Paying your dues in the music business

November 12, 2007

Date: November 12, 2007 2:03:51 AM EST
Subject: Paying your dues in the music business

Do you ever watch the Tonight Show with Jay Leno?

Often he’ll interview a very famous actor.

And then show some really embarrassing clip of them from when they were in a TV commercial or very cheesy TV show or movie from years and years ago.  Maybe they are 30 now and they did this commercial or project when they were 8 years old or a teenager.

In fact, if you look up any actor’s TV/movie credits on imdb.com you will most likely see dozens of projects before they got their “big break”.

Let’s take Brad Pitt as an example:


I count at least 17 projects, including many bit parts on TV shows, before he got his “breakthrough” role in “Thelma and Louise” and then another 10 or so projects until “Legends of the Fall” made him a huge star.

Now I know you’re an artist and you’re thinking, “Great, but how does this relate to me?”

Well, if you’re a singer or in a band, instead of doing dozens of bad “B films” or cheesy TV commercials or sitcoms and paying your dues that way, your dues may entail playing gigs for years and years to small crowds.  Playing shows where the only people you know there are a couple friends or family members.  Or maybe no one at all.  Tori Amos played for many, many years (10-13) in hotel bars before getting her “big break” and getting signed.  And even then, her first CD flopped.  It wasn’t until she got to who she was at the core, as an artist, that she attained critical acclaim with her album “Little Earthquakes”.

Now why should you do this? A sane person wouldn’t do dozens (if not hundreds – or thousands) of these gigs before calling it quits and moving onto something more rewarding, right?

Well, all I can tell you is – YOU HAVE TO PAY YOUR DUES.

Nothing will make you a better performer than playing hundreds of live shows.

And yes, many will be great where there will be lots of fans there and they will be thrilled to see you.  Applauding and cheering loudly.  And then the next night you may play to the bartender, waitress and a couple of strangers.

But, like every successful actor, you must pay your dues.  It’s part of the process.

And what will get you out of it?

Well, hopefully you LOVE what you do.  Hopefully you love to perform.  And hey, even playing to 5-10 people is better than rehearsing in your garage or bedroom, isn’t it?

So just remember – the next time you’re having a bad day, or playing a show with a less than stellar turnout, remember:  everyone that is successful now had to take projects that weren’t glamorous in the beginning.  Everyone takes small parts, whether they be on TV, in a film no one will see, or singing for a crowd of just a few people.  It’s all part of the process.  Most people give up.

If you keep at it, no matter what, that alone makes you a success!


“Motivation and determination are 1000 times more potent than talent alone”
-Some guy online
“Be nice to everyone.  You never know if the intern will be the next president of your record company.”
-Michael Buble
“People have to learn they have to juggle everything until they get lucky. They need to work a steady job, make a living and make time for the band. They need to take all the money they make from the band and throw it back into the band”
–David Draiman, Vocalist for Disturbed, interviewed in Music Connection


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