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Journal of the
Music & Entertainment Industry Educators Association
Volume 11, Number 1 (2011)

Cautionary Tales from the Changing World of the Hollywood Film and Television Studio Musician

Simeon Pillich
Occidental College, Colburn School Conservatory of Music

    As an educator of undergraduate music students at a small liberal arts college in Los Angeles, I am occasionally asked by my students for advice on becoming a studio musician in the Hollywood film and television industry.  As I have had a relatively fleeting career in that profession prior to my career in academia, I feel that I can advise them from the perspective of someone who has “been there.” However, I am obligated to tell them the truth about their pursuit, warts and all, so as not to mislead them. It is with these truths in mind that I present this paper.

    Since the late 1970s when I began as a working musician in Hollywood, the landscape has changed significantly. Both the workplace and the product have constantly evolved in response to outside stimuli such as technology, economics, and musical aesthetics. As my research into this arena unfolded, it became apparent that the music industry in Hollywood is still strong but it has become a very different environment than I experienced. Fewer performers are utilized and different skill sets are now required in order for studio musicians to make a living. This paper will examine the careers and current working situations of several working Hollywood musicians and how their careers have changed over the years. I will also give some recommendations for students and others hoping to make a career as a Hollywood film and television musician.

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