TWOTONRHINO “four” available at
MikeJay“four”  at
Tour Dates
Articles for the indie community

TWOTONRHINO "four" available at


January 27, 2006
Advice – From One Musician To Another . . .
Do you really want to be a Signed Artist?
Part 1

by Jay Cascio

It’s been a strange ride, and I remember when it all began…

There were three of us: Moe, Alon and myself. We were introduced by a music teacher, Gary, who felt we were a musical match because we shared the same influences. Well, sort of. This was way back in 1994. We were barely out of high school.

Alon and I were big U2 fans. Moe, not so much a fan at all. He was all about Metallica and venting agony through his Les Paul. Alon was a big rock & metal fan himself, which I thought was kinda odd at the time for someone who went nuts over Bono lyrics. But hey, when they introduced me to Alice In Chains, I fell for the sound of 90’s grunge - hook, line and sinker - just like everyone else did.

We met up in my tiny Brooklyn apartment, plugged in the amps, and jammed a little. Throughout the noise of bottom heavy bass and loud distorted guitars (my Old Italian landlord caused hell over the noise) the three of us did a lot of talking and smoked a lot of cigarettes. Two hours into our session, we realized we had a musical connection and asked ourselves the same question anyone who plays in instrument should ponder:

Do we want to be MUSICIANS, or do we want to be ENTERTAINERS?

We wanted to be entertainers. This meant we had to find a drummer, look for studio space, and start writing catchy songs that would fetch us a record deal. Those days were some of the best times of my life. Drummers came and went, but for a few years, it was always the three of us – writing, rehearsing and dreaming. We went nuts trying to come up with a cool name before settling on TWOTONRHINO a year later.

We booked our gigs in local bars (mainly CBGB’s in NYC) and logged more rehearsal time in the studio than any other band we knew. We broke our butt’s in our pursuit of becoming huge “Rock Stars.” We wanted the big brass ring. We wanted to be ‘paid’ entertainers.

Looking back now, I realized we put way too much pressure on ourselves. All of our work was in vain of a dream we’d never achieve. We were completely unorganized and uneducated about the music industry. As time went on, the idea of failing set in and began chipping away at our once solid core. The pressure of trying to satisfy our aspirations ripped us apart and led to a parting of ways (Alon first, then Moe and I a few years later). TWOTONRHINO still exists, and thank God I found Mike Hollis to work with. He helps to keep the band going and is a big reminder of why I got into music in the first place – because I love writing music . . . because I realized I enjoy being a musician. But separating from my fellow founding members was definitely a heartbreak.

So I’ll rephrase my question: Are you sure you want to ‘try’ to become an ENTERTAINER?

It’s a lot of work. You’ll sacrifice a lot of time, and possibly a few friendships and relationships along the way. Once you convince yourself that you can see the big picture – with you in it – the ambition becomes a drug. It happened to me when I wasn’t looking, and it certainly happened to most of the people I knew who had a band and a dream.

Here’s how it goes: Your band is now your obsession, and you pay no attention to the real world and how you’re supposed to fit in years later when ‘the future’ arrives and success in the music industry has eluded you.  Odds are, you’re in your late teens or early twenties, and every dollar you earn goes toward your studio bill or the upcoming costs of recording a demo. It’s all you care about, and in between jamming with the band and a menial day job, you’re either writing lyrics or trying to plan out the song arrangement for your next show.

For most bands (or solo artists), problems arise during the recording of your demo. Who knew that a musician needed so much practice ahead of time to play in the right time signature or sing the vocals in key? It just seemed so easy when you were singing along to your favorite CD during the drive home every night from practice, didn’t it?

There’s no book for this; no manual to tell you how your band will progress as time flies by. Sure, you can find advice anywhere on the Internet, and most of it will preach something along the lines of “your band is a business, treat it that way,” but none of the articles really prepare you for the psychology of all things to come. For example, most bands have disagreements, and in many cases a band member will either quit or get fired because of them. Furthermore, if no one has nominated a bandleader and your group makes decisions collectively, you’re stuck dealing with band politics and trying to create a solution everyone will be happy with. How do you deal with this outside of the studio when you know you’ll do nothing else in your free time but stress over these decisions until a solution arises? Remember, your band is your obsession, so how do you cope when the going gets tough?

The mental part of managing your band is exhausting, and any of you who have been there and done that, or are still currently doing so, know exactly what I’m talking about.

I’m not trying to discourage anyone from chasing a dream that could become a reality for some, but I am trying to make you think long and hard about what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re the one trying to push the band along and make things happen, then odds are you’re wearing many hats in the band, and I bet you’re no stranger to performing the roles of motivator, babysitter, music arranger, band accountant, scheduler and band representative – in addition to your musical responsibilities as a contributing songwriter. You’ve taken on a full-time job (because that’s what bands are), and there are no paid vacations or days off.

All that hard work for something that might not happen. Even better – all that hard work for something you could actually live without. Think about it, you might end up wasting a lot of precious time in your life for an unworthy cause.

Do you really want to waste that kind of time when you could be accomplishing a college degree that is guaranteed to reward you with long lasting dividends?

Here’s the rest of it: When you want to be an entertainer, as a musician, there’s a plethora of things you need to fret over. Every little detail about your music and stage presentation must be rehashed over and over again. And when you’re convinced you’ve come up with the best overall performance concept for your show, think again, because now, you have to think THAT all over AGAIN. Why? Because there’s no room for error on the stage. All mistakes are magnified. Even worse, the audience will heckle you, or they might not make a sound at all . . . and nothing is worse than total silence when you’ve expected applause after playing your heart out.

What, did you think the small crowd in the club paid the cover charge, then overpaid for their drinks, only to watch you and your band put on a bad show? They certainly did not, and their silence will tell you so. Even worse, try imagining that an A&R Rep just happened to be in the audience. Regardless if he could see any kind of talent from your group, he basically used the present audience as a yardstick to measure your musical worth – and you just scored zero points.

You want to be an entertainer. You want to follow in the footsteps of Elvis, Led Zepplin, Radiohead and U2. You and the band got together after practice and talked about how life will be when the big wigs offer your group a contract. The imagery in your heads looks beautiful as you imagine big cars, big houses and bigger loads of cash that punctuate your success. You want, or need, that new Lexus, and you want the world to see you behind the wheel of it. You figure your music will help you attain these desires. You go home after band practice thinking you’re only days away from the big payday.

It’s one helluva feeling, isn’t it? I couldn’t begin to describe the many nights I sat back and enjoyed that kind of high. Invigorating - for both the mind and the spirit.

At this point, let’s pretend you’re lucky enough to sign a contract with a small Indie Label….

Life as an entertainer is rough.  You release an album and embark on a tour that can last anywhere from 3 months to a year and a half.  Maybe you’re the headlining act, maybe you’re not. You might have the luxury of sleeping in a bed at a hotel somewhere every now and again, but you’ll mostly be cramped on a bus with your bandmates and various crewmembers.  Sure, that might sound like a lot of fun – for the first week or two.  But when you stop and think about how much you cherish your own privacy, not to mention that at least one or two of the people on the bus irritate the hell out of you, it’s not really set up to be a picnic. And when you need something as small as a hug from a loved one or family member - some kind of human contact to help get your through the trials and tribulations of life on the road - you realize you’re a million miles away from that one person who could make a big difference in your day.

Is your need to try and become a celebrity in the music industry worth that kind of stress and loneliness?

Do you really want to put yourself in a position of solitude that could possibly lead to alcohol/drug abuse or other self-destructive behavior?

Are you really asking yourself why you want to be a “Rock Star?”

Can you at least imagine a life where your photo isn’t plastered throughout the tabloids and Internet? If you can’t answer that, I’ll answer it for you . . .


Let’s face it, most bands fail in the end. Some last for a few years, very few make it past six months. Truth be told, TTR is the only band from my time that survived – somewhat. I may be working with new bandmates, but the idea and drive for musical evolution has remained the same, with the exception that I no longer predicate our success on a “Rock Star” ideal.

I do miss the beginning. I miss the aspiration, the unity, the friendship and everything that made TWOTONRHINO what it was. I even miss the failures. We were a tight group, and absorbed all the breakdowns together as a unit. We wanted to be entertainers, but we were nowhere ready to constructively map out a path and strictly follow its destination. Somewhere along the line, we forgot about the joys of writing a song we were proud of. We forgot we were musicians because we were too busy worrying about a future life as entertainers, and boy, did we really stress ourselves out over it.

We never planned a strategy. Sure, we made our demos. We also made the fliers for our shows and randomly placed them on windshields or bulletin boards that were surly out of reach of the people who went out to the clubs in search of live music. We never made an attempt to really understand our target market, and we sure as hell paid no attention to a fan list. We just made music, booked a gig, passed the message by word-of-mouth that we were playing that weekend, and prayed that our friends and family would pack the house. The three of us – plus whoever the drummer was for us at the moment – had some great and memorable shows. But mostly, we had a lot of bad shows.

A couple of year ago, I began asking musicians (especially drummers that Mike and I have been working with) if they wanted to be an entertainer or musician (experience had finally taught me how to correctly go about the audition process). Before a musician had a chance to respond, I hit them with the TTR history and let them know that the road to being a successful entertainer is a very steep hill to climb, and there’d be a lot of work involved if they joined the band. Sad to say, with the exception of one drummer, all of these musicians couldn’t hack it. None of them could (or would) dedicate themselves to the band at the level needed. Dreaming about being a “Rock Star” is one thing, putting the actual work in to achieve it is another.

In 2005, I had an epiphany: it had been over ten years since TTR’s inception, and the band still wasn’t where I visualized it would be. There was a moment I wanted to give up, but I quickly realized (probably within 5 minutes) quitting stupid because writing music truly brings me tons of joy. That’s when I asked myself, “do I want to be an entertainer – or a musician?”

And I realized I want to be a musician. In that, I should enjoy everything for what I do as a songwriter and how I do it. I’m an Indie Artist; I’ve done enough thus far to sustain a level of happiness about the small accomplishments TWOTONRHINO has made. These days, I just want to be a musician – and a good one at that. Long gone are the days of aspiring to be the next Bono or Eddie Vedder. Over the course of a decade, I learned a lot. I learned how to write a song and how to sing it in my very own style of vocal. I realized that no matter how much I enjoy writing lyrics, they are useless if they do not have melody. I learned how to play the bass guitar and play it as tightly as possible with the drummer, or the song will lack a solid rhythm, which in turn, will kill the vocal melodies and make for a sloppy piece of work.

Most importantly, I learned to know when it was time to cut my losses and move on. I’ve abandoned the pursuit of “Rock Star” success, and I couldn’t be a happier individual.

Understanding that I just want to be a good musician really opened my eyes. Creating satisfied my goals even further. With the website and a recent CD, I was able to secure my own distribution on the Internet. Ten years ago, this was a far-fetched concept. Today, it’s a reality. Together, Mike and I write our tunes and put them out there for those who enjoy the music we write. If this somehow leads to a greater level of success (a worthy music contract with the big wigs), then that’s great. But I think appreciating the craft of songwriting is a great level of success in its own right, and I’m certainly glad I achieved that. There is no bigger high I get than when Mike and I finally say, “OK, this song is complete, let’s move on to the next one.” I simply love the stuff we come up with.

So many years later, I’ve finally chosen to be a musician without expectation of celebrity grandeur. It took a while to get to this point, but I’m actually at my happiest since the first couple of years when TTR started. In the end, I think this makes me successful. If the time ever comes that Mike and I, as Indie Artists, get our songs played on a major radio station or somehow end up in a video on MTV, well then, that’ll just be icing on the cake.

So the point I’m trying to make here is simple: Ask yourself if you want to be an ENTERTAINER or a MUSICIAN. When you have made your choice, understand the entire scope of your decision and strategize how you plan to go about it. This is my advice to you, the aspiring Rock Star.

If you choose to go the route of the ENTERTAINER, then I wish you all the best of luck and really hope you dive into your craft and treat it like the business that it is, because that’s all it is.

If you choose to be a musician, then I applaud you. Write your music, stream it on the Internet if you prefer to share your songs with the world, and have no expectations. Take all the money you’re saving on rehearsal space and put it toward a college career, because at least you know that a college education is damn near more guaranteed to pay off financial dividends long before a demo ever will.

Maybe you’ll discover that you’re happy just strumming away on an acoustic guitar at home. I know a few people who do that, and it seems to be all they need. Maybe that could be you.

© 2006 Jay Cascio


Can't open socket