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Entertainment

Music and the day job

SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil - The Philippine Star
Music and the day job
Unfortunately, success stories in music are few and far between and the talented, dedicated but languishing in hand-to-mouth existence is more the norm. But that is the state of the local music industry. Jose Mari Chan spoke from the heart like every parent concerned about the future of his children when asked for advice to young composers by host Boy Abunda on his GMA show Fast Talk. So keep that day job. It is a fact that even the most successful ones do.
Photo from Fast Talk With Boy Abunda

In a recent interview, host Boy Abunda asked music icon Jose Mari Chan what advice he can give to young composers. Chan replied and his exact words were: “…with technology changed, it’s very hard to live on music. That’s why my advice to the young composers, young singers is that, use that as a hobby on the side, but get another career, either in law, accounting or medicine and then, just do music on the side. Don’t lose it completely because that’s God’s given gift to you.”

Seemed harmless. But not for instant bashers who found everything wrong with Chan’s answer. It was not really bashing as we are familiar with on social media. You know, the kind that just preys on celebrities. These ones came up in defense of music and took the famous singer and composer to task for advising young people to only do music on the side.

What Chan dished out the oh so familiar reply that most children get from their parents after they declare that they want to go into music as a career. “Music, music, walang pera diyan.  Kuha ka na lang ng business.”

The parents are not just thinking of the expense that four or more years at the conservatory would entail. They are also considering the future and the uncertain means of livelihood that most musicians have to cope with. In short, this means that Chan was very right. Keep the music but get a day job.

Of course, there are ways that musicians can support themselves and even a family through music. One is, become a star. And make it a big one like Chan or better yet, Sarah Geronimo, who did not need to go to music school. That is because she was born to be a star. I believe strongly that stars are born not made. One can have the talent. One can spend millions on promo, but if he were not born with that lucky star, he will forever be just one of those. So, this method is only for the born-to-be-a-star few. By the way, Chan was.

Another one is to study music and then, make sure that one has a steady, regular and well-paying gig. In this case, I think of somebody like conductor Rodel Colmenar who seems to be in huge demand from weddings of the affluent set to theater musicals to major concerts at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. He is making a living in music. This method though takes years of study, some investment cost, knowing the right people and most especially being good at the job which Colmenar is.

There is also as in the old days with the likes of Mozart, Brahms, Chopin, etc., that rich, generous patron or as they call them today, sponsors who will take care of the living expenses to enable composers to keep writing songs. Vic del Rosario Jr. of Vicor and later Viva, employed George Canseco, Willy Cruz and other songwriters to nurture their talents and help them create their hit songs.

It also takes a lot of guts to succeed in the music business as in the case of Vehnee Saturno. He wanted to be a songwriter, so he ditched his regular job and plunged into music full time. It was great that he also turned out to be an astute businessman who parlayed his hitmaking prowess into music production, a recording studio, a training school for young talents and other music related trades.

Unfortunately, success stories in music are few and far between and the talented, dedicated but languishing in hand-to-mouth existence is more the norm. I know of bands who would do gigs in exchange for dinner and a share of the gate receipts and after three grueling sets will go home with P300 each.

You can bet though that they would be back again the next evening. Maybe there will be a bigger audience. Maybe one of them will be a label executive, who will give them that big break.  Most of the time though, it is only, “para makatugtog lang.”

Sad. Pathetic. But that is the state of the local music industry. Jose Mari Chan spoke from the heart like every parent concerned about the future of his children. So keep that day job. It is a fact that even the most successful ones do.

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JOSE MARI CHAN

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