Music City Mondays is an ongoing video series of observations, stories, interviews, and industry tips from me, Music City 101 founder Scott Metko. In episode #33 I kicked off the series, with observations from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1848 essay The Law Of Compensation, and how that relates to the sacrifices all of us make to follow our dreams. Working in the music business since I was 10, my observations relate to the goals I’ve set in that industry, sacrifices I’ve made, the dreams I’ve seen come true, and those I am still chasing.
In this week’s episode, I talk to my rhythm brother, bassist Kevin Corbo. He & I lay down the foundation for Aaron Sparling and the Hippies & Cowboys band, playing an average of 5 one-nighters every week.
I don’t usually blog after an interview, but Kevin dropped so many nuggets of GOLD from his (comparatively short) time in the music business, I had to write this and document it all, so y’all get it! Here’s the price that Kevin has paid to follow his dreams:
Initially, Kevin tried to “strong-arm” his way into a successful career in music, trying to name his price of what he felt he was worth. What he found was the MOST successful approach was much simpler: get together with friends, have fun, make music, just doing what he loves to do, and what he came to this town to do. And if you follow Aaron Sparling’s tour calendar, you will see just that: we are working ALL the time.
As far as sacrifices, Kevin realized he has given up a more predictable, mapped-out approach to success: choose a profession, go to school, learn the skills, and apply for work in that field. The entertainment business is not like that. Getting a degree from Berklee, Belmont, or North Texas for example, does NOT guarantee any type of work in the industry. There are no guidance counselors in your senior year, ready to set you up with an audition to be Little Big Town’s guitarist.
Kevin advises 1) taking the time to become skilled at your craft, first and foremost, and 2) develop your personality and attitude to the point where you are easy to work with.
“Being a good hang” is often one of the most important deciding factors, between two people with similar skill levels. Yes, it is possible to continually and consistently work on yourself, as well as your talent. Develop those two areas to the point where people will begin to notice you, and you can command some level of attention in your area.
When the opportunities come, it’s best to choose a team around you (in this case, a band), of people you can trust. People that will allow you to be yourself, but also allow you to check your ego. Be humble, and be a contributing part of that team, rather than trying to stand out, and be the star of that team.
But there is a balance between checking your ego, and taking abuse. Kevin advises you avoid those situations where you are not allowed to speak up, and give opinions or input. In other words, respect yourself to the point where you hold out for situations where you will be respected for what you bring to the band, record label, songwriting team, music tech startup, whatever your dream may be.
There is always a risk of “backing the wrong pony,” but at the same time, it is important to make the artist you work for, as successful as possible. That in turn, leads to your own success.
Kevin sums it up: get the skills you need, be persistent, make the right connections & you will be unstoppable.
I wrap it up with my own observations, but you’ll have to watch the video to see that.