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What’s Your Forward Slash?

What’s Your Forward Slash?

We featured this article in issue 1 of music careers magazine, ALT-MU. The concept of the magazine is all about the ‘forward slash’. Have a read and ask yourself, what’s your forward slash?

Never mind everyone supposedly having a novel in them We all now believe we have a little stardust in us…

There was a time, an ancient time, when all anyone ever wanted to be was a steam engine driver. Steam engines were every young boy’s wet dream sixty or so years ago. Thunderous, clanking, vibrating behemoths, slick with oil, clad of steel and dark with mystery. You could at least partially apply that description to Lady Gaga now but then? They’d have pushed her aside, meaty coat and all, just to get a glimpse of the Mallard steaming through Grantham.

The point of this tale is to emphasise that once, it really was possible to achieve your dream in life. If you wanted to be an engine driver, even if you thought it might be a nice career to perhaps take up, ‘give it a go’ sort of thing – then there’s every chance that someone would have taken you up on it and, within a year or so, you’d be stood upon a fi ery footplate somewhere, life’s ambition achieved. Of course, as we lurch ever more deeply into the twenty-first century, no-one wants to be an engine driver anymore.

We all now dream of a life in the arts, the public eye, the stage and the catwalk, our names on books, music albums, in lights somewhere. Never mind everyone supposedly having a novel in them. We all now believe we have a little stardust in us…


As far as a career in Music is concerned, well…we can all pretend. Who hasn’t spent the latter part of their teenage years
being in a band. Lofty ideals, low slung monochrome Fenders slung around the necks of angst-ridden young boys in baggy
black sweaters and spray-on Wranglers. Come on, we’ve all been there. “I’m in a band” sounds good. It’s a pick-up line, a badge of honour. You’re a rebel, an art form, you’re angry. But, above all that, you’re a Musician.

All the greats have one:
Jack White – Upholsterer / Musician.
Kurt Cobain – Caretaker / Musician.
Ozzy Osborne – Trainee Plumber / Musician.
Mick Jagger – Hospital Porter / Musician.

Which is bloody cool. Or at least it would be if your efforts weren’t restricted to cacophonously bashing out Radiohead covers in your mate’s Dad’s garage, hoping upon hope that one day, the girl you fancy from the road just off the traffic lights might come along and have a listen, and might even bring her best mate along. Because that’d be a gig!

The comedian Paul Whitehouse has a character who constantly interrupts whatever someone might happen to be doing by
commenting that is the

“…hardest game in the world. Done it myself, you see…”

ALTMU - Issue 1 CoverAs far as spending your working life playing or writing music is concerned, his character is right. It is! The fact that we’ve all done it but so very few of us ever end up doing it, REALLY doing it, is the proof in the old pudding. It doesn’t help, of course, that most of the pap we see and hear today doesn’t have anything to do with music anyway – that just makes it a lot harder for everyone. But don’t give up on the dream. Seriously. If you have music in your head and you want it to be your life,
get out there and do it. Don’t be put off. Play and practice until your fingers bleed and you lose your voice.

Play play play pay play! But fi nd yourself a forward slash in the process. All the greats have one. (see grey box above)
It’s extremely doubtful that any of the above names will need to go back to their original trades. The mortgage has been paid off and the kids have gone through school. It’s likely they can probably mess around with the band for a few years yet. But they had that forward slash. That ‘/’ which should be a badge of honour for any musician, or indeed, anyone who wants to make a living in the arts. Because it says this is what I do whilst I work at doing what I really want to do. It means you have the time and, essentially, the resources to carry on doing it.

To keep practicing, keep making the calls, keep learning – and oh yes, keep practicing.

It also means you’ll pay the bills. There are plenty of would-be musicians sleeping rough tonight because they couldn’t pay
the bills. I know, I know. You don’t want to conform (man), you just want to play. Frost sharpened hair and sharing your doss
with rats piss doesn’t care about that. So do yourself and the music loving public of tomorrow a favour.

Keep doing what you are doing, keep that dream alive. But make sure you always have that forward slash.

Feature by Edward Couzens-Lake


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A digital music magazine for musicians and music lovers with alternative ideas and careers.

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