I listened to an especially interesting episode of the Cracked Podcast the other day, if you have a chance you should check it out. The main point they made on this particular episode was that people in different social classes can have as much difficulty communicating as people who speak foreign languages. This is by and large true – there’s a lot of weirdness, in America especially in regards to class. Me being the nerd I am of course had to circle it back to the music industry and think about how something like class can be an important factor to consider the lives of people like us, who live and breathe this music stuff. As I quickly figured out – it can be far more important than I think anyone realizes.
Pretty rapidly I came to the conclusion that not only is the ability to navigate between social classes one of the most important in the music industry, but also that it’s historically been those who know how to best navigate this who have the easiest time of progressing in this industry. It’s the people who can bridge the gap between punks and upper class white people who get things moving. The reason why should be fairly obvious – you need to charm rich people in order to get any sort of seed money for your projects and then you need to be able to deal with a lot of people in the music industry in order to enact it, and I think we all know that if you’re in the music industry at all, then you are probably lower class. You need to be able to know how to dress and talk in ways that extend beyond your class though if you want to rise up and somehow contribute to something greater that will garner the attention (And hopefully money) of the world.
The most facile way to learn to deal with different classes is to slowly garner life experience, but if you need solutions now, then that probably isn’t going to be the way forward that you want or need. Still, it’s important to remember that all of your success in the music industry is based on your ability to deal with people, and the more types of people who deal with just for practice the better you are going to be when the time comes for you to impress that billionaire into letting you set up a venue in a ghetto. Life experience is crucial too because it gives you things you can relate to with those are the most difficult to contact with, in most cases this is the super rich or the extremely poor. All the tropes you see are tue to some degree, and you need to be aware of that moving forward. Remember that if people are to removed from you socially they might as well be cartoons to you. For example – you might think the Ivy League folks in Caddyshack don’t actually exist, but trust me, they do. The fact that you haven’t met them is simply because of how American society is set up.
So what is the other, perhaps more immediate way to being able to deal with people of any background? Books. Reading constantly is going to allow you to develop a clarity of language that will make you able to deal with just about anyone. They serve as a beacon to experience without having to go into the scary outside world. This can be tricky though, while it’s definitely helpful to be able to drop a knowledge of fine literature on an upper class potential sponsor, the same quote on a more lower class person is going to get you punched. Again – this is not a judgment on the classes themselves as much as a statement hat you need to be careful, because certain things will work extremely well with certain classes that wouldn’t work at all with people from a different one. This is a highly specific reality we need to embrace if we want to be able to incorporate the whole world into our dreams.
I really hope it doesn’t come off as crass to categorize people in this manner, but I only do it because it works. To some of you this whole thing may seem obvious, and in many ways it is, this is more a call to really try and pay attention to it because once you start noticing what the implications derived from social class and by consequence social interaction are, then your ability to approach conversation and understand where individuals are coming from is going to be radically improved. And like I said, this is especially relevant in music because of the way that it sees the rich and poor comingle. Far too often you will see rich folks who don’t now how to deal with more street level musicians, and musicians who have no clue how to handle black tie events and high level negotiations. Finding a balance is where you can succeed.
It seems simple on the outside, and in many ways it really is. After all – the whole modern music industry is about being able to do a bunch of small, seemingly easy things really well. While we all dream of being able to wear 2-3 hats and just do that the stark reality is that in most cases you are probably going to be doing something more like 10-15 jobs every day from the time you start your career until you die. If you’re going to be doing so much then you are going to need to be able to cross cultural boundaries and be both a canned beer lover and someone who can talk for hours about champagne. I know it sounds impossible, insane and kind of badass, but such is the struggle. The choice to take it on is up to you.