You can’t buy experience, or can you? Look, you wanna work in the music business? You wanna be a star? You can’t get experience unless you get work, but you can’t get work unless you have experience. Vicious cycle. So how do you break in? How do you gain access to your dream?
For as long as I can remember I wanted to sing professionally which means to get paid for it. No one else in my family was in the business, I didn’t study music at college either, so I just had to wing it, find my own way in. I was already 22 and the clock was ticking. It is after all a youth driven business. Lucky me, I had gotten some experience in the studio during college singing with a group called ENSEMBLE 109, directed by Gary Powell. We released an album, and I sang lead on one of the songs. Right there in the dark of the vocal booth, I got hooked. I loved working in the studio, and I was determined to find a way to do it for a living.
There were no guarantees I’d be successful when I moved to Chicago and went out on that musical limb, but who better to bet on me than myself.
When I graduated from college, I moved to Chicago and broke into the jingle business singing television and radio commercials. Before I could get a single job though, I had to join AFTRA and SAG, unions which were quite pricey for a girl fresh out of college. To do so, I had to take out a loan. Then and only then could I start with small jobs in the studio to gradually gain the experience I needed to become a successful studio vocalist. Each time I went into the studio and had the good fortune to work with talented professional vocalists, I soaked in all the experience I could handle. They were quick. They were seasoned. They were surprisingly generous with their hard-won knowledge and tricks of the trade. In addition, each time I exceeded the producers expectations, I got positive word of mouth which helped to get the next job and the next and the next.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that to gain that experience, it cost me time and lots of it. It also cost me a move across the country, and that eventual experience earned me access to the much-coveted studio jobs. The competition was fierce, but I was finally ready for it. You can’t usually buy experience, you have to find it. And, if you put in the work, the hours and even the money, you will receive access to a dream, the dream of making music.
There were no guarantees I’d be successful when I moved to Chicago and went out on that musical limb, but who better to bet on me than myself. I figured if worse came to worse, I’d have to pay off that loan with a straight job for a while, but I’d have memories of chasing my dream to comfort me.
You wanna work in the music business? You want access to the dream? Nothing worth having is ever free. Get out there and get some experience. Beg for it, work for it, even pay for it you have to. And with that and a little luck, maybe you won’t ever need a straight job either.
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