, because at this point the path is pretty much crystal clear. Unless they wise up and bail on the whole music thing, band guys are doomed to be the “local character” who’s always at the bar, saying dumb shit about the good old days to anybody unfortunate enough to come within shouting distance of him. If that sounds good to you, then keep playing in your little band, I am sure you are going to make it big any day now. But remember: the choice is yours! It’s never too late to become normal guy.
Sergeant D. “Why do girls eff dudes in bands?“. Metal Sucks, 2010. New York.
Sergeant D. “Can u be an alpha male if u listen to metal??“. Metal Sucks, 2011. New York.
Sergeant D.’s Stuff You Will Hate is for WINNERS!