One of the most commonly asked questions across all of my social media platforms is, “What advice do you have for aspiring performers?”
I could literally write a book…but I don’t have the patience! So, I’ve narrowed it down to the top 5 things I have learned and found very beneficial in my years of experience in both the theater world and the music industry.
I could show you a video of my 9 year-old self performing, and, while my passion and commitment to the craft is undeniable, the actual level of talent is questionable. If one was to speculate as to whether or not I would ever make a dollar let alone sustain an entire career as a singer and performer based on the skill set of my younger self. . .the answer would surely be “NO.” I don’t even think you would find much ‘star quality’ in any of my junior high or high school performances, either. My craft has been steadily honed and cultivated through the years. It was the conscious choice I made over and over again through my behaviors, mindset and commitment. While being naturally talented clearly doesn’t hurt, it is not the ONLY nor the most important factor in being successful.
Download / Order”Sorry” from our ‘PMJ and Chill’ album:
1. CREATE YOUR OWN OPPORTUNITIES: Don’t wait around for the perfect job to land in your lap, and don’t feel as though there is only one specific route to get you where you want to go. Book your own shows, create your own content (videos, recordings, blogs, series, YouTube channels), write your own music and material, perform for free, give your music away for free, take advantage of social media, show up at the jam sessions or open mic nights, be bold in your requests (but don’t be afraid of hearing ‘no’) and introduce yourself to people with whom you’d like to collaborate or work. It is most often a combination of being recognizable, of the relationships you form and of your visibility that will create the expansion of your career!
I have long been an advocate of creating work for myself. Maybe it’s a function of the fact that I’m always wanting and needing to be busy and productive and hate sitting still, but in doing so I have not only fed my creative spirit and kept myself happy and sane but also kept the momentum and the forward movement going in my career. I always say: “work begets work!”
2. DEVELOP THICK AND RESILIENT SKIN AND DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY: This is a tough one because unlike a lot of other professions, it’s very difficult to separate what we do from who we are. So when someone isn’t interested in working with ‘what we do’ or ‘how we do’ it, it’s easy to take it to mean that they aren’t interested in ‘who we are.’ Often times, we find it hard not to take this so- called ‘rejection’ personally. Well, don’t! Don’t let a ‘no’ bring down your energy or stop your momentum. You will get knocked down and turned away many, many times. . .probably more times than you will hear ‘yes’ or be praised for your skill. The important part is how quickly you bounce back and up. I’ve learned to consider a ‘no’ a blessing and have often found that life is either sparing me from something not so great, or preparing me for something even greater! Be thankful for the time saved, trust that what is meant for YOU cannot miss you, and continue on your journey turning over stones. Next!
Shoshana live on #PMJtour in Europe.
3. KEEP THE ‘WHY’ AT THE CORE OF YOUR INTENTIONS ALWAYS: Why do you want to be in this profession? To be rich and famous? To move people? To prove your high school choir teacher wrong? Really ask yourself the question and be honest about the answer. What comes from the heart reaches the heart, so first and foremost make certain that performing is actually what lights you up from the inside out and makes your heart happy! If it doesn’t. . .I suggest you find the thing that does and do that instead. I’ve had so many checkpoints in my career where I felt like I’d run out of gas and no longer had the energy nor the desire to keep pushing the freight train uphill. Because let’s be honest: that’s what it feels like sometimes.
When it comes down to that moment a friend says “Ok, so you’ll quit the business and then what is it you want to do instead?” I can’t answer the question. . . .because there is nothing else!!! And onward I go. This business is too difficult to have any questions, doubts or back-up plans. I’ve always said if you actually have a plan B. . . .go with plan B. Knowing the purpose and intention for your choices will keep you focused, committed, grounded and determined when things get challenging. And they will.
4. BE A PRO: Show up on time (which means show up early), be prepared, bring the tools you need (the right shoes, pencils, recording devices, water etc.) respect the work by learning the material ahead of time, respect your co-workers and their ideas and opinions, and respect whomever is in charge. Even if you’re smarter. Return emails and calls promptly, and communicate clearly about all business matters, including money!!! Don’t be afraid to discuss pay. Know your worth, ask for what you deserve and follow up to be paid in a timely manner. The more room you give people to be sloppy, or to disrespect your time and your business. . .the more they will. Only take jobs that you are excited about and that you know you’ll be able to show up with a smile on your face and a positive, flexible attitude. I have certainly taken a LOT of jobs before JUST for the money, and have hated the job itself. I would show up ill-prepared, not take it seriously, get an attitude. . . all because I resented the gig which I should never have taken in the first place. That behavior definitely burned some bridges for me.
Before I accept a job, I ask for all the pertinent particulars and then I honestly ask myself, “Shoshana, considering all the information you know about this gig, weighing all the pros and cons, can you show up to work like this is the best and most important gig you’ve ever done, with gratitude in your heart and a smile on your face?”. If the answer is unequivocally “yes” then I take the gig. But if there is any question that I may not be able to show up as my best self, I graciously decline.
Beyond that, be dependable. When you commit to a gig or a rehearsal or a meeting, have the integrity to honor your commitment to the end. Nothing frustrates me more than working with people who pull out or cancel at the last minute. These may all sound like very obvious suggestions. . .but you would be shocked how many working singers, musicians and performers are sloppy business people. As someone who has certainly been one of them, worked with some of them, and hired a lot of them. . .I encourage you not to be one. Being a pro may not always be acknowledged, but as someone who hires musicians and singers all the time, when the day comes that the job is down to you and another person and while you’re both equally as talented, I’m ALWAYS going to choose the harder worker, the more dependable one who shows up knowing the music and is happy to be a part of my project. I’ve learned that I will take heart and dedication over talent ANY day.
Download / Order”I Want It That Way” from our ‘Selfies on Kodachrome’ album:
It’s wonderful to admire people and be inspired by other artists, but no single person on this planet has the gifts and the experiences and the traits that you have nor can they express them in the way that you can. That in and of itself is special and more than enough to set you apart.
One day when I was comparing myself to another artist and rendering my talent completely useless next to hers, a friend of mine asked me, “Sho, who do you think was a greater artist: Michael Jackson or James Brown?” Of course I was stuck. I couldn’t answer the question directly, so I started to try and reason my way to the answer, which made it even more difficult. . .and he finally said “Neither one is better than the other! They’re both amazing – but they’re different!”
The point is there is not only room for all kinds of greatness, but there is a NEED for it!!! Don’t waste one second of your time trying to be like someone else or aiming to be the next Bruno Mars or Adele. We already have them. What we don’t have yet is the first YOU!
Download / Order “Stonecold” from our ‘Swing The Vote’ album:
Shoshana Bean is an award winning singer, songwriter, and actress known for her roles in Broadway's Wicked and her work in a number of Postmodern Jukebox videos. She is currently starring in North Shore Theatre's production of Funny Girl. Tweet her and say hi!
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