Finding the “music” in the entertainment industry

I got my start in the entertainment industry when studying art and music back in college. I worked for the student-run record label and the campus activities board, booking local and national acts to perform for our campus. Later, I got an internship at a local music promoter, and then another internship with a college entertainment booking company in Chicago- the latter of which with I ended up working with full-time upon graduation for almost a year. I continue to do freelance work for entertainers and have many friends who make their living off being artists. I feel like a proud parent every time they do well, and my heart breaks a little bit every time they experience a set back.

Having friends who have been on various TV and entertainment “reality” shows, I’ve witnessed the high highs and low lows of nearly every avenue involved in the industry. It still baffles me how the entertainment industry can create and destroy careers (and lives), seemingly with a flick of the wrist.
HunterThompsonHunter S. Thompson is often quoted saying, “The music industry is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”  The music business, is just that, a business. Most people assume that since there is art involved, it somehow avoids all the rules of an entrepreneurship. But the truth is, there is often more legality and rules involved in entertainment industries than most other businesses. The only difference is, everyone has a different idea and set of standards as to what these rules should be.

Before I started studying music industry at Minnesota State University Moorhead, I naively believed, as many other people, that once an artist got signed by a record label, they had made it big and would become rich. I also believed that the radio stations could choose which artists that they wanted to play, my garage band would become a national touring act, and if a band didn’t make a stop in Minneapolis on their tour, it was because they didn’t like Minnesota. After only my first semester of classes, I came to know better.

Even though it may seem that entertainers are all entitled divas, for most artists, however, life is often far from glamorous. You spend months away from loved ones, sit in a vehicle or on a plane with the same people (or yourself) for most of your day, and often embrace a rather unstable way of financing your dream. I would like to believe that the core of every artist is an undeniable passion to create performances that will somehow change the world around them for the better. But we are not all hippies. The world does not do business with peace and love as currency. This is why business management-type people must get involved in the business and do what they have to in order to keep the artist’s career riding high and bringing in money for everyone. Things always get a bit sensitive when you begin to buy and sell someone’s talent, as there is no “flat rate” or “generally accepted price.” Some will pay more, some will pay less. And what you think you’re worth is often not the same as to what you are worth to someone else. So like I stated before, everyone has their own rules in the entertainment industry. You have to be willing to play the game and put all modesty aside if you want to be able to make it anywhere.

So what makes the music and entertainment industry different from any other career or business? I don’t get upset with the owners of other successful business ventures, why should anyone be upset about someone using the music industry to make a living? I guess where music is concerned, most people just hope that the driving motive of those involved is a passion for the arts.

I am a firm believer that a good concert or performance can literally change a life. And this, folks, is why we NEED the arts. The monotony of our day-to-day desk jobs or school work or whatever can sweep us into this gray world where we just go on “autopilot,” do what we need to get through the day and wake up the next to do it all over again. And when you get in that rut, you fail to really LIVE. But when you hear a song, see a play, or experience another moving piece of art, suddenly you began to really FEEL. Your soul becomes alive again. And you remember what it is to be human.

So although my child-like love for the music industry as a whole has been greatly tainted, I am a stronger believer in the power of music. Although it may not be at the heart of everyone involved in the business, the music, the comedy, the entertainment, that is what propels the industry. Just like there is a genre for everyone, there is also a job for everyone who is willing to risk all their perceptions to be involved in the entertainment industry.

“When it comes to the arts, passion should always trump common sense.” – Robert De Niro

So for those of you crazy enough to join us in the entertainment world, welcome.

Let’s find the music.

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