I used to be embarrassed to tell people what I do for a living, but I think I can say with a fair amount of confidence that my job title reads:
Shannon Allen: Singer/Actress/Performer (sometimes professional life-liver AKA take money where I can)
June 4th will mark my two-year anniversary in New York, and I’ve been thinking a lot about all the people I’ve met here since I’ve moved to this illustrious city. Many of my friends are actors/musicians/singers, but some of them aren’t. Some of my friends are working stiffs, whom I admire very much for being able to work a 9-5 job in an office, in uncomfortable (yet stylish) clothes, in a stressful working environment, while I sit in holding doing background for film/tv reading my Vogue and grabbing snacks from craft food services.
No matter what the career path, my friends and I share one thing in common: We are always trying to get to the next level.
For my acting/musician friends, a lot of times this means something along the lines of a bigger part, or getting a callback, or getting an interview with an agent, or booking a show with a bigger band, or getting x-amount of hits on a music video, or playing at a festival…
The list is endless…
However, it seems like we are all hustling for the next level, yet struggling to figure out what form our “golden ticket” will present itself.
Lately I’ve taken some gigs, both music and acting, where I felt I may have been taken advantage of as an artist. And I don’t mean monetarily, because I’m willing to do things for free if there is a reasonable payout, such as a credit, something for my resume/reel, etc.
SIDE RANT: I’m sorry. I just need to address this RIGHT now. Lately there have been all these articles about how singers “use” musicians without paying for them, and how any singer who can’t pay his/her musicians should not be leading a band.
Let me tell you something right now: this personally offends me to my CORE. TO MY DAMN COREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.
Yes, I am a band leader. Do I have the money to pay my musicians the way I would like to? Absolutely not. But how the FUCK are you going to tell me to do so? Out of my in-debt-with-student-loans ASS?? I’m all about the barter. You help me, I’ll help you. You record with me? I’ll lay vocals on a track for you. You gig with me and we get tips? We split evenly. You record my album with me? You get credits and you better believe I will FIGHT for your talent WHEN (not IF) I become a bigger name some day.
When I saw some friends post these articles; musicians who I love and respect with every fiber in me, whom I would FIGHT for as players forever… It made me Sad Shan 😦
With that being said, I UNDERSTAND that people need to get paid for their craft. But there has to be give and take. When I book myself for gigs, no one gives a fuck who I am. Booking agents don’t care that I went to Berklee, or that I can sing my ass off, or that I’m talented. Talent buyers want to know that I can sell tickets, fill up a room and make them money. I’ve worked on both sides of this equation; I know how it goes.
So back to my original thought: How exactly does one get to the “next level?”
When I meet successful people, I often ask them how they achieved what they have at the moment. A lot of the answers are sometimes based on sheer luck. So-and-so was there at the right place, right time for X,Y,Z casting director, music producer, manager, agent, etc to believe in them. Others hustle and become successful through things like YouTube or blogs or Buzzfeed or Instagram of all things. Sometimes it’s a money thing. People say money talks, and it absolutely does. If I had the money to do nothing but produce my own music and pitch it to people, you better believe that is ALL that would consume my days.
So where do we go from here? Do we grind, and grind; listening to the endless “no” given from all the people in power? Do we try new avenues of pushing our craft? Do we consult an expert (ie a class, a lesson, a mentor) to hone our skills?
What do we do?
What do I do?
What is the next step that can get me to the next level.
Lord knows I’m not quitting any time soon, but sometimes I think to myself, “Am I going to be trying for this unreachable goal for the rest of my life? Will I ever be good enough for a casting director, or manager, or agent, or theater, or publisher, or film, or television?”
One of the most valuable things I took away from the speech John Mayer gave to us at Berklee was the fact that only those who give up on their dreams are the ones who will tell you that you can’t make it. He said that in his experience, the only people who were totally against him “making it” in the industry, were people who had since given up on their big hopes and dreams and that every single “successful” artist he’s ever come across has always been encouraging. He also said that, unlike the NBA (making an analogy of the NBA player cap) that the music industry (apply this to any creative career) does not have a cap on how many people can be successful. There is room for EVERYONE to be an artist.
Everyone can create.
Everyone can find their own success.
I just need to keep telling myself that.
I know my time will come. I’m far from lazy. I’m aware of my talent level. I’m always striving for greatness.
Right now I’m just a little bogged down trying to figure out my “next level” and how to climb that next mountain.
Thanks, Dr. Frank-N-Furter!
Shannon Rose Allen