5 Annoying Conversations Non-musicians Will Have With You

FFellow musicians, I write this with you in mind; I sympathise, relate and seethe with you – for the following list, is our common-ground.

Anybody who is more than a hobbyist in music, will know that it is constant. It isn’t something you do on a whim, nor is it something with guarantees. In fact, even people that don’t make music know that much.

Besides, it’s pretty easy to tell someone that wants to make a sturdy career of their craft, apart from someone only toying with the idea, because any artist worth their art, will have made that quite darned obvious to the people around them – passion is hard to hide.

Despite all of this, if that massive cliché of getting a penny for every time a certain thing happened, applied to the number of times I’ve heard the following conversation starters – well, I’d have enough to buy quite a few cups of tea indeed…

So, are you signed yet?

What it sounds like they mean:

You’ve been on about your music for a while now, but if you’re not signed, well then what’s the point of it all? You have to be signed like the big-names to be a somebody in music, right?

What you want to say:

NO. Surely If I were “signed”, you’d know. Plus, you’re in the dark if you think being signed is the be-all & end all of music! Where have you been the past few years? Have you NOT seen the independent movement of successful artists doing it their way and doing it big? Gosh!

What you actually say:

Signed? No. But I’m not trying to be – I mean, I’d love for things to take off but I know that in music, it takes time, plus I’m not chasing the mainstream – I’m in it for the art.

When’s your album out then?

What it sounds like they mean:

You don’t have an album? All the big names, the ones I used to buy before I started downloading music, have albums. I mean – no I don’t bother with albums now – I mostly just listen to my favourite singles in a playlist on repeat. But you DON’T have an album? Pshht!

What you want to say:

LOL – an album? Do you even buy music anymore? What’s the last album you purchased? Not to mention, music stores are forever minimizing in-store space, because people are less inclined to buy them. Plus, albums are really expensive to make, record, mix, master and design – no, I don’t have an album out at the moment.

What you actually say:

I don’t have an album in the works just yet, I do have a few songs out at the moment though – I can send them to you if you’d like?

So, I’ll be hearing you on the radio will I?

What it sounds like they mean:

I ONLY listen to the radio, it’s my main music source – so if it aint in the top ten, I aint listening. You’re not in there, so you’re stuff can’t be as “good” as what is. Or maybe you’re just not doing something right.

What you want to say:

Well, radio is pretty much controlled by, or has elements of a Payola type system. That makes traditional radio an almost impossible place for new, unsigned and underground music to be play-listed – because the mainstream has a firm hold over what is played.

There are slots outside of that where new music is often played, but obviously your busy life means you have no time for shows during those often late nights or very early mornings – so in a nutshell, probably not – as I’m unsigned.

What you actually say:

The radio is only one of many places new music like mine is played, sure I’ve had some attention there, but really I’m focusing on quality stuff for potential new fans.

Long time no see, are you famous yet?

What it sounds like they mean:

You say you’re a musician but you’re not on TV. Musician’s are everywhere, billboards TV, radio – does anybody apart from me, know that you make music?

What you want to say:

Oh c’mon – surely if I were famous you would know! Yes, I make music, but I’m not on TV – or famous, so I guess I’m not successful? – Well, I’m not fame-hungry or anything, I make music because I really love music, and people enjoy mine.

What you actually say:

Ha! I guess not…

Still doing the whole music thing then?

What it sounds like they mean:

Still pushing on with that are you? You must be serious about it then, not that I’ve noticed, mind…

What you want to say:

“Thing”? – Music is my art, my passion – of course I’m still making it!

You asking means you haven’t been following my updates, or coming to shows, or even checking out the new music I’ve been releasing – that’s a shame, I think you might like it.

What you actually say:

Yeah of course! I’ve actually just released a new track – I’ll send you the link to it if you’d like?

So there you have it. 5 conversations about music you might have had. But you don’t mind, because when it comes to your music you’re not racing, you’re marathoning…

This guest post was written by musician Dreama, who describes herself as ‘a girl-emcee sat somewhere sippin’ tea’. You can read more of her musings or check out her music on her website: dreamasreality.com


  • Now I know how to re-phrase some answers to sometimes insulting questions. Why do some people tell me how great a guitar player their friend is? It comes off as a put down. I don’t know if they always realize what they’re saying, but most do.I guess i”ll have to feign interest and ask if I can see or meet them…

  • Dreama

    Hey Brett, thanks for the comment – glad you can relate (although I guess these conversations aren’t the most triumphant thing) – as long as you love your craft – that’s enough! – Keep on riffing! ;)

  • sawbuck

    i went to get a paper notarized last week. the notary said, “oh, so you’re a guitar player? do you think you’ll ever be as good as eric clapton?”

    what i wanted to say;

    “dude, i’ve been playing guitar for 45 years, play jazz, rock, blues, classical and country. i was a staff guitarist for atlantic records, have played theater shows, weddings, bar gigs, and toured with a gold record winning 50s band when i was 16. i have five instrumental guitar cds available, and have written three guitar books for advanced players. i teach seven days a week, and many local professionals come to me for lessons. i have studied with some of the best teachers on the planet, have a b.a. in music, can read paint splashed on a piece of paper, and could play any clapton solo by the time i was 15. i have studied players like lenny breu, howard roberts, joe pass, joe diorio and george benson since i’m 13, none of whom you’ve probably ever heard of”.

    what i said;

    “clapton’s a great player. i wouldn’t mind having had his success”.

    what i tell my students;
    “the better you get, the smaller your audience gets, until eventually you get so good, you can’t get a gig”.
    “you wanna make money, stick to power chords”.

  • Jason

    Great article! this is definitely the story of my life lol.

  • Noah Peterson

    What a horrible article and perspective. If someone is talking to you after a gig, it’s because they LIKED you. If they say something “stupid” it’s because they are trying to relate to you and don’t know anything about what it is you really do. You could always choose to not be a dick and have fun with the conversation instead of getting your precious feelings hurt.

  • Tommy

    Every time I play a cocktail-party gig, I always, always get the, “my dad/brother/grandmother/etc. can play anything by ear. I mean, he just hears a song once and can play it perfectly…”, blah, blah… That always makes me feel so special!

  • Fantastic addition to the article :)

  • Thanks for the comment Jason.

  • Dreama

    Hey Noah,

    I guess it’s all about the approach. I’m certainly not calling anyone “stupid” – but if assumption about a persons intentions or position in music is involved in the question being asked, it’s pretty easy to feel devalued…

    I agree about having fun with the conversation, which (hopefully) explains the two opposing ways of approaching the answer…

  • hapacami

    people just think I am dumb for my genres of EBM , dark wave, trance, industrial… soundcloud.com/hapacami

  • Steve

    Agreed. They are just trying to relate.

  • KOB

    The only person who can make you feel devalued is you.

  • Doctor Satan

    You skipped the classic: “Only fools pay for music.”

  • Billy Goobis the Magicisn

    “Plus, albums are really expensive to make, record, mix, master and design”

    Hell to the no. lol At least not as expensive as Lars Ulrich is trying to tell you. It’s really depending on your style. Of course mainstream pop is supercheap, they just buy a lot of useless crap and overpay the engineers to make Brittany actually sound like a singer. In reality you can make most modern mainstream albums for maybe $800. For an actual band that has talent and knowhow? Substantially more, but nothing you couldn’t make back in a short period of time. The main thing is to not be an idiot or a tool and DIY on a budget. And now the annoying conversations non-ae’s will have with me.

  • Bill Day

    Billy Goobis yeah albums don’t have to be expensive to make but at the same time $800 isn’t exactly chump change that everyone always has just lying around.