Eli Gerstner is pretty much always in session. When he’s not, he’s writing music for a concert. Overseeing design work for CD jackets. Directing a cappella arrangements. Singing at weddings. And the list goes on.
On average, Eli spends twelve to fifteens hours a day (and night!) working. Even on days he’s officially taking off, he works more than eight hours. And in busy seasons like this one, when concert prep is in full swing, Eli puts in about twenty hours daily.
It helps that he has a recording studio in his basement. Even before he was married, Eli knew he’d need to be able to work from home, because otherwise, he’d never be around. (He is quick to clarify that his situation is unusual, because he “outsources” very few of his managerial duties. However, people in the industry can go for days at a time without seeing their children.)
Professionals say that people think singers live a life of luxury, recording music during the day and working the wedding scene and performing at concerts at nights. Putting out a CD is enjoyable, weddings are exhilarating, and concerts are energizing, but it’s not that simple, Eli explains. Very few singers can make their parnassah solely from music. Many have day jobs, and a lot of times, their wives work, as well.
That’s why Eli wants to make sure people understand what the business entails before investing all of their energy and money. He’s not trying to divest people of their dreams, he just wants them to have a realistic understanding of the Jewish music industry.
RB: What advice would you give to aspiring musicians, singers, and composers?
EG: I tell musicians to practice a lot, and when they feel they’re good enough, to sit with a known band at a simcha to get noticed. Composers should make a demo of their song. It doesn’t have to be a professional one, but obviously if it sounds good, there’s more of a chance an artist will listen to the whole thing and buy it. Singers, you shouldn’t run to make an album – they’re very expensive, and especially with all the illegal downloading, you’ll probably lose a lot of money. You’re better off following the advice I gave to musicians. But if you really have to put out a CD, you need a niche, something that sets you and your music apart.