Triad Magazine

A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.

So You want to be A Rockstar?

By Timothy Schumacher

The Band Bleeding Money Playing at the Fubar in St. Petersburg, Florida. “Sex, drugs, and rock and roll”, the classic cliché that has been more played out than a groupie’s vagina. While music companies glorify this “rock star” lifestyle in order to sell records, the backstage truth on the road to stardom is a far less glamorous existence. Great music is the by-product of years of hard work, and the inner turmoil of musicians inspired by their struggles through life. The excesses and debauchery is just a by-product of that music’s success. While MTV displays million dollar homes and exotic cars of many famous rock stars on their show Cribs, the reality for thousands of bands striving to strike platinum is hidden in the shadows of fame and fortune. Musicians like Tom Shelton, who’s been a lead singer/rhythm guitarist in a band for the last 11 years, struggle every day too in hopes of making it big. Shelton, like most Americans, has a 9-5 job during the day as a cook at an upscale burger joint in what he calls the “Pleasantville” section of Tampa. He describes his day to day routine as “Wake up”. Obsess over either politics or band stuff on the way to work. Then
get my ass royally handed to me at work. I come home, practice loud fast music. Obsess some more about politics, sociology, and band stuff. Then I drink, smoke, sleep, and repeat my actions the next day.” He lives in a three bedroom two bath house in Seminole Heights, a historic but low-income neighborhood in Tampa with two roommates, one of whom is the band’s drummer. Shelton’s band “Bleeding Money” (formerly known as Elysium after their former bassist’s, and his girlfriend’s drug addiction caused the band to split) is a hybrid of thrash metal and surf style, gang vocal, punk rock. They have been playing mostly in the Tampa Bay area and have done several tours across the country. But while some bands get paid to play and tour across the country, Shelton says “My band and I had to finance our own tours by saving $50 a paycheck for six months, then travel by van to play shows from Tampa to New York in a windowless cargo van with no air conditioning. We would either sleep on someone’s floor we know, or we would all sleep in the van. It was smelly, taxing, tough, and gritty, but it was well worth it.” The bars they played were not much better than their sleeping arrangements. Bleeding Money’s drummer Mike Berg says “There have been plenty of shit hole bars that we have had the pleasure of playing.” The band did earn a spot on the Warp Tour in 2003. Shelton says “We were asked to play all four Florida dates of the Warped Tour in 2003.” While the big bands were living the rock and roll dream, reality soon kicked in for Shelton and the other members of Bleeding Money. “It was a thrill and a hard lesson. We played the festival for four days in a row. The big bands had roadies loading their gear, and we didn’t. For four days we lugged our amps across at least two hundreds of yards of the field a day and played for 30 minutes in the sun. The upside was we got to go to Warped Tour four days in a row, and meet some awesome people in the music bizz,” Shelton says. Bleeding Money continues to play shows locally and is in the process of making a new record. While those who have successfully made it get to enjoy the spoils of success, those bands like Bleeding Money who have not, still have to endure the sacrifice and hard work that it takes to make it. But if it were easy, every wannabe rock star would do it. This isn’t American Idol folks. The grind is what separates the real rock stars from the groupies. Like the tattoo around Mike Berg’s neck says, “This lifestyle holds a price.” So for those out there who are considering diving into the pool of perseverance, Tom has some advice “A band is 10% talent and 90% percent commitment.” Check out bleeding money at Facebook at

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