Musicians get this trite question all the time and usually have a lame, pat answer.
Not Steve Miller.
Asked during a recent teleconference what advice he would give to young artists, the man behind "The Joker," "Fly Like An Eagle" and other hits wasn't joking around. He went off on an angry and awesome rant about the current state of the music industry:
"My advice to new artists is to forget about all of this and take acting and dancing lessons and become a video star...
"It’s sort of like the same kind of world for new artists [as it was in my day]. It seems impossible. When I was a kid, I never thought I would ever be able to make records and never really thought seriously about a musical career, because a musical career was being Fabian or Frankie Avalon or something. It didn’t make any sense. There wasn’t any possibility to get into that world.
"It’s kind of like that for kids right now. I just had an 18-year-old kid opening for me in Canada a couple of weeks ago, Matthew Curry, wonderful guitar player, great songwriter in the Stevie Ray Vaughan [vein]. I mean he’s coming into that area of virtuosity and originality. He’s really, really great.
"I’m looking at this kid and he’s driving in a van so he can open for us. I brought him up on the stage to play with us and I’m sitting here trying to figure out how is this kid going to actually make it in this world where it takes $5 million and a corporate sponsorship from Pepsi-Cola to have a hit record nowadays and there are so few, or it takes $30 million to sell 2 million albums. It’s crazy.
"So, I don’t really have any instant advice for these kinds of kids except that be true to yourself, suffer for your art and hang on and maybe something will change where you actually have a chance. Right now, I don’t think they have much of a chance. I think all of this ‘get it on the Internet’ is all BS and nonsense. You have to really connect with people. There aren’t very many clubs. There’s no place for people to develop and play. It’s a bad time right now for young artists.
"It’s not always about huge giant commercial success. It’s about art. It’s about creativity. It’s about virtuosity. I worry about that because it doesn’t look really good. But, when I was a kid, it didn’t look good either. Big-time success then was to be on a bus with seven other bands doing 90 shows in 80 days. I wasn’t kidding when I said take acting lessons and work on your video because without that [there’s no] marketplace."
Miller plays with Journey June 27 at the First Niagara Pavilion. More from the interview on Thursday in Weekend.