A Less Than Spectacular Music Career

Dropping out of college isn’t the sort of professional move that stands out on a resume, but it seemed like the thing to do at the time. I was studying art and film at UCLA, and trying to develop some sort of musical career on the side. I was spending as much time writing songs and putting bands together as I was in school. Music eventually won out.

One of the first things I did was start a company called Fine Art Dynamics. The idea was to create a professional production unit to manage my own music projects and whatever other projects I might be able to sign on to. Mainly I wanted to promote my own band and perform the songs I was writing.

When your new and unknown, you have to handle all of the organizational details yourself. I was in charge of promotion, auditions, and putting together a demo tape. And I didn't even have a band yet. But then I agreed to perform at a free outdoor concert in a parking lot on Hollywood Blvd. The booking person asked me what the name of my band was. I already had a group concept I was working on, so I said "The Flyboys." A band was born. Now all I had to do was find some musicians, and put together a 30 minute set. And I had a week to do it.

Independent small-time rock bands are the commandos of the performing arts. If you're not a completely self-contained self-sufficient unit, you won't survive. We handled our own auditions, bookings, transportation, and promotion. We repaired our own sound equipment. If anything broke down, and you couldln't fix it on the spot, you were SOL.

We did the standard things a struggling up-and-coming band would do: Play local gigs and try to develop a following. And we were forever on a quest for that holy grail all bands seek: a recording contract. Towards this end, I built a small studio and put together a demo tape—a recording of original material that was roundly rejected by the record companies.

The closest we ever got to the big time was a one-nighter at the Ice House in Pasadena. It had a reputation for being a hangout for record industry people, and was often the launching point for signed bands going on tour who had just released their first album. I recall that it was a good show, in spite of the fact that we didn't attract any industry attention.

Throughout my musical activites, I was hammering out a modest living as an advertising designer. I worked in various capacities, getting work from in-house, agency and freelance opportunities. Meanwhile I continued recording my songs in my makeshift homemade studio while trying to keep a band together to perform the material. I arrived at a practical conclusion. No one seemed to be willing to pay me to create music, but they were willing to pay me to design and produce ad material. I’ve been designing and producing advertising ever since.

Contact Chris Shugart