Sunday, March 6, 2011

"It's not like it use to be"

There is one thing that is constant in the entertainment business and that is change.

Take movies - Silent films, then talkies, then color, 3D, then video, then DVD, then digital distribution.  All within a hundred years. Less.

Television - B & W, Color, VHS/Beta, cable, satellite.  All in less than 60 years.

Music - 78's, 33's, 45's, 8-track, cassette, CD, digital.

Every time a major change happens we are told this is the end of the business as we know it.  Of course it is.  And this is a good thing.  That is if you are adaptable.  In fact change provides great opportunities for those have the foresight to get ahead of the curve and take a chance.  Change gives you a chance. If you were the first in town to buy a 24-track tape machine in the 70's or the first digital editing bay in the 80's, or the first ProTools rig in the 90's you probably still have a career today, if you kept being first.  No one is going to intentionally surrender their business to you.  You have to find that gap.  That entrance.  That service that no one is providing.  Not just once, but the smart ones do it throughout their careers.  Adapt or die.  It's very Darwinian.  I believe it as applied here.

When cassettes came about the record companies worried that people would stop buying records.  That kind of happened.  But then digital CD's came out, and everybody, including myself, bought replacement copies of many of their albums.  You can't hardly find cassettes any more.  The giants in the industry, ie. the labels, could control the medium and create the next "need".  But now that digital exists, it's gotten much more difficult for the majors to affect technological sea changes.  We still don't know the  ultimate result of that yet.  Won't for a while.  But it's opened many opportunities for even hobbyists to get their music made and out there.  I, as a session player, work for a lot of hobbyists.  Truth be told, they sometimes have more money.

I've been told for almost thirty years, regarding session work in LA, "it's not like it use to be". I understand that there are some guys hurting because they were making a lot more in the seventies and eighties then today.  Though to some degree I say, "thank God it's not the same!"

In the sixties there were basically three networks.  Today there are over 500 cable channels. Smart players built a studio and started writing.  More back end income in writing too.

In the sixties the "Wrecking Crew" did a majority of the good work.  Who's the Wrecking Crew?  They were a group of about 30 musicians, Hal Blaine, Tommy Tedesco, Carol Kaye, among many others who played on a majority of the major records produced in LA.  Beach Boys, Mamas and Papas, The Monkees, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, The Partridge Family, Phil Spector records, and many others.  I heard Hal Blaine say in an interview that at one point he was doing six "three hour" sessions a day!  They had cots in the studios for the "crew" members to sleep on between gigs.  Aside from being unhealthy, it's just not fair.

There is an excellent documentary about the Wrecking Crew.  If you can get a chance to see it I highly recommend it.  It's interesting, when I saw it, my wife and I had two very different emotional reactions afterwards.  I opined for such days filled with cool work with great players... the "old" days.  She was just proud of me that I made a living doing what I do.

A large part of why I moved to LA was because of Wrecking Crew member Tommy Tedesco's monthly column in Guitar Player magazine in the 70's call "Studio Log".  He would humorously talk about a film, TV or record date he had recently done, include a bit of a chart and tick off the instruments played, the leader, the time and most importantly the pay.

My career has morphed from a fledgling one into an embryonic one, mainly out of necessity, sometimes by choice and occasionally by force.  But I keep my musical and creative tendons limber enough to change directions when the seas "suggest" it.  My career has been on a slow arc.

Some resources...
Hal Blaine and the Wrecking Crew: The Story of the World's Most Recorded Musician (Book)
Backbeat: Earl Palmer's Story
Tommy Tedesco - Confessions of a Guitar Player
For Guitar Players Only
Tommy Tedesco: Anatomy of a Guitar Player
Carol Kaye Bass DVD Course

No comments:

Post a Comment