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Filed Under on March 22nd, 2011

Family Maxims #18

By Seth Kabala

I overheard some teenagers talking about getting someone to master their demo cd so they would have a product to sell when they played a gig later that week, and I rolled my eyes.

These kids are musicians at my church, so I’ve heard them perform, and while they might have admirable guitar chops for being so young, their voices are the professional equivalent of comparing apples that have fallen off a tree and have begun to ferment to a bottle of Hornsby’s Hard Cider. One is a fine, finished, mature product. The other has potential, but a long way to go before it’s a marketable product.

As a singer, I’m aware that it is the frontman/woman in a band that get’s all the attention, regardless of how much they might suck. Fred Durst is a sub-par singer, does okay within his milieu. He doesn’t suck, and I’ll bet a number of you remember that he fronted Limp Bizkit–that is to say he stood in front of the band members. Point is, we remember him.

But how many people remember Wes Borland, the guitarist? Maybe you remember his Exorcist-esque contacts, but you probably don’t remember his name. Why? Because he wasn’t the frontman.

Undoubtedly, the guitarist is an essential part of a rock band, but it’s the singer that gets the glory. That’s why bands can live on if instrumentalists quit. But rarely, except in the case of Scott Stapp, who had a good McDonald’s drive-thru voice, does a band survive the exit of a singer.

These teenage wannabees, almost in the same poorly-trained breath, began discussing how much they loved their pointless (my adjective) jobs working as grocery store cashiers. How much fun it was to mess around with the intercom and throw candy bars and then duck so no one was the wiser. How the management at one store was all business, while the management at another store all smoked weed, so that was, like, definitely the one you wanted to work at.

From this incongruence of talking points, I remembered my own foray into the music business at age 23. It went like this:

1. Kid has some talent
2. Kid fails to recognize that talent is undeveloped
3. Kid makes demo
4. Kid expects record contract and instant riches
5. Kid sends demo to artist and repertoire (a&r) people
6. Kid gets one negative critique, his only critique
7. Kid quits the business

Over the ensuing seven years that have passed since my bottle-rocket soared and sputtered in the music business, I have developed my voice into maturity. It took time. It took patience. Ceteris Paribus I now have a realistic shot at making a side-living with music, if only on a small, local scale.

But we all know that things don’t stay the same from moment to moment, and certainly not decade to decade. With growing family and do-this-because-it-puts-food-on-the-table responsibilities, my time is limited to pursue my dreams.

Even so, I am undeterred, because I now know what it takes to achieve success, which is why I wrote the following saying that I posted on my work wall, and which comes to us as Family Maxim #18:

The Kabala family shall recognize that those holding an IOU from the world have a toxic asset, and we shall instead strive to be the banker.

Stating dreams in the same sentence as your assessment of the candy-bar throwing technique of one of your cohorts, forgetting that people really can tell if you’re a bad singer, refusing to push on past the he’s-full-of-shit feelings regarding a bad critique to see the truth (that you’re not ready) are sure-fire ways to fail.

Maybe those kids will make it. But I’m betting not. Not until they quit eating rancid apples. Not until they taste the reality of Hornsby’s.


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Seth Kabala

About: Seth Kabala
Seth is an entrepreneur, writer, and musician. He lives with his wife and three children in Portland, OR.

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