Career Bytes carry on

Published on January 11th, 2010 | by Hugh Hession


Inspiration to carry on

guyandguitarIn such a competitive environment as the music business, it can be tough to stay motivated and persevere. There are some days when I personally just feel like giving up, and other days when I feel invincible. Fact is, I’m human and no matter how driven I am, life can give me a wedgie once in a while!

Hope comes in many forms. Often it is subtle. An email from an appreciative fan, a motivating article on the Internet, or maybe even a great song you just wrote.  Hope can help us restructure our situations and see them differently.

Here are some stories I’ve picked from which I hope will provide you with some inspiration:

  • In 2005, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta was signed to Def Jam and was quickly released from her contract. Germanotta – known to millions as Lady Gaga – had a second chance when Akon signed her to his label in 2008, in a joint venture with Interscope.
  • Sylvester Stallone was was thrown out of 14 schools in 11 years and was discouraged to pursue a career in acting by his professors at the University of Miami.
  • Regis Philbin was fired from his job as a stagehand at KCOP in Los Angeles.
  • Billy Joel was so embarrassed by his debut album Cold Spring Harbor that in 1972,  he moved to LA where he played piano bar at the Executive Room where he was influenced to write his signature hit “Piano Man.”
  • Jay Leno failed an employment test for a job at Woolworth’s.
  • Clint Eastwood was fired from Universal because he spoke too slowly and his Adam’s apple stuck out.
  • In 1976, KISS leader Gene Simmons discovered a local Pasadena, California band who he ended up producing and pitching to all the major record labels who rejected the band. Finally, Warner Brothers Records took a chance and signed the mighty Van Halen.
  • “Then again, I think Coldplay are a fairly ordinary band…We all thought they were ordinary and passed on them.”  -Blur bass player and journalist Alex James, after he and his fellow record label heads went to seem them live.
  • “Guitar groups are on their way out.” –Decca Records on why they rejected The Beatles.
  • Before she made it, Mariah Carey was a waitress, coat-check girl and beauty salon janitor in New York.
  • John Travolta dropped out of school at 16.
  • Al Pacino dropped out of school at 17. He was frequently unemployed and it was not uncommon for him to sleep on the streets.
  • Bill Cosby failed the 10th grade and dropped out.
  • In the early days, CNN told Katie Couric she could not read news reports on-air because she had an irritating, high pitched voice.
  • As a struggling actor, Harrison Ford made his living as a carpenter.  He was hired to build cabinets for an up and coming director by the name of George Lucas, who went on to cast Ford in American GraffitiFrancis Ford Coppola (The Godfather) then hired Ford to renovate his offices, and casted him in The Conversation and Apocalypse Now.  Lucas of course, selected Ford to portray Han Solo in #3 box office smash of all time: Star Wars.
  • Bachman Turner Overdrive (Takin’ Care of Business, You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet) was rejected by 24 record companies after disbanding the most successful Canadian band of that time period: The Guess Who (American Woman, No Sugar Tonight, These Eyes).
  • Madonna sold doughnuts in Time Square.
  • Steven Spielberg could not get into UCLA Film School because of his bad grades.
  • Author John Grisham’s A Time To Kill was turned down by 16 agents and 12 publishers. In 1989, Wynwood Press published 5,000 copies of A Time To Kill but its sales were terrible.

Many of these were taken from the book The Road To Success is Paved With Failure by Joey Green. Little Brown Publishing, 2001.



About the Author

owns and operates Emerging Artists Entertainment Marketing & Consulting, LLC - a company devoted to cultivating aspiring music artists, He is also the head of Hession Entertainment Group, LLC (artist management) and the Music Industry Liaison for the artist discovery site, TalentWatch ( He has over 25 years experience in the music business as a performer, composer, producer and artist manager. Hugh holds a BA in Marketing and is a professional member of NARIP and a voting member of The Recording Academy. He often speaks at seminars and workshops on artist development.

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