I remember it like it was yesterday. Eagerly awaiting the end of the school day, I had finally saved up enough money to buy the first album I ever actually wanted to purchase. As a pre-adolescent on the verge of his teenage years, I had suddenly become indescribably more interested in music thanks to hormones, a greater social awareness, or possibly a newfound attraction to girls. Great times, am I right?
After getting a ride to go buy Green Day’s masterpiece, American Idiot, I raced into my room and put the CD in a boombox. I must have listened to that album a hundred times at least. From there my world, and more specifically interests, changed. The next six to seven years included a plethora of guitar lessons, jam sessions, and of course headbanging to my favorite rock albums. While my skills playing the guitar increased tenfold over the years, I never really took my music career to the next level. Besides playing some small shows in front of classmates and attempting to record songs with friends, my understanding of the potential avenues for musicians to make a living was miniscule at best. Playing and recording music became a strong passion of mine, but when push came to shove I knew I my focus had to align with other talents and endeavors from which I knew I could make a living.
With hundreds, if not thousands of other musicians across the globe falling into the similar fate as myself given the unorganized, competitive nature of the music scene, this begs the question – how does a talented musician ‘make it’ in this day and age?
Readers needn’t look further than guitarist and singer-songwriter Javier Busquet, a humble talent hailing from Argentina who has somehow made a niche for himself where so many have failed. Busquet’s love for songwriting and playing the guitar evolved to include a passion for recording for film and television after deciding to study music in college, a transformation that has opened up numerous job opportunities for the talented musician.
While the music industry has been experiencing an identity crisis over the past decade or more, the film and entertainment industry has experienced a blossoming, with more shows now being made than humans are physically capable of watching. While lucrative, due to the demanding nature of film and television, only the most proficient composers and session players are called upon by showrunners and directors. Busquet recalls earning the opportunity to do session work for Brad Segal, composer for the hugely popular TV series The Bachelor, and learning first hand about the exhausting demands of the industry. “It was a challenging experience because of the nature of the shows that the music was provided for, and knowing that not meeting a deadline would mean changing the tone of the track completely, or the track not even being used at all,” says Busquet. “Sometimes the track was very dependent on the guitar to convey the emotion needed for a scene, so it was great, and a little stressful, to deal with this kind of creative pressure.” Other than having a composer, director, and people associated with the production of the show all depending on him, part of the pressure came from knowing that millions of viewers would hear Busquet’s work because of The Bachelor’s popularity. While the tangibles of creating a cohesive arrangement of music, and more specifically guitar, are clear, predicting how audiences will perceive those creative choices is anyone’s guess.
Successfully adapting to the needs of a composer and executing flawless session work is just half of the journey. In an industry like film/television, networking plays a debatably larger role than one’s individual talents or repertoire. “I used to hate the whole concept of networking and ‘selling’ yourself to every person you meet, but after arriving in LA it was clear that it’s more about who you know and not necessarily about how good you are,” says Busquet. For any hopeful musicians out there, Busquet is quick to dish out advice on the subject. He advises that even if a musician doesn’t post original content on a consistent basis, checking community Facebook groups within one’s area can lead to gigs and consequently collaborating with other musicians. In some instances during Busquet’s career, bands have posted that they need a last minute musician to fill a role for a show.
While these one-time gigs may not appear glamorous, it is through these collaborations that word spreads and networking occurs, and can do wonders for a musician early in his or her career as one gig leads to another and so forth. Reaching out on social media to other musicians one meets through performing or doing session work can also assist in associating one’s name with a given talent. Busquet says one of the most common questions he hears among those he has met within the industry is “what is your IG (Instagram) handle?”, portraying just how important it is to have a presence on social media, just to communicate if for nothing else.
With all this being said, readers may be thinking, a truly great and prosperous musician needs to have the ability to play live and have experience performing, right? True, but the flip-side of that coin contains the the ambition to continue performing at a higher and higher level. In other words, pushing oneself far outside an established comfort zone. A musician does not go from playing in one’s basement to playing in front of thousands overnight – it is an ability pursued and learned over time much like the craft of playing an instrument. Aside from his endeavors applying his musical capabilities to television and film, Busquet recently made a huge leap of confidence and tried out for the upcoming Broadway musical The Lion. After sending in video audition tapes, Busquet was finally asked to do a physical audition. In a move similar to the type of story audiences have come to expect from contestants on American Idol, Busquet flew to New York for the audition with only his guitar in hand and eager make a name for himself in the mecca for talented performers. “Waiting in that hall and hearing one fantastic singer after the next going in to tryout made me feel like I was part of this community with incredibly talented people at the top of their skill, aside from feeling very nervous,” recalls Busquet. Despite these feelings, Busquet earned the lead role, which will feature him playing and singing essentially as a one-man show with a cast of six guitars connected by monologues. The true story revolves around the life of Ben Scheuer and his journey dealing with an abusive father and a lost love, among other obstacles. With the production unfortunately on hold, fans should expect The Lion to hit Broadway sometime next year.
Lastly, due to the short-tenured and sometimes sporadic nature of the film and music industry as highlighted above, a successful musician needs to constantly be thinking ahead to the next potential job opportunity or gig. In Busquet’s case, he already has plans later this year to tour with artist Julen the Human through the UK and Japan for starters. “Playing live shows abroad is a great way of seizing your target audience, seeing what kind of people resonate most with the music we make and feeling the different vibe that each crowd brings,” says Busquet. “It’s also a great opportunity to try different arrangements of songs before recording the final version of them, and there’s also the rush of being onstage and feeding off the people’s energy.”
Given Busquet’s global background and appetite for new influences, collaborations and applications of his talents, a lot can be learned from the musician in regard to developing an entrepreneurial mindset and ambition to further one’s career as an artist. You young aspiring musicians out there, take note.