Initially I was going to leave this chapter as one section, but then I realized that I talk so much about face to face relationships in this book that I would be remiss in ignoring the many ways that you can fuck up marketing in person. The world of music is one of physical relationships and the knowledge that you can deal with someone, buy them dinner and relate over something more important than either one of you. It’s interesting because if you screw up online you’re probably okay in the long run but if you screw up in person then you are kind of fucked. People tend to remember that a little more- you will have a much harder time changing your face then your email or your company, and that leads to some long term issues. So you need to be aware of what you don’t do in these kinds of meetups – a lot of it is basic manners, but you’d be shocked at how many people fail to do even that much.
So of course, the first big do not is not to forget your basic manners. Do not assume the other person is going to pay, do not fail to ask them questions, do not only talk about yourself and do no succumb to the money hungry brutality of the industry. This does not mean that you should be afraid to be direct – people appreciate that sort of thing. Just because you’re trying to be polite doesn’t mean that you aren’t still there for business. I know this sounds obvious but a lot of people seem to think that just becaue it’s rock and roll they can get away with murder. Just remember that people like dealing with folks who seem like real human beings, in fact, I’ve found that being more formal than needed can actually help, as long as you play it off as your ‘thing’. When I meet people I go for the double handshake, engage in lots of bowing and on many occasions even do the business cheek kiss thing. Don’t engage in creepy amounts of physical contact, especially if your colleague is of the opposite gender (Just calling it like it is guys) but don’t be afraid to go for a hug, this is the music industry after all, it’s kind of what we do.
What’s also important to process though, and something that I think many of my peers ignore, is that if you’re out at a business dinner with someone you shouldn’t only talk about business. I know that sounds counterintuitive but trust me on this one. If you’re only talking about work stuff then everyone is going to go insane, and frankly you are probably going to have a rather superficial relationship. Humans are social creatures, they can’t just have an extended conversation just about the numbers behind their work. They are going to want to have something more substantive that can allow them to figure out who they are dealing with and what they want, beyond just in the business world. This entire industry is built on personal relationships – that’s part of why we are constantly drinking and partying. I know music has a reputation for it, but if you look at networking events across all industries you see similar trends. We all just want to be friends, and the people who are all business – well they can just go be accountants or something.
The other big don’t I’ve noticed is don’t try to set up a meeting that isn’t over a meal or at least drinks. I’ve seen people try to set up meetings on the cheap and it’s almost always weird. Unless you work with someone regularly and have a longstanding relationship, any type of meetup at a show or in an office tends to wind up rather awkward. I think this is just one of those basic social human things – it’s like we need something to do with our hands and bodies when we come to those natural pauses in conversation. Those pauses are fine over a meal when you can shovel more food in your mouth or at a bar where you can dump another beer down your throat, but if you’re sitting opposite a table then it just feels weird. I work really hard to not be socially awkward, and if I can help that by being able to create a space that will make it less awkward then I will. It leads to more productive meetings that keep the whole thing moving forward.
The final thing to avoid is please don’t be a creeper. I know this ties into good manners and having a solid place to meet up, but realize that there is so much latent stuff you need to be careful of. Remember names but don’t be weird about it. Try to be as eloquent as possible without sounding flashy. I know tons of people who try to impress me with their command of the English language but end up showing me they know how to use a few big words and then embarrassing themselves. Don’t try to oversell yourself because people will hold you to it, and if you can’t live up to it then you might be fucked. I know I’ve built my reputation on saying I could do something and then learning how to do it but make sure that you can learn how to do it. You don’t want to leave yourself hanging and owing people money all over town. You want to come of as charismatic and confident, the sort of dude who drives good deals and wants to build a better tomorrow.
Obviously this isn’t a complete list but it shows you how to start. Some of this is clearly colored by my own personal experience, but trust me, charisma is a skill you can learn. I used to have none, now people who meet me once say it feels like they have known me for years. You can learn to be a people person, even if you need to nurture that with some sot of chemical dependency (My drug of choice is alcohol) and you can use that to your advantage. No matter how hard your first few in person meetings are I assure you it always gets better if you are willing to work at it and show people that you are cut of the same fine cloth as they are.