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Thursday, December 10, 2009
Tips that Every Musician Should Apply to Their Career
As the holiday season approaches, and we get in to that thing about good will to all, all those other quips about being better people for a moment—which personally, I think should go throughout the whole year and not just the shopping season (sorry, holiday season), I wanted to put out a quick rant (speaking of Good Will) that I'll call Ten Tips that Every Musician Should Apply to Their Career. These apply to both the music and business sides of the equation. Many apply to those who are not musicians but work in the music business.
Hell, a few apply to anyone working in any business. So, New title: Ten Tips for Everyone Alive on the Planet.
Number 1. – Answer your emails.
Show a little respect and answer your emails. If you can't respond at that moment, then acknowledge that you received it, let the sender know you're backed up and when you hope to get back to them. Then, either list the emails as unread, flag it, or mark a little notch in your calendar to respond to the sender when you promised. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I respond to every email. Sometimes it takes a while, but I get back to everyone I can that has a direct question or is requesting something. It is a common courtesy that I am sure you would want when you send out an email, so do the same.
Number 2. - Have the guts to address concerns or questions.
Kind of attached to number one, if you have a concern or a question brought to you and you are not sure how to respond or are afraid to give a solid answer, toughen up! If you need to say no, then say no. If you want to say "Maybe, but there is an issue I need cleared up before we proceed," then say that. But the passive-aggressive non-responses, the runaround when people just delete an email, toss away a phone message, or avoid a confrontation is much more insulting than a flat out "No way."
And you do not want to be insulting people, even if at this particular moment in time, they are asking for something and you are in the position to say yes or no. Things change (see below). Things always change. Next time, it may well be you doing the asking. A polite, respectful "I can't do that" or "I am not interested" goes a long way to making that later approach easier.
Show some honor and address questions, concerns, or issues without shoving them in a drawer and hoping they'll go away. They never do.
Number 3. – If things change, then keep everyone informed and problem solve.
Things change. They change all the time. From a club burning down and a gig being cancelled to a deadline being changed or a payment being missed. It happens, and it happens all the time. The problem is that when things change, many people are affected. Too often, discomfort over the situation leads people to delay notifying everyone who will be affected. Nobody likes delivering bad news—nobody is happy there is bad news to deliver. But other parties still need to know.
If you are supposed to pay someone by a certain date, and something comes up where you can't do it, TELL THEM! It may mean they will now be unable to pay someone else by a given date, and that is important information for them to have.
I have no problem with someone saying they can't make a payment when it comes to my production fees or consulting fees. In this economy, it is almost a given that out of so many clients, something will happen to someone at some point. As long as they come to me and say "this isn't happening like I thought it was going to, I am not going to be able to make that payment on the date we agreed on, but here is what I am going to do about it…" how can I complain? They are acting with honor, treating me with respect, and in many cases, backing it up with a partial payment that lets me know they take the situation seriously. That is a person I want to go on working with. In showing me respect, they just won my respect—and that's an artist I want to do business with.
Take the initiative to make others aware when situations change—whatever the change is. If your drummer is in three bands and has a sudden conflict, share that information asap. Right now everyone has more options than they will two weeks from now. Be the communicator, the problem solver, the responsible adult, and in 6 months no one will remember what the bad news/stumbling block was, they will just remember who rose to the occasion, who was considerate of other people's situations, and who must have left their phone off the hook that week.
Number 4. - Be on time or give a heads up.
Just like things change, things can come up that make you late to a gig, to a session, to a meeting. Still, with practically everyone having a cell phone, it seems crazy that someone who is running late cannot make contact with those who are waiting for them.
Once again, it comes down to honor and professionalism. If you are scheduled to be somewhere or simply said you were going to be somewhere, then be there. It comes down to a simple awareness of and respect for other people. As soon as you know you are going to be late, give a call, send a text. "Running late" and your new ETA. It's easy and it will show you in a very professional light.
Number 5. - Stop f*%^ng over posting on Facebook and other network sites.
Stop with the stupid posts that no one cares about. Yes, maybe some larger scale stars can post, twitter and update about eating a Twinkie, but a fair amount of them have the fame and the celebrity status that draws people's interest. For the rest of us, the technical name for that kind of post is "pointless crap." Use quality, not quantity with your posts. While you think that all these people are reading everything you are putting up on Facebook, consider how many people have you as hidden just so they don't have to read that stuff.
Separate your personal page from the music ones. On a music page, put up the info that will draw people to your links, your pictures, and your posts. If you are using it for a personal page, then by all means, do as you wish. But if you are trying to connect with other artists and fans, if you are trying to network and utilize the social networks as one more avenue to move yourself forward, then it is a professional tool, treat it professionally.
Get away from the mafia wars, the farmer games, and anything that makes your page like a series of graffiti advertisements. As a musician, give them something that will draw them in as well as make them want more instead of giving them way too much information.
This stuff is basic and yet often ignored. Try professionalism, open communication, attention to detail, and give consideration and respect to those you are working with. It can go a long way for you and your career.