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Phil Collen to Millenial Musicians: "Don't do it for the money"

Phil Collen, lead guitarist for Def Leppard, has a message for millennial musicians who just want to be rich and famous: Don’t do it for the money.

“Don’t do this if you’re just [out for] fame or money,” the 59-year-old said, “because it very rarely happens. The reward should be the artistic expression.”

Mr. Collen, whose English band will be playing Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Virginia, alongside Tesla and REO Speedwagon Wednesday evening, knows he has been lucky to enjoy both artistic fulfillment and fiduciary compensation in his career. But too many young artists now, he says, want the rewards without putting in the work.

“Their motivation for doing it is usually narcissistic. It’s usually I want to be on YouTube; please recognize me,” Mr. Collen said. “As opposed to when we started. A lot of other artists like Prince would just be writing songs, and he wouldn’t really care” if they found an audience. “That doesn’t really happen now.”

When Mr. Collen and his Def Leppard bandmates were first coming up in the 1970s and early 1980s, the recording industry was indeed a place to get rich — often quickly, and frequently obscenely.

That era, just like its friendship bracelets and Atari games, is long since gone.

“Because of the decline of the record industry, obviously touring is way more important,” Mr. Collen told The Washington Times, adding that the current corporate climate has all but eliminated independent labels and promoters.

“There’s two promoters basically: There’s AEG and Live Nation,” he said. “Before you’d have all these independent promoters around the country [and] you could do it independently. That isn’t [the case] anymore.”

What bands have lost in corporate backing, he says, they have gained in social media and a do-it-yourself ethos to better connect them with their fans.

And touring. Always, always touring.

“The fact that we don’t have a major label and we’re still succeeding despite that means more,” Mr. Collen said. “I’m proud of the fact that we have integrity; we never split up.”

Def Leppard formed in England in 1977. High-intensity rock albums like “Pyromania” and “Hysteria” made them famous the world over in the 1980s during a resurgence of metal music. The band has seen its ups and downs, including drummer Rick Allen losing his left arm in a car accident in 1984. Despite the setback, Mr. Allen has continued to pound the percussion with the band ever since.

“A lot of these venues we play are the same venues we’ve been playing for 30-odd years,” Mr. Collen said of the current tour. “We’ve always been busy.”

For nearly as long as he’s been Def Leppard’s guitarist, Mr. Collen has maintained sobriety. He recalls his first tour as the band’s guitarist as “a little bit hazy,” but that sobriety makes him appreciate the rock scene all the more.

Read more at The Washington Times