Music Business Careers
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Music Business Careers

Career Duality in the Creative Industries

Cheryl Slay Carr

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eBook - ePub

Music Business Careers

Career Duality in the Creative Industries

Cheryl Slay Carr

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About This Book

The music industry offers the opportunity to pursue a career as either a creative (artist, producer, songwriter, etc.) or as a music business "logician" (artist manager, agent, entertainment attorney, venue manager, etc.). Though both vocational paths are integral to the industry's success, the work of calling songs into existence or entertaining an audience differs from the administrative aspects of the business, such as operating an entertainment company. And while the daily activities of creatives may differ from those of the music business logician, the music industry careerist may sense a call to Career Duality, to work on both sides of the industry as a Career Dualist, a concept this book introduces, defines, and explores in the context of the music industry.

This new volume speaks to the dilemma experienced by those struggling with career decisions involving whether to work in the industry using their analytical abilities, or to work as a creative, or to do both. The potential financial challenges encountered in working in the industry as an emerging artist may necessitate maintaining a second and simultaneous occupation (possibly outside the industry) that offers economic survival. However, this is not Career Duality. Likewise, attending to the business affairs that impact all creatives is not Career Duality. Rather, Career Duality involves the deliberate pursuit of a dual career as both a music industry creative and music business logician, which is stimulated by the drive to express dual proclivities that are simultaneously artistic and analytical.

By offering a Career Duality model and other constructs, examining research on careers, calling, authenticity and related concepts, and providing profiles of music industry dualists, this book takes readers on a journey of self-exploration and offers insights and recommendations for charting an authentic career path. This is a practical examination for not only music industry professionals and theentertainment industry, but for individuals interested in expressing both the analytical and artistic self in the context of career.

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Understanding Career Duality


The Career Duality Dilemma

An Early Tale

I was a singer, in fact I was musical, long before I ever contemplated a career in the legal profession or academia. Every phase of my life has included producing music for as long as I can remember.
Like many, my musical experiences began during the elementary school years. My parents are of a generation and culture who believed that every home should have a piano.1 Ours was a handsome walnut-grain spinet that resided in our living room. I was about 5 or 6 years old when they purchased it new, and have a pretty vivid recollection of the excitement associated with having one enter our home. I started lessons at around age 6 with various teachers and methods over the years. I kept up with some mix of lessons, diligence, and inconsistent practice until about junior high school. Then at that crucial juncture of adolescence, with my parents weary from paying for lessons for a student who was musically astute but lukewarm in my affection for discipline, the study gradually tapered off, though playing remained a constant.
Throughout high school and college I would sit down at the piano when visiting my folks, keeping my ability to read music alive. I later purchased my own piano so that the musical seed that was planted early on could continue to grow, albeit with pretty scant watering. However, learning to play had shaped me and still calls to me to continue to play and to maintain those early music reading skills. I learned not just musical notes but pieces of music I still remember and play, and learned composers as well – all a suitable foundation for singing. Yet the most influential foundation for the early study of singing was laid for me in glee club. Glee club seemed an odd name for a singing class, but it deeply affected me, even gleefully, though the origin of the term is broader.2 It was part of my early call to music.
Singing at the Ford Auditorium3 in Detroit, where I grew up, as part of a national assemblage of glee clubs from all across the country was a particularly unforgettable glee club moment. We practiced for weeks (perhaps months) learning specific music for that singular event. The descant to America, the Beautiful was one of the songs we learned. I still remember singing it proudly in my white blouse (a ruffly pirate design popular in the 1970s) and plain A-line black skirt, the ubiquitous uniform for glee clubs and choirs. It was a memorable experience that ignited my love of singing. I also learned other little-known descants, like the one written for Silent Night.4 That glee club experience was foundational, providing the opportunity to learn many well-known and lesser-known songs I still sing today. It is an experience that taught me about arrangements and harmony, and engendered an appreciation for music as a participant, part of the tradition of making music as well as consuming it.
In junior high school I played viola for the school orchestra, having started playing viola in elementary school; I also sang in a church teen choir. In high school I auditioned for “the gospel team” (an acting and musical team of young adults) at my church. In college it never occurred to me to be a music major, perhaps because I loved literary writing too and was pretty certain I would be a journalism major. Nevertheless, I was briefly a member of a girl group practicing for a popular dorm talent show at the University of Michigan. Playing piano and viola, singing in the glee club or church and in any other context that arose were but extensions of my original call to music.
I offer this glimpse into my early experiences to suggest that for me and other artist-music business logicians,5 discarding this array of musical experiences would approximate discarding a part of myself, inauthentically. Moreover, I believe that these experiences not only shaped me, but that music was beckoning me.

A Jealous Mistress, Indeed

Even so, I made choices about what music would mean and the role it would play in my life that often silenced or at least quieted music’s call. We live in a world where art is still not perceived as the “safest” way to make a living, pecuniarily speaking. Not that I was thinking about that in junior high school when I elected to leave orchestra; I doubt that I was. But I shifted my attention back to my non-music studies in part because music was not easy. And by that I don’t mean that the difficulty was with the academic study or mastery of music, harmonies, or notes. Rather, performing had an unpredictability that felt both personal and identity threatening. For example, talent is often judged and as actors and others in the arts know, hearing “no” is just part of the arts game, as I experienced after auditioning for the gospel team in high school when I did not make the team. It takes focused determination to persevere after hearing “no,” though rejection is clearly not restricted to music. To invoke a lawyer turned author (a creative industries dualist for a time), John Grisham heard 28 no’s before his first publisher agreed to print A Time to Kill, which sold 5,000 copies in its first print run from Wynwood Press. 6 Unlike Grisham, for a time I didn’t focus on persevering to incorporate music in my life and career.
Besides, I heard other internal leanings and influences and listened to them, in part because those pursuits seemed to me more practical and more apt to serve as vocations. For example, I was drawn to writing early on, to the intricacies of using words, whether persuasively or otherwise. I was also instinctively attracted to methodical questioning and challenging of assumptions – analytical predispositions that I did not label or really recognize as such until I went to graduate school to obtain a Master of Public Administration (MPA). It was then that my analytic receptors were first turned on, with the help of attentive professors, and engaged around public policy issues that seemed a natural precursor to law school.
My vocational musings were influenced by media, fueled by 1980s movies and books about glamorous careers and by my own desire to achieve in the business, rather than arts, world. (Who knew that I would be able to partially combine both ambitions as an entertainment lawyer? But that story comes later.) Dreams of corporate ascension eclipsed the world of auditions and vocal ambition that was fed less often and therefore seemed more foreign, and more distant.
Along the way, particularly while serving as a presidential management fellow 7 for the federal government, I received feedback from colleagues and friends encouraging me to consider law school. I don’t recall having thought about it much until then. But I figured they saw qualities in me that might contribute to my success as a lawyer, so I decided to investigate it.
Initially, the exploration was purely pragmatic, just to see if I could afford law school, then on to taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). I had considered pursuing a Master of Business Administration before getting my MPA and had therefore taken the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), the entrance exam for business schools. I did not do well on the GMAT, yet when I examined some of the study materials designed to introduce the LSAT and provide practice questions, it surprisingly felt like I was “home.” A test based on logic and reasoning problems resonated for me in a way the GMAT had not. I don’t say this to suggest that the LSAT was easy for me; I took and needed to take a prep course, and even then my score was respectable, not stellar. Rather, there was something that felt “right” about the LSAT that seemed an intellectual fit and bolstered my confidence enough to apply to law schools located near my residence at that time.
At that point, I had made an investment of time, having not only researched law schools and taken the LSAT but also having applied for financial aid, put together an application essay that I genuinely believed, etc. (lawyers reading this have done the same, so you know the drill) and was also just plain curious as to whether I would get accepted anywhere. As I have often shared when advising pre-law students, once you make an investment the compulsion to seek the investment’s return can become a corollary of necessity, along with the feeling that there is no turning back after that – a phenomenon known as “escalation of commitment.”8 Here’s how this concept played out in my case: once I was admitted to law school I saw admission as an opportunity I “could not” turn down, so I “had” to go. Once I invested the time and money to attend, I felt I “had” to complete it. (Actually, I took a year off law school to contemplate a full-time singing career and considered not completing law school at all; more on that in a later chapter.) Upon graduation, I felt “compelled” to take the bar exam. Upon passage of the bar exam, I felt “compelled” to practice law, seeking the ultimate and logical return on all prior investments. You get the idea – lots of internal imperatives that spanned several years. Perhaps this is your story too, in terms of the continuing internal imperatives, whether within the context of law or outside it. You have built a case in your mind for things you believe you “must” do now that you’ve started down a certain path.
Once I began to practice law I felt its demands, as suggested by that adage I mentioned in the Introduction, referring to the law as a “jealous mistress.”9 Additionally, meeting its challenges can be rewarding on many levels. Public perceptions of lawyers and the legal profession are mixed; on the one hand, the profession is generally perceived as ethically challenged, accounting for a wealth of lawyer jokes and denigrations, some even derived from literary misinterpretations.10 On the other hand, lawyers are generally seen as professionals, privileged, intellectual, integral to social justice and the rule of law. For these reasons, it is a profession that many have aspired to, and I was as drawn to that as to anything. Despite its imperfections, the legal profession has traditionally held a place of esteem and dignity in the United States, and for me it is an honor to be a part of it. When I was sworn into the Court of Appeals of Maryland (a highly meaningful ceremony to which I invited my parents, who lovingly attended) I listened carefully to the oath I was to take and took it to heart: to uphold the law, to “demean myself fairly and honorably as an attorney and practitioner at law…”11

Battle Lines: The Career Duality Dilemma

If my impassioned tribute to the legal profession seems the least bit clichéd, these perspectives were nonetheless part of an authentic call to the law for me. Yet its appeal was a double-edged sword, one that I sometimes used to battle back the call of music. The battle lines were more clearly drawn as I increasingly noticed music yielding to the priority of attending to non-music vocational pursuits, including maintaining a law practice, engendering what felt like a constant fight to keep music from disappearing from my life altogether.
This contest, perhaps an outright war, between the analytical self and the artistic self illustrates the Career Duality dilemma (CD/Di), the problem this book explores. For me, the dilemma was somewhat obscured at times since entertainment law, the primary focus for my practice, permitted me to express my analytic self within the context of the creative industries. For example, whenever attending a concert performance or music conference for my practice I felt privileged, thinking “Wow, I get to listen to music for a living!” Likewise, counseling and doing the work of entertainment industry clients offered an almost vicarious industry experience, sort of living the art through a client. But living vicariously was, at best, a temporary delight that did not facilitate use of my own creative abilities. Listening to music for a living, as exciting and cool as that is, was light years away from creating or performing it.
Light years! So how was it possible that I could experience this persistent, rewarding, and satisfying call to the law – and heed it – potentially diminishing my musical abilities and 20+ years of performance experience that I’ve described here as deeply meaningful? What to do with the enduring, original call to a correspondingly gratifying world of creativity? This is the CD/Di – the internal conflict and decisional predicament created when one perceives one’s own internal duality in terms of a dual analytical and artistic self, and experiences a dual call to two different entertainment industry vocational pursuits. Theories of calling are discussed in subsequent chapters; for now, let us say that it is that internal sense of attraction I’ve described above as a compelling beckoning, in my case to both music and the law.
Even though CD/Di was fully at work in my vocational life, it was not until I began to persistently pose these questions to myself that an eye-opening, fierce CD/Di battle began. Valiantly performing when I could and writing music infrequently, the law was usually the victor and I began to more fully consider the importance of blending my artistic and analytical selves. Recounting my own story has an admittedly cathartic value, on a personal level, yet the purpose of sharing it and the stories of other dualists profiled in Chapter 3 and throughout the book is aimed at examining real-life illustrations of CD/Di and its impact, for the CD/Di battle is perplexing, adamant, and real.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is “escalation of commitment?”
  2. Define and describe CD/Di.
  3. Explain the correlation between escalation of commitment and CD/Di.
The objective of this exercise is to investigate the presence of personal CD/Di.
Perhaps you journeyed with me, recalling your own singing, or playing, or acting, or writing, or filmmaking, or (you fill in the blank) experiences. Complete the following exercise to further that exploration. Begin with identifying pivotal moments and progress to contemplating your own experience with CD/Di.
  1. Starting with elementary school or earlier: What is your early big artist moment (e.g., my Ford Auditorium glee club experience)? What do you see? Whom do you remember? Where are you? What do you feel?
  2. Perhaps your business context is artist management, or working as an agent, or in marketing, promotion, etc., either entrepreneurially or for an entertainment company, in a non-artist capacity. What is your big non-artist moment, where you recognized and experienced the satisfaction of expressing your analytical self vocationally (e.g., my moment of being sworn in to the Court of Appeals)?
  3. What is your CD/Di moment? When did you recognize the dilemma of being conflicted about whether to work as an artist versus in an analytical position (e.g., my decision to take a year off law school to explore a music career)? Identify the moment (and date/year, if possible) and the thoughts that precipitated the sense of a career dilemma.
  4. If you do not sense CD/Di, have you made a career decision you are comfortable with? If you have, how did you make the decision?

Additional Journaling

  1. If you identified an experience for (1) above but not (2) or vice versa, journal about why.
  2. If you did not identify any experience for either (1) or (2) above, journal about why. What are your career goals? How do you envision yourself working in the entertainment industry, or another industry?
1 Mark Morris observed “not so long ago every home held a piano and everybody could play one.” Mark Morris, Toni Martin, Anne Wagner, Wassily Kandinsky, Sarah Rothenberg, Erik Tarloff, Rachel Cohen, and Ethan Iverson...

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