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There's No Business like Show Business

Article by Sean Mitchell // June 02 2008
There's No Business like Show Business

"The best revenge is massive success." ~ Frank Sinatra

Every so often, in this wonderful industry of melodic expression and infectious groove, we face a not so desirable truth. It is one that has been around since Sun Tzu was a cowboy. Sometimes in music the players need to change roles and/or be re-assigned roles to better serve a greater good. In some cases there is a complete termination of a position. Ouch! This is the uglier side of the industry, no doubt, but it still is part of the package, and there is an art to bouncing back for those who have been given their walking papers.  

I was recently chatting with a very good friend. He was recently “let go” from a gig that, in my opinion, was nothing to lose sleep over. However, I, too, have felt the searing pain of the axe falling upon my time-keeping job, so I could relate to the melancholy that he was exuding. 

Sometimes what is initially thought of as a setback becomes an opportunity (more on that in a minute) but back to my friend’s problem. Instead, let’s define the word “problem” as a challenge that currently lacks a solution. As I said earlier, my buddy’s ex-gig was nothing to lose sleep over, however, losing a gig is losing a gig. Having said that, there is a definitive process we must go through to gain a level of acceptance and move past our setbacks. These steps can be the most important measures you take in your career. We must continually move forward. Living or lingering in the past will not change the present. When you lose a gig (assuming you didn’t necessarily want to give up the gig), you must traverse the gig-losing process, which, believe it or not, can be very much like the grief process. Here’s how it works:  


In losing a gig, your initial reaction is anger or resentment. You may also begin to question your skill level, talent and overall self-worth. At this point, never concede defeat. In the words of Dom Famularo, “Failure is not an option!” 


You will no doubt find yourself focusing on the “whys.” You may also find that thoughts about your dismissal consume your life. Be careful how long you stay in your misery; what you focus on grows. So if you’re focusing on how angry, sad or depressed you are, guess what? 

As long as you stay in the past you are not moving forward. If you haven’t been given a reason and you really need one, ask why, then try really hard to get on with your career. You’re only as good as your last performance!  


Once you allow yourself to get to a point of acceptance, you will begin to resign yourself to the situation. This would be a good time to seek the guidance of a master class or a drum clinic, something to inspire you. Now that you have come to a place of understanding and acceptance you will be in a better frame of mind to be open to new opportunity. You may also have some real issues to address in the way of attitude and/or skill level. Be honest with yourself about these matters and address them as needed. Remember, you are evolving!


Of course you don’t suck, you never did! By now you’ve lived and you’ve learned all you needed from this. Music, like life, is a constant state of evolution and this is just part of your process. You are almost there, just one more step!


By now, complete peace and coolness have returned. You are again a focused and dynamic player who has just landed first call for the next Paul McCartney tour! You, my friend, are king of the castle and have the ability to conquer whatever you desire. Your focus on incident is gone and the experience has become part of your character.

As musicians, we are judged by our artistic intent, our ability to play and by the level at which we perform. Getting canned or being let go from a band, for whatever reason, will always tear at the fiber of your personal feelings. That is human nature. As mentioned above, our setbacks are really just a precursor to a major opportunity. When you pay attention to the big picture, your hefty let-downs will always be the origin of your greatest successes. Always! 


In the 1950s Frank Sinatra suffered a series of blows that should have ended his career. His vocal chords hemorrhaged, only to be followed by Universal, CBS-TV, Columbia Records and his agent all dropping him. Broke (and borrowing money from then wife Ava Gardener), Frank Sinatra was down and out, very near the edge of self ruin.

“Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew, when I bit off more than I could chew. But through it all, when there was doubt, I ate it up and spit it out. I faced it all and I stood tall; and did it my way.”

It wasn’t until 1953 that Ol’ Blue Eyes bounced back after the success of the World War II drama “From Here to Eternity.” For this project, Sinatra took a wage of only $8000 from his usual $150,000 just to get back in the game. Frank not only pulled himself out of his personal hell, but, in less than ten years, found his fame had eclipsed the success he enjoyed in the 1940s. From the late 1950s right through to the time of his death in 1998, Sinatra was one of the highest earning performers of all time. Before there were rock stars, there was Sinatra.

The music business is just that, a business. Often, players, (even great ones) have been ousted for reasons a plenty. In many cases, personalities conflict, musical directions are different, and, of course, the old drug and alcohol trail has led to many a drummer beating a path to the unemployment line. In the end, if the worst thing in the world is that you’ve been fired from a band, kick back and smile, you are in good company, my friend!

Those of us who hath been ousted in the past:

  • Pete Best – The Beatles
  • Phil Rudd – AC/DC
  • Ryan Vikedal – Nickleback
  • Kevin Miller – Fuel
  • Jeremy Hummel - Breaking Benjamin
  • Stuart Cable - Stereophonics
  • Kevin Coleman - Smash Mouth 
  • Tony McCarroll - Oasis
  • George Tutuska - Original Goo Goo Dolls
  • Dave Abbruze – Pearl Jam
  • Aynsley Dunbar – Journey
  • Matt Pelissier - My Chemical Romance
  • Danny Seraphine – Chicago
  • Matt Sorum – Guns N' Roses
  • Steve Adler – Guns N' Roses
  • Jimmy Chamberlain – Smashing Pumpkins
  • Carmine Appice – Ozzy
  • Tommy Aldridge – Ozzy



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About the Author
Sean Mitchell

Sean Mitchell has been an active participant in the drumming industry for over 20 years. He has studied under Crash Test Dummies drummer Mitch Dorge and Drumming's Global Ambassador Dom Famularo. Sean is also a songwriter and regularly performs with his wife (and singer) Jill Mitchell. Sean proudly endorses Aquarian Drumheads.

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