I think that not enough people realize that everyone in this industry is a person. I know that might be hard to believe a lot of the time given… everything, be it ruthless efficiency, crazy hair, general cruelty or whatever, but everyone is an individual with thoughts and feelings and you need to appreciate this. Some people don’t even realize this about themselves which makes music industry life a lot harder. I understand that there is an appeal to treating individuals clinically, that you can’t be responsible for all their shit and you have to step up every once in a while and get shit on lock – but you also need to remember that music industry life is not meant for the faint of heart. This isn’t even about making connections anymore but rather just realizing that there are other things to talk about than music, the music industry, and whatever records you happen to be working on at any given moment, and THAT is how you will progress in a world of cutthroats, scam artists and liars.
I know it can be tricky sometimes to reach out to the more human side of the music industry, but the more you get a hold of it the more you are going to be able to advance in a real way. Obviously cracking through to everyone isn’t possible. I can tell you for example that the Carnegie Hall people have a tendency to be a bit robotic – that being said that’s probably for the better since they are Carnegie Hall after all. If they didn’t have an almost robotic way of doing things I would be a little worried. This article is more targeted towards your lower level things where you need to make personal connections because we are all working off scraps and need to use our scraps to benefit each other rather than tear the world down to make ourselves look bigger. Fortunately – cracking through the veneer of professionalism and getting some actual work done can be a lot easier than you might initially anticipate.
The easiest thing you can do is to ask ‘How are you doing?’ The other person will probably say, “Oh fine.” I’ve found though that asking a further, “Really, you doing okay?” or something along those lines is going to get people to open up a little bit more – and getting people to open up is a key part of the battle. Whereas much of the time folks think that their day is just going to be answering a few emails and taking some calls, you have a responsibility to try and make peoples days better. I know that might sound idealistic – but in a lot of ways it is selfishly motivated. After all – what better way to spend your work day than in a fun conversation with someone who at the end of it might be able to help you and your band out? You need to honor the fact that they probably have dozens of heartless calls and emails a day and being the guy who delivers is going to make them look forward to when you call them next. Once you can latch into that then you will be laughing.
I know that technically you should be trying to do this via email, but I think that we all know that this is extremely hard to do – and even if you’re doing mass phone calls its fairly straightforward to get people talking a bit more than if you are contacting][ them via email. In fact figuring out the one two punch of email, and hen follow up phone call can be crucial and really help out your band in the long run. It gives people something to look over ad also reminds them that you exist. The real trick though is, as I’ve been saying to get them talking about things that aren’t music in order to feel comfortable. All we are is a bunch of terminally depressed lost souls rubbing into each other over the course f the generations. Shouldn’t we try to just acknowledge hat and move on with our lives in a way that is productive for the collective? I certainly think so, and you should too.
There are a few historically safe topics of conversation that are going to keep you going through the struggles that this industry can lay on you. The one I like to go with the most is children. People love to talk about their kids and if the person you are talking to has kids AND is working in the music industry the odds are that they have figured out something pretty good – a source of money that is reliable and which can help you out in the long run. If it’s all a question of tapping into the appropriate income sources then people who have to literally take care of other people on their own dime probably are going to know some things that you don’t. Outside of that, I like to try and get people to talk about sports, their childhood, and their families in general. Cats too seem to be a great topic of conversation. I post a ton of pictures of my cat and I can guide many a conversation into friendlier pastures by gushing about him (His name is Jim and he is a perfect little dumbass) I know you don’t always want to hear about your contacts sisters wedding – but that fact that you listened shows that you care – and the fact that you care about them, and recognize their humanity means that you will have a productive interaction.
So there you have it – as I’ve always said – the music industry is a surprisingly easy thing to understand, there aren’t a lot of big secrets, it’s just a question of tapping into the right markets and realizing that these relationships are going to be able to guide you through in the long run. The music business is fun if you let it be. On some level we all got into this to be professionals and make money, but that doesn’t mean you need to be an asshole all the time. In fact it means that the more you focus on personal connections and friendliness the more success that you are going to find yourself having at the end of the day.