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If you are new to the biz or even an old pro
looking for a new opportunity this primer will explain our expectations
of the people who we work with

The cold hard reality of the entertainment business and how to be successful in it.
by Peter Carli - Copyright © 2002, 2014 - Radiation Room - Revised 1/26/2014

Before you get your audition DVD, USB stick or videotape made and contact me or anyone else about being "the next big thing", take a moment and ask yourself these questions.

  • How badly do you want a career in the world of music and entertainment? Are you willing to invest the necessary time and effort to make yourself a viable performer?

  • Do you have a strong work ethic?

  • Do you have access to the necessary financial resources needed to launch your career? (Everything from new stage clothes to legal services costs money.)

  • Are you willing to sacrifice your free time in order to perfect your craft? (This includes giving up some of your social life as well.)

  • Do you have the resolve to "tough it out" during the hard times? (There will be plenty of them as you get your career started and then some.)

  • Are you willing to keep yourself free of illegal drugs and not abuse alcohol?

  • Are you a responsible person who can take care of his/her obligations in a timely manner?

  • Do you have a special talent that the world would enjoy?

If you answer "No" to any of these, then don't waste your time pursuing a career as a music star. You have to understand that it is both a job and a business and you have to treat it as such.

For an example, let's take a look at the princess of today's pop music, Britney Spears. While the artistic merit of Ms. Spears's music is debatable, it can not be argued that she lacks talent or work ethic. Britney is successful because she is a born entertainer who is willing to put in the long hours and hard work that is necessary for any performer to maintain a successful career. She is dedicated and willing to go the extra mile to get the job done, and is 100% committed to her music. These are the qualities that every music manager, record company A&R rep, promoter, agent, and record producer look for when evaluating new talent. (Her parents nurturing her talents along with their financial support when Ms. Spears was a child didn't hurt either.)

NOTE: While the original version of this article was written in 2002 when Ms. Spears was at the apex of her career, everything that was true then will be especially true in 2014, due to the attrition of music performance, recording, and business opportunities and increased competition for those positions. PC - 1/26/2014

Before we go any farther, if you are entering a career in music as a "get rich quick" mode of making money, get out now! Very few music stars reach celebrity status and the income levels that go with it. You must also remember that only a select few ever get their faces on the cover of Rolling Stone and pack arena shows when they go on tour. On the other hand, a small coterie of competent musicians along with the people they work with can do very well making "middle income", provided that they are 100% committed to their career and treat it as a job. A few music pros regularly earn anywhere from $30K to $100K (U.S. Dollars) a year and up and gig regularly provided that they are genuinely talented and are willing to work their butts off. Those that are unwilling to put in the requisite effort or party all the time find themselves quickly pumping gas or waiting tables in short order.

I have heard many many people say "I'd be a great such and such music person because I am such a great music fan." But being a fan does not necessarily make you qualified for a career in "the biz". In order to make it you have to have a skill that the market wants, and you should be able to use that skill in a new and exciting way. Most people seem to think that being successful in the entertainment biz is like a crap shoot - you roll the dice, but my own personal experiences prove otherwise. In order to get the job - and being an entertainment professional is exactly that, a job - you must first prove that you can do the job, then you must prove that you can do it consistently and to current market standards. Luck has little if any bearing on whether or not someone is successful.

The first thing that all event promoters, club owners, music managers, and record company people look for is reliability. On time starts are important, and showing up to your gig, interview, or recording session with ample time to set-up and warm-up can go a long long way in gaining the respect of the people who you will be relying on to help you with your career advancement. Also, not giving yourself enough time to get prepared can mean the difference between a truly great evening and a lousy one. A "no show" - IE: missing a scheduled event without an urgent, legitimate reason (like being in the emergency room with appendicitis) is one sure-fire way of burning your bridges. Event promoters, managers, club owners, record company people, members of the press, and even the public at large all talk with each other, and getting a reputation as a bozo can end your career quickly.

The second thing music professionals look for in new talent is professionalism. Do you conduct yourself in a manner appropriate for the workplace and do you treat others in a cordial, courteous manner? The last thing a manager, A&R rep, record producer, or club owner wants to deal with is a self-absorbed musician with a bad attitude. While being a nasty pompous jackass might be part of someone's stage persona, it is NEVER acceptable to act that way off stage, especially towards the people who are making your show or record album a reality, regardless of how successful you are.

One horror story (I have many) from my career in producing shows at the Fenix Club was having stage equipment destroyed by a teenaged punk band who insisted that they had the right to be destructive because "other bands do it". They smashed microphones, stands, and stage lights, and during the mayhem, one of the band members urinated on a speaker box in front of the audience. Word got around quickly about these bozos and other venue owners would not book them. Not only did these kids end their careers prematurely by behaving maliciously, they may have also impacted other punk acts as well. A large percentage of venue owners that I've talked to will no longer book punk and "hard & heavy" acts because of the destructive and disrespectful behavior that some of these bands exhibit. The abuses of a few can ruin it for everyone else in short order, so...


You must also remember that rehearsal time, studio time, and show time does not equal party time. I have seen many potentially good shows get all screwed up because one or more of the musicians got drunk or high before the show. "...They sounded great during sound check. What the hell happened?..." ...Then the cleaning crew finds a garbage can full of Coors Lite cans and an empty Jim Beam bottle in the green room yet the club doesn't serve alcohol... My own experiences prove that eleven chances out of ten, an impaired musician, sound technician, or other person involved with producing the concert or recording will not be able to perform as well as they would when sober.

Even worse yet is when a musician gets in a fight with a bar patron, club security, or another band member. I've seen this happen more times than I can count, and every time without exception, one or more of the participants in the altercation had consumed alcohol and/or drugs at some point prior to the incident. To quote Richard James Burgess (producer of too many hit albums to mention here), "Add any amount of drugs and alcohol, sprinkle a little success on top and you have an explosive mixture." I can't say it any better myself. No matter how much you might hate to be lectured, I can not be emphatic enough on the issue of alcohol and drug abuse and the problems that they cause.

The 3rd thing that music pros look for when checking your act out is whether or not you have something the public will buy. As any MBA will tell you, the lifeblood of anything in a capitalist society is green, so if your music (in the form of recordings and/or performances) doesn't generate cash flow, you will very quickly find yourself rejoining the world of the 9 to 5 working stiffs. The public is quite fickle, and trends come and go almost as often as some people change socks. It's a fact of life; if your music does not generate income then you will have to do something else to pay your bills. While your attraction to music may be to create work with "artistic merit", the sad fact is that the ultimate goal of every venue owner, promoter and record company, is to sell as many concert tickets and as much merchandise (including recordings) as possible. If your music has "artistic merit", that is wonderful as long as the top priority of generating sales is met.

If you made it this far and still think you have what it takes to pursue a career as an entertainer or other music professional, I WANT YOUR DEMO!!!

This article © 2002, 2014 Radiation Room - deep linking is permitted as long as this article does not appear within a frame and proper credit attribution and authorship appears on the referring page. All other rights reserved.

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