Recommend me a career in music

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So since I finally allowed myself to decide not to apply to law school, I have to figure out exactly what I'm doing with the rest of my life.

I'd really like to work with music in some way. I play a few instruments, have been involved in bands for a long time, did a couple of years in a conservatory, but I don't think I could withstand the boredom of getting my chops up to being a full-time session (or wedding/bar-mitzvah) musician.

I'm not business averse, and I don't even mind being involved with music that I don't personally love sometimes, and I'm even ok with a small dose of sell-out, but I don't want to be 100% business side like a manager or booking agent. Well actually even managing doesn't sound all bad because I like the idea of talent development, but my impression is that it's a longshot career where you're staking your ability to make a living on finding that meal-ticket act.

I guess in my dreams I'd be a producer that also plays, but it's not like you can just apply for a job as a producer, and I'd presumably have to learn a fair amount about engineering and music biz to do that, not to mention having some kind of an "in".

I enjoy teaching but I don't want to be a music teacher because I don't want to direct marching bands and symphonic wind ensembles.

So spin my wheel of fate and tell me what it comes up on.

Hurting (A-Ron Hubbard), Saturday, 2 December 2006 03:20 (fourteen years ago) link

Well, Josh, you could always start something like this.

Ruud Haarvest (KenL), Saturday, 2 December 2006 03:33 (fourteen years ago) link

So, you want to be John Vanderslice?

Oddly enough, staying here I saw seven golden bowls make cakes and religion (goo, Saturday, 2 December 2006 04:52 (fourteen years ago) link

Yeah, more or less. How do I apply?

Hurting (A-Ron Hubbard), Saturday, 2 December 2006 06:11 (fourteen years ago) link

Apply? It takes elbow grease, Hurting. Shoe leather.

Ruud Haarvest (KenL), Saturday, 2 December 2006 06:36 (fourteen years ago) link

I can't say I really know, since I'm a music-school-dropout-cum-computer-jockey. I think that Vanderslice just kept buying more and more audio hardware to record his own music until someone said the obvious: Dude, you totally rule at home recording. Why don't you open a studio so that other peeps can use your awesome hardware and mad skillz? He'd probably built up a library of connections with other musicians and engineers he'd probably lent gear to at that point, so he didn't have trouble getting initial bookings. And Tiny Telephone is definitely booked: For roughly $600/day, including engineer costs, you can make some absolutely amazing recordings. I recorded a 5-song disc there, and although it's a total shithole in a bad part of SF, the experience was really, really great, and I plan to do it again, as soon as I can convince my lackeys^Wbandmates. (Side note: Survival Research Labs and Subterranean are housed in the same "complex" as TT.)

I have absolutely no authority to speak on the subject, but if I were interested in being John, here's the plan I'd follow:

1. Find a good home-base city. Chicago, San Francisco, or NYC in the USA will do. Charlotte, NC won't. Pay particular attention to cities with cheap-rent warehouse districts where you can make noise unhindered. Move there, ASAP, so that you can start to build up contacts in the musical world.

2. Find a musical niche. John's niche is "analog", kinda, but he started out digitally; his studio was Pro Tools-based before he saw the light, tossed it all, bought a Neve, and went 100% analog. This is a really great selling point for TT, since many musicians and engineers believe in the mystique of analog recording (including Mighty Steve Albini, who has an army of arguments as to why it's still better than digital.)

Of course, I'm not saying that "analog" is necessarily the "right" niche to be in now, but there are lots to choose from, and a "vintage" niche is often a cheap choice: Perhaps you can focus on vocal music and build up a great selection of mics, or maybe you can become known as the local version of Phil Spector/Wharton Tiers/Kramer.

In any case, a niche is essential. If the only thing differentiating you from thousands of other studios is price, you're gonna lose. In my opinion, a useful niche is backed by expertise, which takes time to build. Start now.

3. Invest in gear. GOOD gear, preferably a generation or two old, which'll sit nicely in a 19" rack, when possible. The better the hardware, the longer its lifespan, and you'll need to start buying now if you want to open your studio in 5-10 years. And quality hardware keeps its value, so if you decide to get out of the business later, you won't take a total bath.

4. Make friends. Lend gear. Keep your contact list up-to-date. The more people who simply know who you are and what you do, the larger your clientele will be when you open up shop. Be nice to these folks; don't just try to impress people with your technical knowledge. Communication skills are, in the end, more important than technical skills: When you have a hoppin' studio, you'll always be able to find very technically qualified engineers to work in it, but a great amount of technical skill without peeple-skillz won't gain you an initial clientele. I mean, who wants to work with an asshole?

5. Record yourself and your friends. Even if you don't charge them, their friends will hear your work and want to work with you if they like it. Plus, it's practice, and you'll gain technical knowledge of the hardware you use as well as expertise regarding which hardware is crappy and which ain't. You'll learn that what they told you in music school about cardioid placement is wrong and that a $1.00 contact mic has some amazing uses. You'll learn that you need to fake out some singers with a doubled dead mic. You'll learn that there's no substitute for a 6ft^2 plate reverb.

Again, I'm definitely underqualified to advise you on the matter, since I'm not an audio professional. The only qualification I have is in being 38 and having watched lots of my friends try to struggle to achieve their dreams in the wrong way. The US educational system, at least, teaches kids that they must spend X number of years in school; after they graduate, they immediately take a job in their chosen profession, and that's it. They live happily ever after. Nowhere is it acknowledged that some jobs cannot be attained via schooling only, but require much preparatory time and a wealth of skills that can't really be taught.

Two examples:

1. A friend of mine from in high school wanted to write comedy for films or TV. So when he graduated, he moved to LA with two other friends with the same inclination and proceeded to write and submit scripts to folks with whom he had no real connection. Naturally, nobody read them, and since they had no other means of determining that he was funny -- he didn't do standup or publish in other media -- he went nowhere quick and moved back home after 3 years. I don't think it ever occurred to him that the quality of his work alone wouldn't suffice to grant him the career he sought.

2. When I started university, many years ago, I wanted to score films. Of course, since it was a generic music school at a generic university, there were exactly zero classes offered on my chosen profession. As you've probably noticed, generic music schools train kids to be classical musicians or band teachers. The composition class I took involved a lot of instruction to "do what you feel like doing" and in-class listening of the students' favorite records, which ranged from Bach to Pink Floyd. I dropped out at the end of the semester, having quickly realized how incredibly foolish it was to think that I could get a "band teacher" degree and just go out and get a job for which my educational achievements "qualified" me. Nobody -- not my parents, my colleagues, or my friends -- had any notion that you had to get into the industry by the back door, that you had to have contacts, and that you had to had to labor in relatively menial positions alongside other folks in the industry before you'd have a chance at scoring a film. And I sure as hell didn't realize it.

I'm not saying that you're nearly as foolish as I was then, and I'm definitely not saying that I have the magic formula to success as a musician/engineer/producer/studio exec. All I'm saying is this: 1. Don't give up on the big dream, and 2. If the arrow doesn't fly straight to its target, look to see where the layovers are.

Oddly enough, staying here I saw seven golden bowls make cakes and religion (goo, Saturday, 2 December 2006 18:49 (fourteen years ago) link

i have the same ambitions, secretly.

grbchv! (gbx), Sunday, 3 December 2006 01:35 (fourteen years ago) link

I keep trying to leave my career in the music business, BUT THEY PULL ME BACK IN!

John Justen wants to hit you in the head with a pipewrench. (John Justen), Sunday, 3 December 2006 01:57 (fourteen years ago) link

Great post lib, thanks.

Hurting (A-Ron Hubbard), Sunday, 3 December 2006 03:37 (fourteen years ago) link

Your insight into the American educational system is especially OTM and it's largely what I'm realizing now too - that our university system increasingly markets itself to us as though it's a career placement service and as though there's a degree program for any niche career you could possibly want, and furthermore, we tend to want to believe it's true. Not every career is about a simple, straight path.

Anyway, since my band is planning to go into the studio again anyway soon (at a place I really like), my immediate plan is to start picking the dudes' brains about how they ended up doing what they're doing and what works for them. I'd like to maybe also spend some time hanging out with them when they record another band, or if not there then at some other studio, just to get a better feel for it.

Hurting (A-Ron Hubbard), Sunday, 3 December 2006 03:42 (fourteen years ago) link

Best of luck, HC. Be persistent.

Oddly enough, staying here I saw seven golden bowls make cakes and religion (goo, Sunday, 3 December 2006 16:24 (fourteen years ago) link

Weeping martyr.

Geza T (The GZeus), Monday, 4 December 2006 10:21 (fourteen years ago) link

In reference to?

John Justen wants to hit you in the head with a pipewrench. (John Justen), Monday, 4 December 2006 16:52 (fourteen years ago) link

No idea.

Geza T (The GZeus), Monday, 4 December 2006 18:05 (fourteen years ago) link

I assumed you meant that as a career option. Like being a professional guy who says "The industry is shit now. You can't make a good living doing this anymore. All the _____ companies are filled with bozos who don't know what they're doing," etc.

Hurting (A-Ron Hubbard), Monday, 4 December 2006 20:00 (fourteen years ago) link

G was taking a potshot at me for offering my experience as something to be learned from, in a negative sense.

Oddly enough, staying here I saw seven golden bowls make cakes and religion (goo, Tuesday, 5 December 2006 02:55 (fourteen years ago) link

I didn't even read anything in this thread before posting that.

I'd been awake longer than I wanted too, had too much coffee and spent hours trying to design digital hardware with a minimal knowledge of anything digital....for no reason.

Basically, I'd guess it was suggesting a career option.
However, why I chose that COULD be as Hurting said, it could also be me feeling destroyed and just blurting how I felt in some kind of weird metaphorical spasm for no reason.
Maybe both.

too much

Geza T (The GZeus), Tuesday, 5 December 2006 04:27 (fourteen years ago) link

Oh no. He escaped!

kv_nol (kv_nol), Tuesday, 5 December 2006 15:17 (fourteen years ago) link


Geza T (The GZeus), Wednesday, 6 December 2006 05:13 (fourteen years ago) link

This is my favorite thread ever guys! Thanks.

TOM. BOT. (trm), Thursday, 7 December 2006 16:55 (fourteen years ago) link

This thread says a lot for me too. I've never been in a band (though I've messed about with making recordings at home), never fancied music journalism, never really liked the idea of doing a music course, and never fancied the pay of being a record store clerk. But music is all I've ever really been interested in. Just the other day I realised that (for me, anyway) the answer is.... radio! I'd love to work for a great radio station. Where to start in that though, I've no idea. Volunteering, maybe?

lo lux (davidcarp), Wednesday, 13 December 2006 14:41 (fourteen years ago) link

Be prepared to not make very much money. But yeah, internship is the best bet, and you should try everything from your college or weirdo local community station to big radio, and try sending resumes directly to jocks, producers, etc. even where there's no advertised position, because even though it's a longshot in each case, sometimes ambition impresses people. I know a few folks who got great internships this way.

Hurting (A-Ron Hubbard), Wednesday, 13 December 2006 15:27 (fourteen years ago) link

I've managed to build a side career in music almost completely by accident, mostly just by continuing to sing in better and better ensembles until I suddenly found myself in professional ones that get reviewed internationally for things they do.

Jesus Dan (dan perry), Wednesday, 13 December 2006 15:48 (fourteen years ago) link

I've managed to build a side career in porn in much the same way.

step hen faps (Curt1s Stephens), Thursday, 14 December 2006 01:15 (fourteen years ago) link

Dan, you just reminded me of the time I weirdly ended up with a paying gig singing in an Episcopal church choir. Unfortunately I felt much more uncomfortable than I thought I would bowing in front of the cross and mysteriously "disappearing" during eucharist and couldn't keep doing it.

Hurting (A-Ron Hubbard), Thursday, 14 December 2006 02:02 (fourteen years ago) link

I once thought of getting into xtian music for the money.
However, principles.
I honestly don't know of a way to do that honestly.
If you're SERIOUS, well, a camel's bigger than the eye of a needle.
If you're NOT, the only way I can think of would be to do it ironically(Borating) and for few enough people to catch on. But then that's just preying on the stupid, and I can't do that.

So yeah, know where you're coming from Hurting.

Geza T (The GZeus), Thursday, 14 December 2006 10:46 (fourteen years ago) link

Um, it's not that hard! Professional church musicians are not expected to be members of the church where they are working, much like the office staff aren't expected to be members. Your entire job is to sing and maybe participate in pagentry; you're fascilitating other people's worship, not proving your own.

Jesus Dan (dan perry), Friday, 15 December 2006 17:03 (fourteen years ago) link

Your definition of 'honesty' is different that mine...or the dictionary's for that matter I see. Singing uses words. Words have meaning.

Also I wasn't speaking of what you were doing (again you assume you're the subject at hand) but of what I had considered doing.

Geza T (The GZeus), Saturday, 16 December 2006 02:47 (fourteen years ago) link

Yeah, I don't see anything wrong with other people doing it - my synagogue choir was mostly non Jews (cause they would work on Sabbath), I just didn't feel comfortable doing it.

Also, Geza, dude do you really think it would have been so easy to make a career as a Christian artist even if you wanted to? You're talking about it like it was a phone call away.

Hurting (A-Ron Hubbard), Saturday, 16 December 2006 03:25 (fourteen years ago) link

Hell of alot easier than otherwise.
All you need is a voice, some instruments, and a sense of melody.
it's 90% crap and the ones that suck less than the sound of dying horses pull like 5k a night in small venues.

Geza T (The GZeus), Saturday, 16 December 2006 05:45 (fourteen years ago) link

Your definition of 'honesty' is different that mine...or the dictionary's for that matter I see. Singing uses words. Words have meaning.

Do you actually have a point here or are you retarded?

Jesus Dan (dan perry), Saturday, 16 December 2006 15:25 (fourteen years ago) link

By saying things one doesn't beleive one is lying.

Geza T (The GZeus), Saturday, 16 December 2006 17:58 (fourteen years ago) link

IMM - Failing to answer your questions through derailment since 2004.

John Justen is interested in eating your pet. (John Justen), Saturday, 16 December 2006 22:09 (fourteen years ago) link

Well the dictionary comment was a bit too far. sorry.

However, if one can stand pretending/buys it, then religious music IS a good career!
Festivals cosntantly, churches MORE than happy to let you play! Stipends from weird rich people!

Yeah. I was tempted.
But that was also a time when neo-gnosticism was big in my mind. It would have been like a Catholic choir boy singing in a Slayer cover band...

Geza T (The GZeus), Saturday, 16 December 2006 23:28 (fourteen years ago) link

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