Red carpets are… interesting. I’m honestly still not sure where my opinion falls on the whole thing, although getting professional photographers to take pictures of you and your friends is always a good time. There’s a whole lot more to it than that – and I have to say, it’s a kind of weird experience, especially if, like me, you’re rather new to this whole side of things. Los Angeles is a weird and magical place, and it has given me a lot to think about, especially in regards to where I want my career to go and what these kinds of events could mean for me. These things are surprisingly easy to break in to, and quite the honor if you’re willing to just go for it. This is a city of neon lights and strange nights, and entering its clutches… it’s just a little weird.
One of the weirdest things about the red carpet, to me at least, is the way that they throw a bunch of people into a room during receptions and essentially say “Network!” Of course, that’s exactly what happens. I’ve given out and received countless business cards this weekend. I’ve even managed to collect a handful of CD’s… well collect wouldn’t be the right word… they were more shoved into my hands when people found out that I had some vague idea how to move forward in the music industry. That’s where things start to fall apart. This entire industry – in LA at least seems to be based off appearances and coming off as more important than you actually are, and it’s the people who know how to play the game and use this to their advantage who seem to be coming out on top. It makes LA a unique place in an industry of dreams.
Perhaps part of my confusion with this whole Los Angeles thing stems from the fact that I’m very much a New York dude and in New York we just go to shows, watch each others bands and drink beers. Here in LA the vibe seems rather different, some of that exists to be sure, but so much more of it seems to revolve around ‘getting noticed’ and having yourself go out to the right bars on the right nights to meet the right people. It’s a city which is built entirely on networking, there is no other reason to go to many of these bars than to network – and that has a huge impact on the way things are done around here, be it for better or for worse. I know that seems like it would be my dream come true when you consider so many of my other pieces here, but in all honesty it’s actually kind of concerning, if only because it feels a lot less organic.
What I really learned from this whole thing is not so much how to network or even what it means to be a dude making connections and taking names in LA – but rather that people want to feel important – and there is perhaps no better place in the world to feel important than LA. Everyone who was anyone, and literally anyone can be allowed on that carpet, for better or for worse. And while I certainly made some connections this weekend that are going to lead to financial benefits for everyone involved (And I’m certainly glad I came) it has helped me to realize what a sham LA is sometimes. It’s a place where people go to get huge, and people keep trying to tell you that you don’t need to spend the time to pay your dues to get through.
Red carpets are, by nature, really cool. The paparazzi, the chicks, the famous people, I met one of the original Coaster’s last night for heavens sake! It’s easy to get swept up in it. That doesn’t mean you should though. As a matter of fact, you need to realize that the people getting swept up in all the red carpet madness are actually the people the least likely to succeed. It’s the folks who go to these events to do some hardcore networking, who get up and talk about copyright law with each other and share the projects they’ve been working on. The people who find the other people with power and work together in order to find a way forward that guides us all forward. In other words – the same old rules apply, it’s just that in these situations you are going to be confronted with more snake oil salesmen than ever before.
In some ways it makes me wonder if the red carpet is really just a filtration system. The people who get caught up in it at low levels simply aren’t able to continue up because thy are overwhelmed by it all. The red carpet is in many ways just a measure of how you handle attention and if you can stay true to yourself. In that regard I think I did fairly well, I made a joke about Danzig memes and being drunk all the time, it made people laugh. But really – this whole thing can be painful, and if you’re not sure you’re ready to dive on in, then maybe hold off and keep playing local shows, the red carpet will always be there.
So perhaps the thing that really matters when you find yourself swept up in these situations is simply how well you can keep your cool. If you just remain yourself and meet cool dudes, like my new friend Les Fradkin, then you are going to make valuable connections. However if you find yourself getting lost in the noise and the lights then you might as well not even bother. Finding your path through the music industry remains the same no matter what the context. Big breaks are kind of shitty – so why not advance through a series of small breaks – ones the at gives you connections so that on the inevitable way down you can figure out a way to bring the whole world forward with you.