GUITAR PLAYER’S FACEBOOK PAGE
posted a question asking readers what
they wanted me to talk about, and many
of you said, “career advice.” Unfortunately,
it’s really tough to give career
advice to a guitarist in 2010—especially
if you’re looking to be a session player.
That gig is almost non-existent. There
are not many players who still do this
sh*t, and those who do have to tap dance
to keep things going. They have their own
home studios with their gear all set up,
and clients send them audio files. There’s
less and less human contact. It’s really
kind of scary.
The studio camaraderie of the ’70s
and ’80s has disappeared, because recording
budgets have disappeared. The record
companies got hip to people making
records at home, so they cut back the
budgets. Now, by necessity, people have
become very meticulous about recording
costs. They’ll go, “Here’s what I can pay.
Take your time and send me a couple of
different solos, and a couple of different
rhythm parts, and we’ll sift through it.”
So everybody makes their own deals, and
the rules change project by project.
For example, when I make my records,
I hire guys for a live session and pay them
what they’re worth. But I also use the
barter system. You know, you sing on my
record, I’ll play on yours, and we’re clean.
No money changes hands. That’s a good
approach because everyone is on a tight
budget, and whatever you don’t spend,
you get to keep, and that’s the money you
use to eat with.
The days of the Musician’s Union guy
checking up on a studio date are long
over. They can’t police this sh*t! Everyone
has a home studio, and they don’t
know what is going on, and I don’t care.
The union f**ked the record guys. The
guys who play film-soundtrack dates got
different deals, and they’ll get great pensions,
but the union dropped the ball so
poorly for the record guys that we don’t
have any allegiance to them at all. The
embarrassing amount of money I’ll get
from the Musician’s Union when I reach
pension age is a joke.
So I guess the best “career advice” for
session-musician hopefuls is to be a
movie guy, but the handful of guys who
do film soundtracks will never leave that
job. It’s a coveted position—almost like
a lifetime gig—but it’s also an intense pressure
reading job. There is no time to
get anything together—you look at the
dots and you read them—and even great
players can fold under that kind of pressure.
I think we’re talking about six guys
who hold those positions. Dean Parks is
probably the reigning king. He started
out as a saxophone player, so he can read
anything. He’s a quiet giant with a magical
touch who doesn’t just read notes—
he interprets the music. Now, a lot of
players can methodically sit and look at
the dots and play them, but can they put
any emotion into it? That’s what you have
to ask yourself if you really want to go
after a movie gig. Chops alone won’t
break you into that business.
Next issue: Reading and groove tips.