by MATT BACON >
So I recently kind of ‘leveled up’ within the industry.
I got a new job at a much bigger agency than I have ever worked with doing a lot of things on the back end that I never thought I would be doing and working with bands I never thought I would be working with. Now while this is super fucking awesome it has also meant that I’ve had a few lessons very quickly beaten into me which I think are worth sharing, if nothing else then as a reflection into what the music industry is about at every level.
These aren’t complaints mind you, merely learning experiences that I think benefit small bands starting out just as much as they help people working for major companies who are trying to decide the fates of genre defining bands. This is the perpetual struggle of the industry and I think it’s important to take a long and serious look at many of the inescapable realities that have come to define what this thing is really all about.
The primary thing I’ve learned is that no matter how glamorous you think someones life might be in the industry there is always going to be some drudgerous work behind the scenes.
This usually involves lots of spreadsheets and math. Sadly there is no job description that is “Doing coke and signing bands” Sure that’s part of the job for a lot of professionals, but that’s not their whole job. The people who try to make it their whole job rarely last, and the people who realize it for the lie it is tend to move on and become more stable. I’m just calling it like I see it. On top of that, I think no matter what you do in the industry there is always going to be some gargantuan back end system you need to work with. Be it a booking spreadsheet, a distribution system, or something else entirely you will always have to deal with some of the harsh realities of technology and those harsh realities are going to perpetually haunt you until you learn to accept them.
On top of this I’ve learned a lot about triple checking. It’s always easy to get eager and dive into things too quickly. It’s much harder to take the time to step back, figure out what actually needs to be done and then doing that. This is an industry that, because of the small margins, has a similarly small margin of failure. If you’re not making the moves you need to make in order to get shit done right, then people are going to get pissed at you. A lot of the time this will involve sending tons of emails to make sure that your work has been properly sorted out. Now I know this can be annoying and some people are probably going to give you guff about it, but guess what, it needs to be done. A lot of the time there is no way out, the music industry is just this way. If you don’t want to take the time to triple check things and think about the long term potential consequences of your actions then you might as well pack up and go home now.
Another of the keys that I think goes a long way is going out of your way to write eloquent emails. No one wants to have to write an unnecessary follow up to clarify a point that should have been made glaringly obvious in your initial email. People like it when things are clearly painted in front of them, and you should go out of your way to do that. The reasoning should be obvious, if you can cater to the people around you then they are going to always respect you more. They see that you care about them and are taking time of out of your busy schedule in order to make them feel a little bit more comfortable. I’ve talked many times on this blog about the value of compassion, and I think that this is one of those moments where it really will shine through and help your band to grow. If you can take the time to be eloquent and clear in your writing then people are going to connect.
In other words, moving up in the music business is much like moving up in any other business inasmuch as it requires you to be a lot more grownup.
This is something I talked about in yesterdays piece about “adulting” It’s essentially the same shit. Sometimes you need to realize where you are at in life and that as a part of that you need to drive towards a more conventional lifestyle in order to really meet your goals. As you move up in the music business the level of professionalism required grows exponentially. While a lot of us are happy to muck about at the lower levels if you really want to get to a point where you are driving forward with your art in the way that it deserves you need to embrace this professionalism and have it come to define every aspect of your development. Otherwise you will drown among the legions.
When it comes down to it though, moving up in the industry is extremely rewarding. I get to work with bands that influenced me when I was a kid and who influence kids today. It’s the sort of job that forces you to really come to terms with the power that this industry can have, and seeing people go crazy at a show you had a hand in putting together makes all of the tears and gray hairs worth it. I’m not saying that it’s a lifestyle for everyone, a lot of it sucks, but if you’re willing to accept the added professionalism and the sense that this painful life is only going to get better as we drive forward then you might just find your freedom.