Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Paying your dues….How important is it?

You hear the term bandied about a lot. “Paying your dues”. What exactly does it mean?

In the 70’s, it meant playing in garage bands, graduating to local bar bands, to the regional scenes, i.e. The Jersey Shore circuit, or the Florida circuit, maybe opening for a large act, then finally, after acquiring a following, graduating to the national scene. Much like Bruce Springsteen did.

Then there’s having a relative in the business opening doors for you. Getting those meeting that are so important to deal-making, hiring an agent, recording a demo, signing with a major label and putting out a CD. Like Ashlee Simpson. Doesn’t matter if you have any singing talent, your CD still gets played on the radio.

What about genuine talent? Where and how does that fit into the equation? What if someone has genuine talent? Do they still have to ‘pay their dues’ before they’re considered contenders for fame and fortune? According to most in the media, they do.

We hear this mostly in relation to the American Idol stars who make the Top 10, but especially those who win or come in second or third, especially those in the first two seasons. Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken. We hear them called karaoke singers or worse. Yet unbeknownst to most of the media, at least those who don’t do their research, these people have paid their dues. They’ve been singing since childhood, in bars, in church, in Community Theater, in talent shows, in choirs, in bands. Kelly Clarkson knocked on doors way before American Idol, making a demo CD and moving to Hollywood to try to get her foot in the door. Ruben Studdard sang Gospel at church; he majored in music at college, and performed with his band, just a Few Cats for several years before auditioning for American Idol. Clay Aiken sang in church, with The Raleigh Boys Choir, with a band called Just By Chance, and did several community theater productions, Hometown Connections, and Johnson County Community College Shows. He was also a wedding singer.

Why do people like Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Christina Aquilera get a pass? Don’t forget, they were all discovered on the New Mickey Mouse Club. How is that different than American Idol? It’s not.
Britney Spears did off-Broadway productions as a child and was on Star Search.

Justin Timberlake
was on Star Search before
appearing on The New Mickey Mouse Club.

Christina Aguilera did local talent contests before losing on Star Search, then appearing on, you guessed it, The new Mickey Mouse Club.

There are all kinds of dues paying, it’s not just doing the local bar or club scene that counts, it’s any and all experience one accumulates throughout their lives in their chosen field of work.

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CB said...

Which is why I hope more of Clay's backstory gets out there. The work in the country bands, the hosting and producing the Hometown Connection shows, etc. He didn't just walk out of a classroom as a teacher and start singing on American Idol.

I've never understood how no talents or teen princesses get "street cred" when others do not. I do think that AI has gotten more credibility in recent years and so the fact that he has succeeded without "winning" (which is a total moot point now) just means that much more.

The ConCLAYve-Nan said...

It really is a backlash because of American Idol and the fact that the contestants sing other people's songs, I think. Nashville Star didn't get the same kind of bitching. And certainly at one time, singing at talent shows was a way to get exposure and experience. Of course, Clay himself has downplayed any of his past experience in favor of the teacher narrative . . . so it will be really interesting to see what kind of interviews he gives for the new CD. I can't wait to see and hear him!

Pink Armchair said...

Amen! I find it so infuriating that somehow whoever makes it to the finals on American Idol somehow sprang up from nowhere and had apparently never opened his or her mouth before. Ridiculous. As you've pointed out, for the most part by the time you see these folks on your TV, they already have years of experience and hard knocks behind them. It's a very tough life and they deserve a lot of credit for hanging in there. A lot more than somebody like Ashlee Simpson who's riding on her sister's skimpy coattails (and they're very skimpy indeed!) and is vocally augmented anyway. Well, nobody ever said showbiz is fair! Very interesting blog.