The Biz: How to Make It in the Music Business

It's Really Fantastic!

It seems quite natural for me to write about strange little old games on a Thursday -- not sure why. Especially if they're off an old British computer, and they end in "iz". We had Viz last week, so why not have The Biz this week? This is a fun little game from 1984, released by Virgin for the ZX Spectrum, where you form a band and try to make it in the cut-throat world of the music industry. You can have a little look here:

So yeah...not the prettiest looking game -- it's written entirely in BASIC. Still, a band simulator is kind of a unique thing -- I can only think of a couple of games like this one, and they're just about all for the Speccy oddly enough. Anyway, you pick a genre and a suitably immature band name, get yourself a manager and then get out on the road! The brunt of the game is spent either rehearsing or playing gigs -- at the start, these gigs will basically play next to nothing...but never mind -- soon enough you'll upgrade from playing at The Girl's School Dance to places such as London's Rock Garden, or Manchester Polytechnic! All the best joints, where you only have to avoid pints been thrown at you once every other song.

The other big part of the game is trying to get your own singles out there and promoting your band -- ideally you'll want to do this after doing a fair bit of playing and rehearsing so that you become pretty tight as a band and you have songs that don't make Three Blind Mice sound like Tarkus by Emerson, Lake and Palmer. It's kind of hard to actually make it in The Biz, but hey -- maybe you'll have the odd little hit here and there? A top 100 here, an appearance on Something Else there, a TV spot on Tyne Tees...enough to impress any 5 or 6-level groupie, I'm sure. And then there's the random events -- your van could break down, you could get a dry ice machine, your hated rival band could steal your cassette recorder, or maybe you'll get addicted to drugs! Which turns your game into a near-unplayable mess until you recover -- such is the nature of psychedelics.

After enough tireless gigging, a record label might sign you up, give you a lick of paint and shove you into the studio to record a proper big hit -- and who knows what'll happen there! Maybe you'll get a number 1!..or not. Chances are your rival band will beat you to it. Or your single will just stiff. And then your record label will unceremoniously drop you, at which point the game gives you the option to end your career by way of a noose...'cause actually, the music business is a hard lesson in disillusionment, drug abuse and crippling depression. It's not like the guy who made the game didn't know -- one Chris Sievey, a Manchester lad who had his own semi-popular early '80s indie band, The Freshies, and basically wrote the game based on his experiences.

The story of Chris Sievey is almost as interesting as this fantastic game -- later on, he would go on to become fairly famous as Timperley's favourite son with the papier-mache head, Frank Sidebottom. He's so famous, they even made one of those moving pictures about him! Frank Sidebottom would be something of a cult figure, especially up north, for the rest of his days, before passing away far too young from cancer at the age of 54. He did lots of things that people remember, but for me? Yeah, this game is certainly up there -- it's as basic as BASIC can be, but oddly addicting all the same. Pretty downcast as all hell to boot, but still -- that's what music's all about isn't it? It's a shit business!