Arlen Roth on Climbing the Musical Ladder
Music is very different than any other professions. In most other jobs which are considered “corporate”, you have a fairly set and progressive way in which you can “move up the corporate ladder”, and provided that everything goes smoothly, you can almost predict what you’ll be doing and what you’ll be making in future years.
When you are basically “freelance” as many people in The Arts are, you have to basically “make your own” way up that “ladder”, whatever it really may end up being. It’s a totally different rhythm of life when it comes to “jobs”, and there can be endless jobs involved over what can be considered your “career.” There were times when I had gigs that lasted a while, and which enabled me to even collect Unemployment Insurance when the gig was over, which in my early years certainly made me feel as if things had moved in a more “corporate” direction, but those little payoffs didn’t ever really last very long!
There was the more “steady” gigs I had, such as writing for Guitar Player Magazine for over 10 years, and also of course, doing my books, but a lot of that really only amounted to what my rhythm guitarist recently referred to as “mailbox money” to me! That “mailbox money” is important for sure, especially when you can take into account things such as songwriting royalties, Musician’s Union checks, book royalties and even radio performances from entities such as ASCAP, BMI and others.
You have to be prepared in this business of playing the guitar to not only watch your “rise up the ladder” to go up and down, but also to learn to diversify your many talents into new and rewarding things that you could “count on.” And nobody knows more than me that you really can count on almost nothing when it comes to life. I had the world by the strings with the dream business Hot Licks I had created with my wife and our whole entire family was riding high on the fact that my 14 year-old daughter Gillian had just landed herself a major TV contract with Nickelodeon when both my wife and daughter were killed in a car accident. The entire world crashed down on me.
So, I have been in the rebuilding stage ever since that accident 15 years ago, and being able to talk to you and teach you through things such as Gibson.com and to be able to continue to record and perform keep the flame alive in me that was ignited long ago when I first decided to play the guitar, and move up this essentially “non-existent”, but nonetheless real “ladder” to musical success! Sometimes it’s rocky, and can even be destroyed, but if you persevere, you will always stand a good chance of “making it!”