It’s certainly relevant, but it’s only part of the equation.
I have been a proponent of living in the moment for many years now. One of my favorite sayings of the last 15 years or so has been “Enjoy this moment, for this moment is your life.” It definitely seems like the most effective way to deal with worry, stress, and other future related concerns. Knowing that tomorrow is never guaranteed can be beneficial in making the most of now.
However, I have spent the day today reevaluating this approach to my life and I have to admit that there are certainly benefits to spending a little bit of quality time on tomorrow and the future. Also, gleaning wisdom from the mistakes of the past is also very beneficial, considering we don’t get bogged down by them. It’s a fine line.
As I look over the past 30 years or so of my career, I do have some regrets. I’m often asked for my advice by young performers on getting into the entertainment business, staying in the business and/or leaving the business. Today, I have some easy answers, so I will share them. Number one: If it’s a career that you wish to pursue, do so only with knowledge and extreme caution. Do not “wish” or “dream” your way into it. Know exactly (or at least as much as possible) about reality of the business and proceed carefully with your eyes wide open.
For example, Tennessee is what they call a “right to work” state. Therefore, unions like AFTRA/SAG have little to no control over what happens in the recording and television industry in Tennessee, specifically Nashville where I spent 30 years of my life. In those 30 years, I have spent countless months, days and hours making money in the recording business. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars, in my estimation, have graced my bank account over the years from recording sessions; from country music, to gospel music, to jingle sessions, to solo albums, to video games, to recordings of various religions and languages, to.....well, you get the point.
What do I have to show for it today? About 40 extra pounds, grey hair and a handful of good stories and bragging rights. I don’t know, maybe in the big picture that’s enough. However a pension, some residuals, and a health plan would have been nice right about now. Just a thought. So, when you are faced with the nagging and annoying choice of having to turn down scab work in order to pay your bills....start to think about how difficult it’s going to be to pay those same bills 30 or so years from now. Believe me, it is a reality that will hit you smack dab in the face if you are lucky enough to be alive 30 years from now.
Now, how do you choose to work only union in a “right to work” state where you will be quickly and easily looked over when you stick to your guns? Number 2: Location is everything! Live where your industry thrives. And, if you can’t live there then you better be damn sure you can get there quickly and easily. So much of every business is the day to day networking, interaction and involvement with the people you work with. The music/entertainment business is all this times 20. Most of the work you will be considered for will happen in a discussion at lunch or over drinks, or in the studio, or at a performance, or at the gym, etc. How do you make this happen when you are 2,000 miles away from all of your colleagues? It’s not likely.
Don’t want to live in NYC or LA? Well, then you might want to consider a different profession. Yes, it’s true that a handful of people have been successful at the art of living elsewhere yet staying in the industry, but it’s not the majority I can promise you. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you to move anywhere...as a matter of fact, I’m encouraging you to find your heart and stick to it. Just know there are consequences to doing so. Personally, I’ve found little to no joy in life living in NYC. I’ve spent years there and have spent most of them looking for ways to get out. When I got into my car last October and headed across the country to Montana, I knew that I would not be returning to the east coast again to live. It took me 20 some years to figure that out, but I now know that it is my reality. I have also learned to never say never...but, the chances of this ever happening again are similar to the chances of me winning the Publisher’s Clearinghouse $100 million.
This brings me to number 3: Success takes sacrifice. I’ve known a ton of extremely successful people in my life. I’ve known many of them well. One of the first things to go in a successful entertainment industry person’s life is SANITY. Yes, you must sacrifice a certain amount of your sanity to be incredibly successful in the business. Now, for some of you that isn’t too much to ask, I know...but for most grounded, well-rounded people it’s a big sacrifice. I am the kind of person that loves balance. I’m not so good at it, but in general it is a goal of mine. I tend to lean toward drama and the so-called “roller coaster” approach to life, but as I get older I am focused on balance and sanity. The more I focus on it, the further I get from my career. It’s just true. I find myself longing to throw away my suitcases forever, give up all of my hotel membership cards, not to mention my frequent flier memberships (don’t get me started) and my car rental memberships.
I realize this all might sound like the rantings of a disgruntled entertainer...and maybe they are a little...but I truly feel grateful for all of the experiences I’ve had over the years. I know that many people would kill for the opportunities I’ve been given. I’m not complaining. I am, however, committed to telling the truth to the young dreamers out there. Wisdom and knowledge are mandatory in my opinion. Don’t attempt a career in entertainment without accumulating as much of both of these things as possible. Does it kill the dream a little? Yes. Will knowing the reality make your future and your retirement better? No question. If only someone had grabbed me, looked in my eyes and told me these things, maybe I wouldn’t be in my 50s wondering where my next paycheck will come from. Or maybe many did and I didn’t hear them over the loud ringing of my passion. Maybe youth is supposed to drown out the sound of responsibility. I don’t know....I just wish, often, that I had been a little smarter than I was.
All this being said, tomorrow may never come. So make the most of these beautiful gifts you have been given. Today, and the Arts.